Women won’t be playing on an equal playing field until the world stops looking at our appearance and outfits first. If I deliver results, then I’m dressed for success.
Here’s a truth I’ve discovered.
In the moments we are about to step into our light, a force always comes to pull us back into the dark.
And that force, in my life, usually is a parent.
Last week, I invited a group of women to my home for the first time, for a year-end reflection workshop. My mom showed up like clockwork to try to bait me into falling off the rails.
Today I led my year-end reflection ritual on Facebook Live.
It was a huge step for me. I gave advanced notice to the world.
I even emailed my subscriber list for the first time ever since starting my blog in 2012.
I moved mountains to get out of my own way, trusting that my presence is enough.
The Words of Encouragement
This time it was my dad who stepped up with his “words of encouragement.”
Video broadcasts at uncomfortable for me. My apartment lighting is not great. I don’t have a “real” webcam, etc. I’m really Self-conscious about my appearance in a way that you might not expect if you saw me in real life.
That’s why I stay hidden.
So what “words of encouragement” did my dad deliver this morning, as I stood on the threshold of another big moment?
He sent me a link to a video of someone we know, with a message that said:[quote]“When you do your thing today at 2 pm, make sure you look great. See how Jane* is always put together? Maybe you should attend her workshop to see how she sells herself.”[/quote]
(*not her real name)
Where our fears come from
Want to know where your fears come from? Want to know the source of your conditioning? It’s closer than you think.
Growing up, my dad was always commenting about appearance: I should wear makeup & heels (at age 12/13). Dress a certain way (less tomboy, more “feminine”). 2 years ago I shared my first Periscope video on Facebook. He called, then texted me — because this was so urgent — with the message:
Remove your Facebook post. It’s an unflattering selfie.
Seriously. This happened.
Not “you might want to consider removing it.” This was a command. As if I had said something racist or inconsiderate.
Fear is Contagious
First, I want to be clear that I love my dad. I know he means well. I know he is trying to be supportive.
It’s great to have a father who wants his daughter to look her best. I am grateful that he takes the interest. I know he cares and he comes from a place of love.
I know that this comes from HIS fear and limiting beliefs about what is needed to be successful in this world. So I know he is just acting out of his fear that if I don’t “dress the part” I won’t be successful. Also, he has fears that if I don’t dress the part I won’t attract a boyfriend/husband.
Lots of fears going on here. None of them mine. But they still impact me.
Our Cultural Conditioning
I also know that he is not entirely wrong about how the world works.
This is the patriarchy. There is a belief that a woman should look and dress a certain way.
This belief is constantly reinforced, at all levels. Michelle’s sleeveless dresses. Melania’s heels to Houston. Hilary’s pantsuits.
Silicon Valley executives can get away with wearing hoodies if they are men. What about the women?
Women are held to a higher standard. Unless a woman is a fitness professional you don’t see her wearing leggings in photos on her website.
We are expected to “dress the part.”
Why should it matter what I wear if I’m delivering value and helping people shift their lives? People hire me for results. Why does it matter what I wear if I deliver results?
A Lifetime of Conditioning is Hard to Undo
Of course, I wasn’t always able to see it like this. Even after a lot of inner work, this is a trigger. The effects of over 3 decades of this conditioning are grooved into my system. They don’t disappear with the awareness that he is “supporting me” from a place of his fear.
The result of my conditioning around this is that I have always been insecure in my appearance. People think I’m crazy. I’m 5’10”, approximately 125 lbs. People ask me if I’m a model. Objectively, I believe I’m beautiful, inside and out. I know that somewhere, in a part of me that remembers life before dress codes and expectations of what is appropriate to wear.
But there’s a conditioning that forces me into hiding.
Growing up, I always stood out because of my height — I towered over the boys and girls in my class.
But for as much as I stood out, I always felt unseen in my essence. In my truth. In the inner beauty and light of my being.
Because the message I’ve received repeatedly for over 3 decades is that no matter what is on the inside, it isn’t enough. Packaging counts.
I have noticed how much it causes me to hold back when I don’t feel that I look my best. I’m reluctant to go on camera if my hair isn’t perfect or if my makeup isn’t done.
I don’t have an easy answer to this cultural problem. But it’s a problem. Women won’t be treated equally in the workplace until we can show up in hoodies and leggings.
How I Showed Up Today
I spent this year going deep and excavating my conditioning to strengthen my self-worth.
I know that my presence is enough.
As I am. Right now. Without needing more.
I know that. I believe that.
Today, I delivered. In leggings. Nobody saw them, and I was comfortable. I brought my best.
But if I were speaking from a stage people wouldn’t take me seriously if I dressed like that.
And that’s the problem.
I don’t have an easy answer.