Earlier this month, I had to opportunity to lead two sessions at the Body Love Conference in Tucson, AZ. My sessions were titled Learning to Love Your Body After Sexual Assault & Big Girl Big Career: Turing Your Plus Size Life into a Plus Size Career. Both sessions were very personal for me as a 23 assault survivor & a plus size woman who’s spent most of her life in corporate america.
A reporter in AZ asked me if it was harder for plus size women to be taken seriously in the business world, my answer was ABSOLUTELY. We live in a society that believes women who are overweight don’t value themselves, aren’t disciplined enough, and are less intelligent. Society tells us that skinny equals healthy and that a person’s value is only skin deep. Yes, society is changing but who has time to wait on that? So let’s stop self sabotaging our careers, sit our wider than average asses at the board room table and get shit done.
But what if you’ve not even been given the chance to enter the board room, not to mention sit at the table? What if you don’t have any desire to sit at a board room table? No matter what your career path, or life path for that matter, projecting yourself with confidence is priority 1. I’m a huge fan of “Fake it till you make it” and here are a few ways you can do just that.
Stop dressing like a schlump-a-dinka
With more and more plus size professional clothing options for women there is simply no reason to dress poorly. Arriving to work with your hair a mess, your clothing wrinkled or ill fitting (buy a size up if something clings and tear out the tag-size is only a number!), and no makeup (even a little mascara and lip gloss will show you made an effort) will harm your career. Will it harm the career of your thin peers? I can’t say, but I can almost guarantee you people look at plus size women who present themselves poorly and automatically equate fat with sloppy. I hate saying that but it’s sadly true. I want it to change too and slowly it is but until then, don’t give someone a reason to minimize your contributions. Making the effort every day also provides a sense of personal satisfaction and self care. We feel better about ourselves when we make an effort to present our best selves. Check out a few of my fashion inspirations: Curvy Fashionista, Life & Style of Jessica Kane, & Curvy CEO. Please share your inspiration sources to the comments
Body Language is key
Sit up straight, lean in (both physically and metaphorically), look people in the eye and speak clearly with confidence. When we physically shrink into ourselves to avoid having people look at us, one of two things happens. We either allow people to overlook our accomplishments and contributions or we allow people to treat us like we’re less than they are because that’s the message we send. Posture is key here. We are a country of slouchers. STOP! Stand up straight! When we slouch we also look away from people instead of looking them in the eye. Looking people in the eye shows confidence and portrays authority. Practice speaking clearly and speaking up in meetings. You have something to contribute so contribute! Take baby steps and if it goes poorly the first time, try again until it works. You’ll get mixed reactions when you begin speaking up but don’t use that as an excuse to stop! You might have to try all of these things in front of the mirror at home for a while to gain confidence. One of my fellow Body Love Presenters, Christina Bianchini, suggests trying these things in your office with the door closed before trying it in a meeting to get yourself comfortable. I love that idea!
Walk the line between confident and arrogant
I frequently tell my clients that just about the time you are feeling arrogant you are actually demonstrating confidence. Presenting yourself confidently is going to be very different for a partner in a law firm and a freelance marketing professional. Know your industry and what’s acceptable. As an attorney you probably have to wear a suit to court while as a marketing professional professional might mean jeans and a jacket with some killer pumps. There’s a difference between pushing the boundaries (which i believe in) and being openly disrespectful to your employer. It’s a fine line so always be aware of it.
Talk yourself into being confidence
As I’m getting dressed the day of a presentation or meeting, I often stand in front of the mirror and look at myself naked focusing on whatever it is I like about myself. The first time I did this the only thing I could find was my nose. The next time I found something else and the time after that I found yet something else again until the day came that I actually liked the person in the mirror. I also have a very specific playlist on my iPod prior to my presentation (look for a post on my motivational music later). Finally, I repeatedly tell myself I’m an expert on the topic of the presentation or meeting. I keep telling myself this until I believe it. This not only allows me the confidence to successfully manage the meeting or presentation I have ahead it also builds one more step toward my self confidence making me an even more valuable member of the team.
Wishing you complete success and confidence in your day!