I was recently dissed by a prospective client. Her dis was so slight and polite that 'dis' isn't even the right word for it...and yet it stirred up all of the approval-seeking crap I have worked so hard to try and get a goddamn handle on.
A woman who wanted to hire me as her career coach reconsidered. She contacted me from an old website, and changed her mind when I redirected her to Careergasm, my current company. She said that my new branding and positioning didn't resonate with her. She didn't say it was terrible or even that she disliked it, just that it didn't resonate with her. I proceeded to fall apart at the seams. This is embarrassing to admit.
Why wouldn't she want to work with me? Is it because of the name of my company? It's too much, right? I knew it.
Maybe I shouldn't have written that stripper article. People are going to get the wrong idea.
Is it because I have cute little pop art illustrations promoting my programs? I thought that was fun, but maybe it's flaky.
On it went for a good five minutes. Until my wise self kicked in.
Wise self: Let it go, Sarah. It doesn't matter.
Approval-seeking self: But I just want everyone to like me!
Wise self: Oh, is that all? You just want everyone on the entire planet to like you? That's a rather tall order, don't you think?
Approval-seeking self: Shut up, wise self. I'm pouting.
My wise self knows that I created my company to help people become their happiest and most authentic selves at work. I believe very firmly in being yourself, yet I questioned the value of my own authenticity at the slightest critique. The irony is not lost on me.
A dis is exactly what I was (and am) afraid of. Indeed, it is exactly what we are all afraid of: What if I show people who I really am and they don't like me?
My old website is nice. There's a photo of me looking rather serious and corporate-ish in a white button-down shirt. It's fine, but it's not really, well, me. It's a corporate-ish looking version of me.
As I write this, I am wearing pink sparkly nail polish -- the kind with multi-coloured specks of glitter floating in it. It's called "sprinkles." The girl I volunteer with for Big Sisters gave it to me for my birthday, and dammit I'm wearing it. I'll probably wear it to a client meeting tomorrow, too. My client is so fun that she'll probably show up wearing the same polish.
The gal on my old website would probably be scared to wear "sprinkles" nail polish to a client meeting. But then again, she wouldn't have made her company name a euphemism either.
I'm done with having incongruent personal and professional selves. I don't want to put on a costume every day to go to work. My clients actually love to work with the costume-less version of me, pink sprinkles and all. They seek me out because of my un-stuffy vibe. And yet, occasionally I wonder, what if people like the costumed version of me better? Or I get all huffy and defensive from a minor dis and think things like, don't you know I write for Forbes?
Forbes is my go-to ego security blanket. Ask me what I do on a regular day and I'll tell you I help people get happy at work. But catch me on a bad day -- one where I'm feeling intimidated or not particularly comfortable in my own skin -- and I'll mention that I also blog for Forbes. Forbes says legitimacy. Forbes says this chick has her shit together.
The good news is the insecure and huffy thoughts are more fleeting than they used to be. They pop up every now and then, but they're no longer calling the shots. I have the thought. I notice the thought. I politely acknowledge it, and then continue to do my own thing. This is not only good for me, personally, but also professionally.
In honour of keeping it real I did a massive revamp of my LinkedIn profile to make it sound exactly like me, and not a corporate robot. It now includes a muppet video and refers to a story I wrote in grade two about the Easter bunny and a pair of Air Jordan shoes. I kept the Forbes thing in there, too. Because let's face it, Forbes is pretty badass.
Did I go too far? Nope. I'm quirky as hell, and I want to work with people who dig that, or who are at the very least not scared off by it. I'm helping the right clients opt in, and letting the wrong ones self select out. This is exactly what I tell my clients to do in their own business branding, but it's always easier to dispense your own advice than take it, isn't it? Here's to keeping it real. Dissers welcome.
Published at Careergasm.
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