Tag Archives: Self-image

Are You Dancing at the Shame Prom?

Twenty seven courageous women write about their dance in the moving compilation of personal stories that is Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small. Some of the stories made me laugh; some made me cry. All of them moved me.

How, I wondered, could some of these women have survived such abuse? Could I move on from seal abuse passed off as “God’s will?” What would me life have become if my alcoholic grandfather had escheated from verbal abuse to physical? If he had poured a jar of sauerkraut over my head? These were powerful tales of survival. Some shocked me; some made me cringe.

Other stories were much lighter. I laughed at one woman’s revelation of what happened in the sandbox. I smiled in understanding as I read about the beautiful but dumb boyfriend. Some seemed beyond my understanding. I will never truly understand what it is to be biracial, but the story reminded me of what it was like to be excluded for not being Jewish enough or Italian enough or Waspy enough. There are so many ways to not quite fit and you too are likely to find emotional connections to stories that are outside your life experience.

Sometimes, it was hard to not be a little judgmental – is that really a shameful experience, I asked myself a few times. It is in these stories, though, that I found the greatest learning. I had no problem relating to the body dysmorphia shame stories, but I had a hard time seeing frizzy/curly hair as a cause for shame. Of course, I must admit I have plenty of body issues of my own but happen to really love my hair, so that has something to do with it.

So, it was a surprise to find that the hair story was one that had a strong impact on me. Every time I have recommended this wonderful book to friends, I’ve mentioned that story. I love the author’s act of courage – jumping into a pool because she promised her daughters she would and emerging with no further though about how her hair looked. Don’t go with my oversimplification – read the whole story. Read the whole book. Share it. Buy it for your friends.

Finally, think about your own participation at the shame prom. Are you a wallflower? Are you pretending you weren’t there at all? Or are you ready to speak up, own your shame and move on? I want to be as brave as these women. What about you?

When You Speak, Does Everyone Listen? WoW Robyn Hatcher Has the Secret

When I met Robyn, I was immediately taken with how confident and self-assured she is, so I was surprised to discover that her childhood nickname was “Shy.” You’d never know this. And, to me, that’s the mark of someone who really understands not only the difficulties all of us shy folk face, but really knows how to turn a wallflower into the belle of the ball. As Robyn says,

Because of my intimate knowledge with being shy and knowing what it’s like to feel unable to grab the spotlight, I have become extremely passionate about empowering others to uncover and unleash their inner “Star power.”

Robyn broke through years of silence in a big way when she auditioned for a play her freshman year in high school. She channeled years of pent up frustration into a two-minute monologue about a fictitious break up, unconsciously using a well-known acting technique. She got the role and it changed her life.

Robyn has been a professional actor for more than twenty years now, but she hasn’t limited herself to one profession. She has a thriving communications consulting practice, she’s teaching at Baruch and the Fashion Institute of Technology. She’s a trainer and curriculum developer, a speaker (there may still be time to join her at Women at Woodstock) and an author. You can read her chapter in the very powerful and moving Dancing at the Shame Prom, a book I just couldn’t put down.

Many actors report being shy people off stage and live reclusive private lives. Many of them are in pain and choose to remain that way. Robyn has used that pain to forge a very different life of service to people who just can’t seem to express themselves. She doesn’t expect her clients to follow her path; she does expect them to learn how to be comfortable in their own skins.

You don’t have to become an actor, or even a professional public speaker, but learning to be a more powerful communicator will make you a better boss, colleague, partner, parent, friend and individual.

It’s easy to get to know Robyn a bit better. Read her blog, Communication Inspirations, and check out her website, Speaketc. Oh – and check out the stands at the Cincinnati Reds games next year to catch Robyn cheering on her Yale student/pro ball playing son.

Out of the Shadows

In the shadows has been a safe place to be for a long, long time. I was in second grade. My reading group, the Cardinals (best group), stood up to read. I was immersed in the story and by now was several pages ahead of the group, so, of course, I was not on the right page. For this transgression of being a good reader and going too fast, I was banished to the Starlings (slowest group).

Lesson: it’s not good to be too smart or too fast or too different. It’s safer in the shadows where no one notices you. You won’t get punished there.

But living in the shadows has it’s price. There are secrets in the shadows, and a single ray of sunlight can expose them. You can spend your whole life covering things over and pushing things back and hoping that no one will discover who you really are. Because that would be scary. And nasty. And no one would love you any more. So you stretch your neck out every so often, and then pull it back quickly. You create opportunities and sabotage them. You don’t believe the good things people tell you because, after all, they don’t really know you. What if they knew? So, no one else punishes you. Instead, you punish yourself.

A few moths ago, I was invited to met a friend in Bucks County, where she was visiting her brother and sister-in-law. I hadn’t seen my friend in over a year and I missed her. I love her family, and knew I’d enjoy their company. I wasn’t going to go. I was feeling like a fraud and a failure. My business was comatose. No clients. Contracts falling through right and left. I was broke. My friend’s sister-in-law got on the phone and told me to go pack and get on the train. If I could manage the fare, they’d take care of everything else. And they did. And I wasn’t allowed to feel embarrassed. And I had a wonderful time. No one cared.

Lesson: You miss a lot in the shadows. It may be safe, but you won’t get rewarded there, and you’ll miss a lot of fun!

Thou Shalt Be Awesome and 9 More Commandments For Mid-career Woman Who Want to Get Noticed

Feeling a little lost in the crowd? Need a little juice to revive your flagging career?  Here are ten commandments to jump-start your engine:

1. Be awesome! Remind yourself of how terrific you are. And while you’re at it, remind other people from time to time.  If you’re not feeling it, make a list of your accomplishments and read it every day. You’re proud of your accomplishments, aren’t you? You don’t need to boast, but from time to time, you can mention your achievements. Remember, what you project is what people believe and remember.

2. Smile. Often. Nod to strangers in the hallways. This projects confidence and well-being.

3. Help someone. There’s no better way to keep your skills sharp and get the added perk of building a band of loyal supporters. Go back and re-read Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time if you’ve forgotten the value of helping others and looking for nothing in return.

4. Learn something new. What’s going on in your industry? Are you keeping up with trends? Stay fresh.

5. Attend a seminar or workshop. You don’t even have to leave your desk to access a webinar. Training keeps your skills sharp and broadens your perspective.

6. Talk to strangers. Network. Find out what other people in your organization are doing. Find out what other people in your industry find exciting. Share what excites you, too.

7. Update your look. When was the last time you went through your wardrobe? Does everything fit properly? Is everything neat, clean, and in good repair? You can create a whole new image with a few inexpensive changes. Someone like Susan Sommers can teach you how to shop your own closet. You can even have a swap party with your friends to get a couple of fresh looks for nothing.

8. Get organized. Cleaning out your files not only creates more space but often leads to treasures that you’ve stashed away to read later.

9. Mentor someone. Helping someone else move up the career ladder has many benefits for you. It makes you more visible. It earns you yet another loyal follower. It also helps you revisit and renew your own skills. Finally, it helps build your reputation as a star maker. 

10. Speak up! Ask for what you want. Your boss isn’t a mind reader. If you want something more, or something different,  be sure someone knows!