August 1, 2019

It's not fair



Last week, as many of my speaker colleagues packed and prepared to attend our annual convention, I saw a repeated refrain in our comment threads, all a variation of:

"I have to get a blow out, spray tan, hair colored and cut, teeth whitened, nails done, legs waxed, lashes extended, eyebrows dyed, shop for makeup and new outfits, find my Spanx, and find a gown to wear to the gala that I haven't worn before."

While lamenting that our male colleagues don't have to do any of this to prepare for a conference.

And more than once: "It's not fair."

Is it really? Not fair?

I'm not going to go into a huge gender socialization rant here or rail against a society that has such dramatically different expectations for women and men when it comes to appearance. Unfortunately, gender socialization frequently blinds us to the reality that we do, in fact, have a choice.

This post is about choice. You have a choice.

Sure, there are things in life that aren't fair, like genuine discrimination on the basis of gender, race, ability or sexual orientation.

But nobody is forcing women to dress and groom ourselves the way we do.

I'm not going to pretend I'm immune. I hate shaving my legs, and I actually stopped doing it about 30 years ago. But then I realized that sometimes I want to wear a skirt on stage, without tights or pantyhose. And I don't want my audience to be distracted if they notice my hairy legs.

So a couple of years ago, I started getting my legs waxed. Once a year, in the summer, so if it's hot and I want to wear a skirt or dress without tights onstage, I can, and no one will be distracted.

I hate that I care about this, or that someone might be so disturbed by the faint hair on my legs that they won't be able to listen to my content. But it's still my choice to wax my legs that one time a year. No one is forcing me to do it. I could wear tights. I could wear pants. I could let it go, and see what happens!

You have a choice. Do you have to dye your hair? Nope. Do you have to whiten your teeth? Nope. Do you have to wear Spanx? Good lord, no you do not!

Don't kid yourself that someone is "making" you do these things. The only thing that isn't fair is how you're treating yourself, like you're not a good enough female human unless you jump through all these hoops that prove you're what society considers appropriate and feminine.

If you enjoy doing all of this stuff before a big conference or speaking engagement, then by all means do it! I'm not judging and nobody has a right to judge you.

But if it annoys you... if you feel that "it's not fair"... and if you wish you didn't have to do it...

Guess what: You don't!

There are women speakers who don't wear heels, or clingy dresses that require Spanx, who don't spend a fortune on hair, lash and nail maintenance, wear minimal makeup (depending on the stage, you probably need at least some to be seen) and who still get hired and, by the way, get paid a lot of money to do what they do.

You are more than your appearance. Your message is what matters. Your personality, your authenticity, your connection with the audience. Your brilliance.

No matter what anyone else says, you don't have to do anything you don't enjoy doing.

What's not fair? You or anyone else making you feel that you're not good enough just as you are.

P.S. Have you read my book, Presenting for Humans: Insights for Speakers on Ditching Perfection and Creating Connection? Just another little encouragement toward being real, embracing your uniqueness, and kicking butt on stage!

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