This event took place a number of days ago, when a fellow Toastmaster posted a group shot of the EPIC Event with Ryan Avery on Facebook. Likes and comments were coming in when it was noted a particular Toastmaster was missing from the picture. The individual in question commented (to the effect of) how it was better she had not been in the picture, because she wasn’t very photogenic, beautiful, etc.
What followed was the longest series of replies, contributed by the greatest number of individuals that I have ever been a part of. The reaction was swift and lasting; everyone dove in to offer their support and their two cents. I had a chance to meet this particular individual on a few occasions, and I cannot see anything that would support her argument. Furthermore, she is bright, lively, and has an infectious laugh.
This hits home. I have made some variation of that statement many times, mostly in my teen years. In school the guys would have a list of girls they found pretty and girls that weren’t. I found myself constantly on the latter. Friends tried to reassure me by saying I was not the traditional kind of pretty. That made no sense back then: either I was pretty, or I wasn’t. And those were thin words to try to hide the fact I wasn’t.
Life went on, and I slowly gained some self-esteem. One summer my classmates and I signed up for an accounting “boot-camp”, where for the entire weekend we would be in our business suit best and an instructor would teach us about resume writing, interview and networking skills. We would then have an opportunity to network with accountants from companies all across the region.
During the break, I approached the instructor and I asked her questions such as what she thought the accounting companies would be looking for in new hires. She went through a few answers, but then looked me straight in the eyes and in a dead serious tone of voice,
“You do not have the FACE of accounting.”
Excuse me? I was so shocked my mind went blank. Clearly unaware, she continued.
“You do not have the face of accounting. Companies would hire you to do all the work in the background.”
Turning to a classmate that had been standing beside me, the instructor told her, “You have almost the perfect face of accounting. Companies would hire you to represent their firm with their clients.” The girl nervously laughed after we exchanged the briefest of glances. As I looked at the perfect face of accounting, with her long black hair, size 2 figure perfectly accentuated by a blouse, business pants, and heels, I compared all of this to myself. To my frumpy suit jacket and matching pants (what I could afford as a student at the time), and I knew there was nothing I could do to stand out, unless I went through cosmetic surgery.
I suppose if I want to defend the instructor, I would say this was her (horrible) way of telling me I looked reliable. You can have all that jazz when talking to clients, but if you don’t have a solid team to back that up and do good work, they won’t be back a second time.
However, her phrase just made me angry. I know plenty of people who do not look like their profession. Why did I have to resign myself into the background? Did I not deserve to get the chance to talk to clients, to give them assurance that we’ll do our jobs? I wanted to be the face of my own work, and not have someone else get outward credit for it.
I wanted to say her words didn’t affect me, but they did. For the rest of the boot-camp, and for the networking session, her words echoed in my mind. Not the face of accounting. Not the face of accounting.
I recall another event that happened to me several years prior. During one of my lowest self-esteem points, I went on a blind date set up by a friend. One of the most horrible 2 hours of my life. To be fair, it was him who spent 2 hours trying to make conversation and I spent two hours thinking “what was the point? We both know you don’t find me attractive.”
After the date, I received one last message from him. “You are beautiful, but you don’t have the confidence to believe in that yourself.” That was his deal-breaker.
I want to use that as an example. This was a wake-up call for myself as I realized what an opportunity I had missed. Not so much an opportunity as drastic as “the one that got away” but at the very least I had missed the opportunity to make a new friend. What other opportunities have I missed because I always convinced myself I was an ugly duckling?
How everyone defines beauty is different. What inward and outward qualities they classify as beautiful will be different from person to person. There will be plenty of individuals out there that will look at a picture of me and answer “no comment.” I dare to think there will be just as many out there that will look at that same picture and think “she’s pretty.” I’ve also learned smiling from the inside will make anyone beautiful because happiness is the best asset anyone can have.
There may very well be those out there that tell me all I need is a makeover. All I need is to change my hair and my clothes and (for goodness sake!) put on makeup and that will change a lot. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. I’m not listening so closely to all their words anymore. As long as I am comfortable, as long as I have the brains to dress appropriately for the occasion I attend that’s beauty right there, folks.