Sometimes I wish my handwriting, my voice, or my laughter could precede me into a room. These are the stylistic traits of myself with which I am the most free. I will gladly pen something, speak up, or let loose a chortle without second-guessing myself.
My wardrobe is a different story.
Recently I’ve taken to wearing what I call my “writer gear” to 1 Million Cups, a business networking event I co-organize every Wednesday.
Writer gear consists of my U2 concert t-shirt and a slim skirt. My Hamilton “Young, Scrappy, and Hungry” t-shirt and a jean skirt. My First Amendment shirt and a pair of denim capris. I wrap my bracelets up my wrist, put rings in every earlobe hole (5 total), and wear my Chuck Taylors without socks. My Achilles’ tendon tattoo is on full display.
This is me and I want to be ME in all things.
Professionally, I wear dresses or slacks, high heels, and sleeveless shirts. These are me as well. They’re client-facing me, not quite interview-ready me, but a step up from business casual and two steps away from Hamilton tees.
When looking professional and being myself are not the same thing, I am deeply uncomfortable. I feel like I’m pretending to be something I’m not. I worry that my credibility isn’t really showing. That my costume is doing the work my voice ought to be doing.
A 1 Million Cups co-organizer said to me today, “You don’t have to prove you’re smart. The minute you start speaking, it’s undeniable.”
So, if I show my tattoos and wear concert t-shirts, and let my Jeep hair and piercings – the style I dig – represent me, do I have to work harder when I speak to get past that first impression?
Or does my “smart” voice fit my writer persona?
How much am I sacrificing if I decide to be me instead of conforming to the business norms?
The older I get the less inclined I am to accept “norms” of any kind. Just because it’s never been done doesn’t mean it can’t be done. There’s a rebel in me that’s hitting pay dirt. I let others influence a good bit of my career. Now it’s my turn to lead.
I’m reluctant to don the costume, the cape and mask. I’m reluctant to perpetuate the myth of “business” in the traditional, industrial sense. Rather, I feel revolutionary in a creative and energetic way. I feel like I’m making something new over here and it’s worth paying attention to, dammit.
I am unwilling to wrap what I do and believe in the words someone else would say or in the costume someone else would like to see.
These are my words and I believe them even if others aren’t convinced. Even if others think I’m opening a can of worms. Even if others think people might listen more to me if I were wearing a suit. I know people who say others might be more willing to listen if I were working under a major university’s label or if I looked more like Sheryl Sandberg or Sallie Krawcheck.
I’ll just keep writing and speaking and pushing what I know to be true into the universe. Let my words precede me into the room and my wardrobe simply round out the vision of Revolutionary.