I hear this from colleagues too often. My appearance has betrayed my authority for as long as I can remember. I both blame Goldie Hawn as well as adore her and esteem her as an actress and an activist. Regardless of her many successes, it appears she still must prove her wits before being listened to in a serious way. I can relate.
Like Goldie Hawn, my face becomes very animated when I express myself, perhaps too animated? This can include an openly “grossed out” face, a hyper-focused “I’m excited” face, an “I’m totally bummed, and there’s nothing you could ever do to fix it” face, an “I’m totally lost” face, a funny face, a deeply dimpled, watery-eyed “I can’t stop laughing” face and so many more. I have also mastered the “I’m blonde. I don’t understand,” face for times when I really don’t understand. Somehow, blaming my not-knowing on being a dumb blonde feels less dumb than not knowing something.
So, like Ms. Hawn, have I cornered myself into an identity, a character I can’t seem to shake off, no matter how many successes I carry in my briefcase? Is it like Eeyore’s cloud, always above me, regardless of any circumstance?
Goldie Hawn, with her genuine contributions to the overall improvement of society, appears less attached to the bubbly character that floated above her. Alongside her more contemporary endeavors, she carries her legacy as a comedienne, her Oscar, her hit films (many of which are hilarious, glamorous and feminist) as well as her butterfly eyes. In her own way, Ms. Hawn has already left a shimmering and important mark in our society.
Unfortunately, I am not Goldie Hawn, and I don’t have Private Benjamin under my belt.
Because I am still budding in my career, I still feel unsure about stepping into the waters of work. Labeled as a professional, you, me and our colleagues, can’t afford to appear timid, dipping our toe in first.
To survive the sink or swim environment of work, I utilize the concept of uniformity to progress along the path of my declared career. I think of Goldie Hawn’s character in the film, Private Benjamin, how she adapted to and adopted the best parts of her army training and apply it to my preliminary professional persona, in other words, my first impressions at work:
5 Steps Toward Gaining Respect in the Workplace
I. Appear pleasant, professional and prepared
II. Greet co-workers with non-reactive, confident, yet amicable facial expression, eye-contact, good posture and ATTENTION!
III. Actively Investigate the surroundings for potential allies and/or enemies
IV. Actively Connect your Agenda with the Agendas of those in the area (make use of humor as Goldie might to enhance likeability).
V. Survive, recruit (collaborate & motivate), outperform and move up in rank (get promoted, get a raise) all while implementing I, II, III and IV.
As awkward and insecure as I may feel sometimes expressing my ideas during faculty meetings, I know I don’t feel as awkward and insecure as many colleagues feel when expressing their ideas. They employ wilting phrases like “I believe,” “I feel,” “In my opinion,” regardless of how correct or innovative they might be. Erase all hints at insecurity in spoken sentences. It is not what you feel should be done, it should be done.
With the assumption that my uniform professional strategies mask any internal anxiety, I can only hope this calculated cocoon will evolve into an innately confident, innovative professional identity.
From the beginning of the witty, wonderful film, Private Benjamin:
Captain Lewis: Benjamin, you are not FIT to wear that uniform.
Judy Benjamin: No SH*T!
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