Different is Sexy: How to Express Your Uniqueness in the Marketplace
“Sexy?” You wonder.
Yes, you read right. SEXY.
The word arouses a myriad of definitions and images. From provocative to X-rated. I’m certain you can think of a few. Pulitzer Prize winner, Michael Dirda, captures it best. He describes sexy as powerful because “it shuttles constantly between the public and the private...[sexy] may be conventional and obvious, or it may hint at our own inner life, our unspoken…desires [or dreams].”
Think about that for a moment…now track with me.
Do you remember Middle School? Some of you may not want to even consider that awkward, insecure season where much of our “issues” took root. Or…was that just me?
It was the early 80s when I was in Middle School. Then, New York City schools had not yet redefined the intermediate level, adding fifth and sixth grades. My school was limited to a two-year endurance test before high school. (Thank God for teachers called to this population!)
No middle schooler thinks different is sexy. Conformity is the name of the race. The way to survive is to remain in the draft of the lead runner…you know, the Queen Bee or Pack Leader. For me, this was challenging as I was a bit of a rogue.
By that age, I had already encountered countless comments and questions about the birthmark around my eye. So, the concept of being different was a very personal one. I had developed a fairly hard shell to deal with the regular criticisms. My vivacious personality made the role work for me. But inside, I was still quite tender.
Fast forward some thirty years, as I began to have a stirring inside to step out of my professional box and do something new. I considered what I wanted to do and looked around at other women in business. I leaned in with Sheryl Sandberg and began strategizing to win with Carla Harris. Yet again, I felt my difference emerging.
This time, it was not about my physical appearance. (I’ve long ago embraced my birthmark as my mother always called it, a prenatal kiss from God.) This time, it’s about what “business” looks like for women. Every example I looked at for inspiration fit a buttoned-up, well-suited mold. That is just not me...at least not all of the time! It felt restrictive and one-dimensional, like another role.
Here’s what I’ve learned.
When you are stepping out of a norm in business, or in your personal life, it’s critical that you first resolve the identity crisis. You know...answer the question, who am I? That person on the inside with facets that long to shine.
Too often we allow ourselves to be fully defined by one aspect of ourselves or our journey or our roles. We skew the lens and see, as well as express, only parts of who we are. It seems safer that way. We avoid some of the awkward, insecureness that persists into adulthood. But the danger is that we can lose touch with our real selves in the process.
I believe each person is a unique creation. Based on that premise, every single one of us is different. Our fingerprints and iris patterns confirm this as fact. Also, I believe we each have passions, contributions to make to the world, that are special. When we take this perspective, we can consider living an inside-out type of life. One that authentically unfolds.
So, who are you when no one is looking? Think about it.
Next, it is important to know your why.
This phrase is EVERYwhere. You may think it overdone. But it is an essential key. Your “why” is your purpose. Knowing your why drives your “what.” When you know your why, you begin to act in alignment with your purpose. You can assess the options for what your “what” can be. Your “what” then becomes clearer and more impactful.
I knew that I wanted a business that would contribute to people’s lives. Specifically, I want to see women equipped, informed and encouraged to live out their passion and purpose through entrepreneurship. That’s my “why”. My “what,” at least one of them, is this blog.
There are many blogs out there. What keeps bringing you back to this one? I would venture to say that it’s not the uniqueness of my ideas because many great people have commented on the topics that I cover. It is my “why” that you connect with and hopefully, that makes an impact.
See how it works?
Finally, take a step.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Faith is taking the first step, even if you don’t see the whole staircase."
There is no crystal ball to predict how your business and life will turn out. One thing is certain. If you stay in the same place, doing the same thing, you will not experience anything different. So, take a step.
It could be picking up a hobby that you have long forgotten that you enjoy. Or maybe it’s a business idea you’ve always wanted to explore but were too afraid or too busy to pursue…start investigating it. It could just be wanting to create more margin in your life. Schedule five minutes for yourself every morning to just be still and think.
For months, I agonized over starting this business. Then I fretted over how I wanted it to be expressed in the marketplace. Both the business and I have had our growing pains. And we’ll continue to have more. I simply take one step at a time. I'm designing and building something here...progress may seem slow at times, but I'm taking my steps, one after another.
Whatever it is for you, just take a step. The next step after that will emerge. See for yourself.
When I began to rehearse these nuggets of truth: resolving the identity crisis, knowing my why, and taking one step at a time, I found my sweet spot. This is not a one-off exercise. I review this process regularly as discouragement and disappointment have a way of rattling the psyche and tempting me to conform to a norm that doesn’t represent me.
However, I am determined to keep my different intriguing, appealing, captivating…SEXY.
What does your different look like?
Until next time…