Hello SOTGC community,
Raise your hand if you’ve seen the really helpful size 78 font magazine print about how incredibly awesome you can be if you shed that holiday weight in the first 5 minutes of the New Year? Or how you’re going to be sexier, smarter, more affluent and always have the perfect sales pitch if you get your abs in shape by the next day that ends in a “y”!
Now, quietly sit back and ask yourself if there isn’t the slightest part of you that thought you could improve in some measurable way if those claims actually materialized. Maybe work would run smoother and you’d kick a$$ and take names straight to the next promotion by the end of the first quarter? If only you looked like….
Take a second and ask yourself why this insidious message affected you in that way. The answer might be, “Size and shape are subjective so does somebody, ANYBODY, think I’m fat and unacceptable and does it affect my career?” That right there is the internal dialog we’re often up against when it comes to body image and confidence
Without getting into a discussion about weight, weight management, healthy weight or any form of advocacy regarding size – topics we can discuss in a later post if you’d like – I’d like to take a minute to discuss perspective, body image and career trajectory.
On top of the normal checklist we all run through, “Am I forgetting something?”, “Did I connect the dots?”, “Did I communicate effectively?”, “Am I on the right track?”, there are many additional questions people ask that are assumptive secondary indicators of our professional success. Questions such as, “Am I exercising as much as the magazines say I should?”, “Do I look like the leaders in the fitness community?”, “Am I shaped like a successful person?” and the bottom line, “Am I acceptable the way I am?”
Often people who are driven to succeed in the executive world are heavily impacted by the expectations of others. This isn’t limited to work-product but rather it can permeate a person’s life. Remember, it wasn’t too long ago that the expectation of the male exec was to have a wife who stayed at home and raised a few children. In addition, this leader and breadwinner was often given a pass (if not brownie points) for also keeping a mistress on the side – not to say that all marriages suffered from Mad Men Syndrome, however, the images of Don Draper and his exploits are iconic for a reason.
So, keeping in mind that people often consider their success to be dependent on the “whole package”, what does today’s ‘package’ look like? Are there components that are superficial indicators of a person’s ability to succeed similar to the ability to attract and afford a mistress? Is that 50’s era mistress today’s body fat percentage?
A person could argue that the mistress of old was an indicator that the exec had skills associated with success in project management; he could handle multiple draws on finances and time as well being able to manage attention to detail and other resources but was he necessarily a better producer? Maybe the exec was attractive (the ability to attract may have to do with money, power, intelligence or physical features…) and able to promote himself which certainly would have been another winning quality, but even that didn’t necessarily translate into professionalism or competency.
At the end of the day, this guy could have been slick and sexy and ‘looked the part’ but did that really matter when deadlines were coming due and procedural changes needed to be implemented? Similarly, do you need to worry about your bust to waist ratio in relation to your next performance appraisal?
If you’re feeling anxiety about having/not having today’s “total package” because you haven’t been to the gym in the last week, month, EVER – this might be a good moment to check your perspective. How much impact does your size have on your work and how important are other people’s expectations to ‘look the part’?
Being fit, or attractive, or even healthy is a purely personal experience. It is not a prerequisite for success. If it were, would anyone know who Stephen Hawking was? How about Warren Buffett, Hillary Clinton or Barbara Mikulski? Being fit, to the extent that your body can cooperate, is a personal choice full of complexities that fall far, FAR outside the scope of career trajectory. What DOES fall within that range is competency, dedication, cooperation, understanding and ability to execute.
Your fitness level, as arbitrary and inaccurate a gauge as it may be, is at best an indicator of how you use your time outside of work hours which could take us back to the flawed logic of mistresses and time management. Also, it may (or may not) speak to your ability to manage financial resources that allow you to participate in the sport of your choosing but again, to draw it back to the example of the mistress, it is ancillary to your on the job performance. It is window dressing when it comes to what you do and how you do it.
So, as we embark on the New Year, frequently started with personal commitments for improvement and a sense that we are unacceptable as we are, I encourage you to draw a line in the sand of your personal and professional life. If you want to head straight into the gym and conquer the mechanical horses, do it with gusto! If you want to head straight into your bosses office and remind her/him what a valuable employee you are, GO FOR IT! Either way, be confident and take you’re “A game” with you – DO NOT sell yourself short by conflating where the results from the hard work in either area belong.
Photo credit: www.nathanielbranden.com