Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Do You Hate The Way You Look?

So this entry is going to be a little heavy and less upbeat that my previous posts. I think it’s a real issue that many individuals, both male and female experience at one point in time or another; even though it has probably been seen more heavily in female populations (yes sometimes I talk like the statistician that I am). The issue is having a negative body image. 

To get probably way too personal, I’ve gone through that a few times in my life and it’s just a horrible feeling. I feel as if it invades every aspect of my life and prevents me from focusing on anything. Sometimes I can’t even pinpoint what it is to cause such negativity and insecurity. Once I get it into my head that I am unattractive in one way or another, I have an overwhelming sense of sadness, irritability and insecurity. It governs how I act around friends, family and coworkers. It governs how long I take to get ready in the morning, the effort it takes to do my hair, makeup and choosing an outfit. It governs what I eat and drink. It governs what I choose to engage in in my free time. Most of all it governs my state of mind, really hindering me from focusing on or enjoying anything. 

While I can’t say that I won’t go through that again, what I can say is how I have gotten through that and the things I do to really build my internal confidence. The biggest and most helpful thing I do is a self-talk. I decide that focusing on my looks is really stupid and irrational. I know that it is, but really telling yourself helps. I also talk through the things that make me feel good about myself; accomplished. I also make the conscious decision to QUIT THINKING ABOUT IT! Once that decision is made, I try to keep busy with doing things I like to do, staying active and spending time with positive people. I also do things like buy cute stuff from Victoria’s Secret and hang out all day in it while watching TV or cleaning (silly, but helpful!).  I buy myself a cute Pinterest inspired outfit and shoes! I really look at myself and decide that I like myself and how I look. But most of all, I focus on the feelings I have when I’m happy and hold onto the thoughts around them. I discard the unhappy ones. 

Most of the time, we are being FAR too critical on ourselves. To everyone else, you may be perfect in one way or another! Try and see yourself in the positive light that other people see you! Also, surround yourself with people who are awesome, positive and genuine. I’ve found that being around people who are inauthentic and negative really wears on me, and I just have to distance myself from it. DO THAT. But most of all, love yourself. Decide you are awesome in some way. And keep on truckin’!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Relationships for Life

I was recently watching the movie Flight (do NOT watch it if you are about to travel…) that outlined the crash and subsequent investigation of a high functioning alcoholic and drug addicted pilot, played by DenzelWashington. During the whole movie, I couldn’t help but think where was this man’s friends and family? He had pushed everyone that truly cared about him so far away that he didn’t know which way was up and which way was right. The only people left were those that could benefit from him in some way. 

That got me to thinking at how lucky I am to have people around me that show me the way; that is encourage the right way and shake me when I’m doing the wrong thing. I’ve met many people and have been a part of many groups that have helped me to accomplish my ultimate goal of being a good person. I feel as if being a good person isn’t an ultimate destination, but it is the journey throughout our lives. Because life is never stopping, being a good person throughout it shouldn’t be stagnant either. 

It’s all about the journey to discovering yourself and what your places in this world will be. I say places because I LOATHE the notion that we are all good at one thing or have one niche. Every individual is a complex set of layers, talents, strengths and passions. Finding yourself and your places does involve other individuals, whether you’d want to admit it or not. Each individual you come in contact with does shape your life in some way, direct or indirectly. 

I’ve kind of made it hobby to make friends (if you know me, I LOVE making friends!) in all the facets of what I love to do. I also get a kick of being friends with people who are total badasses in what they do. Being around them makes me strive to be what they are and let me know that I can! Pushing people down that are awesome just pushes you farther away from being as awesome as they are. My heart truly breaks when I hear that individuals say things to people that are discouraging. I’ve been discouraged from doing things by authority figures as a kid and it really does stay with you forever. The only thing that really helped me to push through that discouragement was other individuals who supported my efforts in whatever endeavor I felt like attempting.

Building relationships has always been something that I very much value within my life. Meeting new and different people really does open up one’s eyes to many different ways of life, viewpoints and beliefs. While that sounds very abstract, once you experience it, it comes down to the concrete notion of knowing that people can differ from you and you can RESPECT them. Not the “agree to disagree” or the “can’t we all just get along?” ridiculous notions. Different viewpoints help you to stay grounded. Staying grounded helps you to stay on the right track to being a good and successful person and help you to not make decisions that could ultimately ruin your life.Isolating yourself from people that really have your best interests at heart WILL ruin your life.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

#1ReasonWhy We Will Win Out!

I recently read an article on MSNBC about a trending twitter hashtag, #1reasonwhy and felt the strong need to write an entry about it. The hashtag is a result of a Games Project Specialist at Kickstarter, Luke Crane, tweeted the question “Why are there so few lady game creators?” I think Mr. Crane posed a great question, but probably didn’t see what was going to result of it. 

Many female developers and gamers commented with the trending #1reasonwhy outlining why women feel isolated within that industry, from seemingly innocuous things such as people mistaking them for receptionists due to their desk location, to more serious allegations of sexual harassment, groping and pay discrimination. The outcry of discrimination seems crazy since we are in 2012, where there are even laws about equality in place.

On the flip side, commenters such as Dillon Paradis (quoted in the MSNBC article) posted "I look at #1ReasonWhy and I laugh at all the feminists who think they matter. If you were good in your field, you wouldn't be misrepresented." While I definitely understand where Mr. Paradis is coming from, its definitely a fantasy in my reality. It would be great to think that if you are a good employee, working hard, adding value to your organization that you would be put in a position similar to a lot of these female developers, but sadly that just isn’t the case in a lot of instances. Gross generalizations that say it always or never happens should be discounted immediately! 

I’ll give a real world example of just something that screams inequality and really does illustrate that negative perceptions, intentional or not, are still hindering many women in any career, but specifically male-dominated ones. I have a friend who is obtaining her Masters in Electrical Engineering this semester (kudos to her, because that is definitely not my thing). She has been searching for a job, has had many internships, research projects and has a good GPA, but so far has not found one. Now, she isn’t the typical stereotype that you would think of for an engineer, male or female. She is cute, blonde, involved on campus and was in a sorority. 

She tends to make it past the phone interview, but as soon as she has an actual face-to-face interview, things begin to fall apart. Her face-to-face interviews are always VERY technical in nature (the phone interviews are as well) and she makes it a point to be very prepared to speak in the technical terms and display her thorough understanding of the concepts that she would be faced with on the job. She asked me (as the resident HR friend) if that was normal, and in my experience, yes, however there is typically a behavioral component in conjunction with the technical side. She expressed that she has only ever been asked a few behavioral questions, which sounded odd to me. She had a few male and female friends apply for the same position and compared notes on what their interviews were like and was astounded! All the females were drilled technically and all the males experienced pure behavioral interviews. She even had one interviewer tell her she should go into technical sales because she is “clean.” He went on to clarify that she was well put together. 

I really feel for this friend, as a I know that she is very capable, but has to completely change her career path because people find her as an adequate sales person based on the way she looks, but not an adequate engineer. This really could be unintentional and purely based on a perception of the interviewer (optimistic, but true). The HR in me has to say DON’T DO THIS. Structure your interviews so that it never happens to overshadow people that would be a great fit even if they don’t look the part! 

Now, the ultimate question is what can you do about it? As of now, this is the reality, good, bad or otherwise and women have to deal with it. We can either be positive and progressive or we can fight tooth and nail for it. My personal opinion is being positive and progressive will result in better things. All that I am in control of is myself and my reaction to any injustice. With that being said, I will continue to work hard to prove that I am a good hire/employee. I will also seek out the places that don’t have these practices and add value to them so that they continue to be successful. I will set the example for the women that come after me. I will fight when I have to, but I will pick my battles.  I won't give up and I will win out!

"... But we were all refined, good girls from good families, and we realized somehow that we weren't going to college just for ourselves, but for all the girls who would follow after us - if we could just win out." -Bettie Locke

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Just Dive Right In!

I haven’t been keeping up with this as often as I should because I recently had A LOT going on within my life! I also wanted to be sure to make entries whenever I was inspired or when I learned something that should be shared. That being said, I REALLY encourage you to read and share this entry with anyone who is in transitional times within their lives. I am historically horrible at transitions as it takes me a while to adjust and I feel as if I’m scared of everything. Since I have experienced quite a few transitions as of late, I wanted to share what really helped me to get through them, or what I’m currently doing to ease the “pain” of change.

As many of you know, my company BHI was acquired by Kenexa (I call it an HR powerhouse). I was excited to be working for Kenexa as I’ve always wanted to gain experience with them, however most of their consultants are PhDs in the field, while I hold a Master’s degree. I never thought it would be possible to do what I’m doing now with this organization. During that time, it was scary. You don’t know if you have a job and if you do have a job, you don’t really know exactly what the role is. There were a ton of new people I’d have to work with and I was terrified to work with the head of assessment (which is my little HR niche) as he is pretty famous within my I/O realm. I really just wanted to do a good job and learn. I basically threw myself into cross-training of what BHI does and what Kenexa does, how it overlaps, where I see gaps and how I could be of value in helping. I tried to learn everything I could about the organization, products, procedures, etc. I also made it a point to really get to know my new coworkers (who are all amazingly competent and genuinely good people). I wanted to show that I wanted to do a good job and that I wanted to be part of the group. I’m now at a point of still learning, but the dust has settled and the ambiguity has subsided. I feel as if I am “moving on up” so to speak with it every day. 

Another transition that I’m currently going through is I recently made a professional dance team! I’m so very excited as it’s something I’ve wanted to do for most of my adolescent and adult life. I’ve auditioned it seems like 100 times just to be told no very early in the process made me feel as if I was never going to get to this point! What they don’t tell you is making the team is easy compared to meeting all the requirements for being on the team. It truly takes dedication to your art and you do it because you love doing it. When I found out the workout requirements and other requirements, I was terrified. Just like when I transitioned to Kenexa, I just wanted to do a good job. I kept having all of these scary thoughts about how maybe I couldn’t do it or wouldn’t be a good member.  I’m now required to go to boot camp 3 times a week and be exercising at least 6 days per week. The team also requires and understanding of how to present yourself to be the best representation of the organization from a physical standpoint, but also in the way you conduct yourself. I feel as if I am learning A LOT. I have also thrown myself into the process. I was scared and nervous, but I had to push that aside and JUST DO IT. 

Even though these two examples are vastly different, there is a common thread. Anything new is going to be scary. Everyone feels that way at some point or another. But letting that govern what opportunities you pursue really limits you and you may be giving up something you’d love because you’re too scared to try because of the possibility of failure. Failure sucks, but the best thing to do is learn from it and move on. The last audition that I was cut from was really difficult for me. I wasn’t sure if I could handle rejection like that again, but had I not tried just one more time, I wouldn’t have ever made my dream a reality. So my challenge to you is to DIVE IN to what you’re doing. Whether it is going to college, trying out for a team, interviewing for a new job, etc; JUST DO IT!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Olympic Looks

I am SO DANG TIRED of reading articles about the Olympic athletes that are based solely on the way they look, wear their hair, dress, apply makeup, etc. Why can’t we focus on what they did while participating in one of the greatest sporting events in the world against the best in the world?! These athletes are most often very young, to the point of being in high school or college (depending on the sport) and I think it is absolutely disrespectful and terrible that people actually write articles about these amazing young individuals that are mostly negative about their looks. 

I’ve been working towards a goal of not standing by and letting people argue out certain issues or do certain things that I think are inherently wrong. Not saying anything is a silent acquiescence to the negative or bad behavior that others are exhibiting and I WILL NOT DO THAT. The first article I came across was mostly about the gymnastics rules that prohibited 17 year old Jordyn Wieber from participating in the individual all-around competition. This article went on to say how Wieber’s makeup was too much, how Gabby Douglas (15) is easily everyone’s favorite because she is so cute and how McKayla Maroney (16) has a (excuse the language) “bitchface.” Seriously? We are going to judge the worth of these women based upon the way they look or how they apply makeup? Maybe we should focus on the fact that this team of YOUNG women got the first team gold for the USA since 1996. How Douglas is the first US woman have both a team and all around gold? How they are positively representing their country? How they made such extraordinary decisions to pursue this at such a young age? Where are all the articles about that?

Following this article, I’ve seen criticism after criticism of MANY female athletes based upon their looks. Many of these articles claim the athletes are overweight, ugly, need to get things fixed etc. REALLY? The other thing that has really stuck out at me is that we do not see ANY articles or blogs about how unattractive all the male athletes are (only articles about how attractive they are). It seems that most articles about male athletes focus on the right things, how well they are doing in London, how great it is that they are representing their country, etc. Which is GREAT!  The question that really bothers me is why on earth do the female athletes have to deal with this media? I have made an active effort since reading the first article to NOT CLICK OR READ these types of things. They want traffic and I won’t give it to them.

 I also have thought about how it is such a struggle as a woman to balance the feeling of wanting to look good with working hard to accomplish something, whether it is pursuing Olympic gold or being successful in a corporate environment. It seems to me, most of the time, when I have a disagreement with someone, they go straight to the argument that I’m ugly. I think many individuals know that many females will have a visceral reaction to this and lose sight of what they are doing. Basically, when someone says these negative things, they are actively trying to handicap you. I’ve gotten to the point of agreeing that I’m one ugly girl and then getting back to the situation at hand. They always look so surprised… As a woman, I would suggest that both women and men do not place their self-worth and self-esteem into the hands of others. I only care about me and my close friend’s opinions of myself. 

The last thing I have to say is that I hope that these articles don’t affect these girls, because I find each one of them to be amazing! Who out there can say they have competed in such an international, high profile competition all before you turn 21? Not me, and I applaud them for being so amazing!

ON A SIDE NOTE: I am doing a research study on Social Media Habits and Personality. It requires you to be at least 18 and have a Twitter Account. I’d need you to fill out a survey and then download an Excel spreadsheet of your tweets (sent to belindaksmith@gmail.com). The link to the survey is here and the link to downloading your tweets is here. I’d appreciate any and all of your participation!!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

5 Ways to Make Your Life Mostly Enjoyable

I feel as if some of my entries are somewhat redundant as I live by a few basic principles to keep my life whole and enjoyable. I wanted to outline them with some analogies or anecdotes so that maybe they can help YOU construct your life in a way that makes it the least miserable it can be (it can’t be all great, we have to work for a living). Plus, I’m in a positive mood today!!

1.       Build and cultivate your relationships.
·         I mean REALLY put in the time to be sure that your family and close friends stay close or rekindling friendships that may have accidentally fallen to the wayside. I did this recently by traveling out of state to visit my great grandmother with my family. I feel a little old for family vacations, but it was definitely needed and much appreciated. I did it for me, but I also did it for my family, as they really do want to spend time and see me. To them, I’m still 12. I also attended a good friend’s wedding that was out of state. (Did I mention the family vacay and this was the same week?!). I knew it was important to her and I had a WONDERFUL time. It wasn’t easy with the travel plans and actual travel, but it was more than worth it! I stand by that you never regret reaching out to someone and making time for them! 

2.       Do what you do and don’t let anyone tell you differently
·         What I mean by this is know what you want to do and do it. This can be in terms of work/career, but it does not have to be. Here is an example: I personally LOVE my job. I don’t necessarily like it every day, but I do like the underlying purpose of it and what impact it has (however small). I also know that my job does not completely define me, my interests and my talents. While I love what I do, I also love other things and MAKE time for them. I also do this even when coworkers, friends or otherwise criticize me for being “childish” for holding onto things that I have liked for my lifetime. If you think that my passion for dance or my sorority makes me an inadequate employee, you have another thing coming! 

3.       Never give up
·         This kind of goes with the last one, but it needs to be delineated separately. It’s no secret that I love to dance. I incorporate it in my job and life as much as I can (thanks again to my People Report Call Me Maybe Flashmobbers). I take adult dance classes and go to Zumba just to be able to do it. I’ve also made a goal to be on a professional dance team. I’ve wanted to do that since I was at least 15 and now that I am done with school for now, I’m doing it. I’ve tried out a total of 3 times for 2 different teams and have been cut the first round of auditions every single time. I’ve been told it’s a waste of time, that I don’t have the right look, I don’t know the right style and have been asked how many times do they have to tell me no before I quit. Guess what? I’m not going to quit. It isn’t easy to be told no and especially to be told no so early in the process. I’m not going to lie; it’s really upsetting and discouraging. But each time, I learn something more and learn something different to help get to where I want to be. I’m still auditioning and still trying and I won’t stop until I physically can’t do it anymore. I actually felt even more strongly about this after watching the Olympics and seeing Jordyn Wieber not make all around finals for women’s gymnastics (even though that rule is stupid and she should be able to compete). She isn’t giving up, and I am not either. 

4.       Know yourself and your value
·         This can be applied to work, but also know your value in general. No one is value-less. Don’t let someone ever tell you that you are stupid or crazy. Don’t let people treat you like you don’t matter and don’t believe them when they say you don’t matter. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encountered this, and I’ve found that the people saying those horrible things are normally more upset with themselves than anyone else. Be positive about yourself and stay that way. 

5.       Surround yourself with awesome people
·         I have a lot of friends that are better than me at something, prettier than me, more successful than me, nicer than me, etc. I WANT to be around people like that. I want to continue growing as a person and being my best self. I’m not trying to change myself, but I want to tap into things that maybe I have overlooked. Being around great people helps to make you a great person. 

So there you have it! Belinda’s 5 Principles to having a mostly enjoyable life!