Note: Kayla Dugger has hosted business therapy sessions for Charlotte-based companies and cofounded Hygge Coworking. Want to participate? Send your career situation to firstname.lastname@example.org or just write a completely anonymous note in our feedback form. Either way, you’ll remain anonymous.
Dear Career Coach,
I think my biggest workplace anxiety is visibility.
It’s a part of the job yet it feels like bullshit. It’s not perfectly fair, and I wouldn’t expect it to be, it’s not even that hard to be “visible” yet you just kinda feel like poop about it.
Also happy hour. Always feels like an obligation, and I’m not sure if it’s my problem or just the wrong culture.
I paid to have my face photoshopped onto Cameron Diaz’s body when I was 11 years old. I was on vacation in Gatlinburg, Tennessee — the Myrtle Beach of the mountains. In the downtown area, there used to be an entire shop dedicated to just photoshopping customers into famous pictures. You could pay to have your face on anyone, like a superhero’s body or have them make it look like you were best friends with Christina Aguilera. It was located in between a place where you could get an airbrushed trucker hat and another place selling shot glasses that said, “one tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.”
The picture I chose was from a “Charlie’s Angels” movie poster. When the guy was done I remember being a little embarrassed, because it was the first time I had seen myself with boobs, but I was also equally obsessed with how sexy I thought I looked (side note: there is nothing sexy about my 11-year-old face on Cameron Diaz’s body. Trust.) I became totally preoccupied with what it would be like to be her. I would stare at that photo constantly.
When we got back home to Maryland, I bought a magazine that had an interview with her. I remember reading that Diaz was discovered. Someone literally came up to her and said, “You’re gorgeous. Do you want to be a model?”
After that, that’s how I thought it worked — how you became known for something. For years, I would go to places and think, “this will probably be the day I get discovered.” I was always side-eyeing people and waiting for someone to come up to me at the foodcourt in the mall and say, “You’re gorgeous. Do you want to be a model?”
It was a great way to get kidnapped.
I believed in this for longer than I really care to admit.
As I got older my getting discovered fantasies were less about modeling and more about my actual career stuff. I used to think that if I self-published enough someone from The New York Times would eventually ask me to write for them. Or, if I worked hard enough people would ask me to be CEO.
Turns out, I’m not Cameron Diaz. I’ve tried. Neither are you. No one is coming. No one is going to discover you. So, we have to learn how to speak up for ourselves.
I understand why this feels like bullsh*t. Every time I write this column I dread sharing it on my social media. I tell myself this story, that it sounds braggy and that people will most definitely roll their eyes at me.
And, maybe that’s true. In order to get over myself, I had to reframe this narrative. I had to remind myself that the only way people will participate and read is if I ask — if I share.
You need to tell yourself a different story about your ambition.
Sometimes we picture ambition as cut throat or self-serving. It can make us feel inauthentic and arrogant. Remind yourself that ambition is a good thing. It moves us forward. Anyone you’ve ever aspired to be did not wait to be called on. If you can’t promote yourself, why would you expect anyone else to?
You also don’t have to go to happy hour. That’s another story you tell yourself.
Create conditions that feel more natural to you and can help you have more genuine interactions.
Perhaps, this is the wrong culture for you but often times the grass is not greener at another company — it’s just different grass.
Don’t wait for food court creeps to discover you. You’re worth being seen. Tell yourself that.
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