Sunday, January 27, 2013

Learning about self-esteem

As part of my "Be Strong" project, I’ve challenged myself to read at least one book each month that deals with an aspect of inner strength such as confidence, communication skills, dealing with difficult people or circumstances, self-knowledge, willpower, etc. My January read was Gloria Steinem’s book Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem.

Motivation for reading:
According to the book's jacket Gloria Steinem wrote Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem after searching for books about self-esteem, but found none that welcomed both women and men or included both the personal and political contexts that can foster or crush self-esteem. After beginning her own book, she gradually realized that “we teach what we need to learn and write what we need to know.”

Interesting, since that is exactly what I've been doing here on this blog - teaching what I need to learn and writing about what I need to know. I was intrigued and eager to learn more about attaining self-esteem and to hear what Steinem had to say about strength.

What I learned from Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem:
Steinem begins her self-esteem journey around the age of 40 when she finally connects her current low self-esteem to her past. She makes this connection while researching the life of Marilyn Monroe for a series of essays she was writing on Marilyn's life.

In Hugh Missildine’s book Your Inner Child of the Past Steinem reads:

The most common sins and excesses of child rearing - overindulgence, neglect, perfectionism, sexual abuse and so on manifests itself later in life. Steinem was particularly interested in the aspect of neglect. Marilyn Monroe had been so neglected that as a little girl she believed she was invisible. Only the early maturing of her body and the attention it attracted made her feel “visible” and convinced her that she did indeed exist.  It was this division between an internal, worthless self and an external, sexually valuable self that would haunt her for the rest of her short life. Missildine’s text described some of the typical results of the kind of neglect Marilyn had experienced: a lifelong search for nurturing, wanting to belong yet feeling a perpetual outsider, trying to make fathers out of husbands and lovers, using sex to get childlike warmth and approval, and neglecting one’s own welfare because neglect feels familiar, like home. (PG. 35 and 36)
Steinem explores her own childhood realizing she was repeating the painful, familiar patterns of home in her own life:

Each of us has an inner child of the past living within us.  Those who needed to build no walls have access to that child’s creativity and spontaneity.  Those who had to leave this crucial core behind can tear down the walls, see what the child needed but didn’t have, and begin to provide it now.  The more we do this the more we know that we are worth it. 
And that we always were. (PG. 39)

Steinem provides a guide to discovering our true selves:  
No matter who we are, the journey toward recovering the self-esteem that should have been our birthright follows similar steps:

1.    A first experience of seeing through our eyes instead of through the eyes of others.  (For instance, the moment when a woman stops being defined by the male gaze.)

2.    Telling what seemed to be shameful secrets, and discovering they are neither shameful nor secret.

3.    Giving names to problems that have been treated as normal and have no names (think of new terms like homophobia, battered women or Euro centrism).

4.    Bonding with others who share similar experiences.

5.    Achieving empowerment and self-government.

6.    Bonding with others of shared powers.

7.    Achieving a balance of independence and self-government.

8.    Taking one’s place in a circle of true selves.

Steinem shares the biography of Mohandas K. Gandhi who was born into a caste of grocers in India, had little self-esteem for most of his early life yet manages to go on to find true strength.  He spent half his life trying to live as a false self, found his strength only when he followed an inner voice, he then taught by example and worked to unite people across boundaries.

Bottom line:
This book does not read like your typical self-help book, but it does include so much information I had difficulty processing all of it in one reading.  Perhaps this is a book I will need to re-read in a year or two. I enjoyed the references and analysis made to characters from books Steinem has read including Celie from Alice Walker’s The Color Purple and the strength comparison she made between Emily Bronte’s Catherine and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Her meditation guide is a helpful resource and the section describing how meditation can help reshape our past was enlightening.  I also came up with my word for 2013 – wholeness:
Steinem includes a list she received from Donna Jensen, her friend and expert on how we relate to one another – in couples, families, and organizations - listing “masculine” extreme personality traits, wholeness traits and “feminine” extreme traits.  Steinem writes:
When the choice is so clear, who wouldn’t say yes to a whole self in the center? (Pg. 268)
I revisit this list as I feel my thoughts and actions veering too far towards either the masculine or feminine extreme.  Focusing on "wholeness" does help me stay centered.

Overall I felt the book was an excellent choice for the first read of my "BE Strong" reading challenge. The Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mohandas K. Gandhi and Hugh Missildine’s book Your Inner Child of the Past would make excellent companion reads along with a Marilyn Monroe biography as a contrast read. 

Do you have any future books or topics suggestions for my Be Strong Reading Challenge?   Have you read a book on self-esteem you would like to recommend?

If you enjoyed this post you may also like:
How to be more confident at work

Interview with Gloria Steinem

A perfect book for women's history month

Monday, January 21, 2013

How to become more courageous?

Last year I joined Classy Career Girl's Networking Challenge. To be honest I didn’t stick with the challenge for very long. My goal was to contact other bloggers and interview them about their careers for this blog. A couple of bloggers agreed to be interviewed then never responded to my questionnaire. After I was stood-up for a phone interview, I lost interest in the project altogether.

For my 2013 "Be Strong" project I would like to include a networking challenge, but if it is to be successful I have to figure out how to deal with rejection.
In Penelope Trunk's audio interview with the yoga teacher, Penelope tells her she acted courageously when she called Penelope. All of the things she does in yoga gives her the ability to deal with the feelings of hurt and crushed ego she may experience when calling someone who was known to rip off the heads of her interviewers. See my post Penelope Trunk gives wake-up call.
Penelope recommends everyone send an email every day to someone they think may not respond for an entire year. At the end of 365 days if you have two responses from two amazing people you will then have something to feel amazing about.  
After the audio interview Bettina (the yoga teacher) came up with the following courage challenge:
  • Do yoga to feel strong inside.
  • Take a risk like sending an email to someone you admire.
  • Forget about that email.
  • Repeat every day for an entire year.
  • Let me know what happens as a result.

  • I’ve already begun this challenge and have had some success. Not dwelling on whether the recipient will respond to my email has helped immensely. Please see my posts Three amazing books I read in 2012 along with Lisa Bloom's favorites and How to dress "strong" at work.

    Also hearing how helpful yoga is in attaining courage I think 2013 will be the year I start practicing yoga.

    In Anna Runyan’s post The Top 10 Networking Questions at I gained insight into why I did not receive a response to my interview emails. Anna writes:
    The other thing you might want to do is go back to the informational request email and examine if there might be something turning these people off. Is it too long? Does it say you only want 15 minutes of their time? Is the email specifically directed to them or their company and did you include some type of compliment or statement so they know it isn’t just a generic email you send to everyone?
    Will you join me in Bettina's courage challenge?  What has helped you become more courageous?

    Sunday, January 13, 2013

    How to dress "strong" at work?

    When I began my career in the late 80’s it was easy to dress “strong” at work. I would wear an expensive freshly dry-cleaned power suit, a pair of tan colored nylons, along with matching pumps and I was out the door. Whether I was at work, lunching with my co-workers or running errands after work I always felt strong in this outfit. Then along came the 90’s when many companies adopted relaxed workplace dress-codes. Currently, it is not unusual to see jeans, capris or even flip flops at the office. The problem with this relaxed-style is I no longer feel “strong” as I walk into meetings wearing a polo shirt, khakis and flats.

    For suggestions on power dressing in a business casual environment, I turned to executive styling consultant expert Catherine Storing who agreed to be interviewed on this topic. Catherine Storing can be found at

    Several years ago, I attended a two-week workshop covering communication skills for women. The first week I wore a purple suit, the second a pink one. After the last session, the instructor pulled me aside and told me I dressed too pretty. She recommended I wear grey or black if I wanted to be taken seriously in the workplace. Ironically, just prior to my interview with Catherine I came across a photo of myself wearing a lavender jacket and tan slacks at a work function. I sent the photo to Catherine asking her to critique my outfit:

     Catherine was much kinder than my former instructor instead of blurting out my outfit was all wrong she complimented my smile and offered the following suggestions:

    You want to stand out.

    You want to be the first thing people see when they walk into the room.

    Don’t be afraid to wear color.  The lavender jacket I was wearing in the photo muted my appearance. She recommended I not wear pastels unless I contrasted them with color.

    Here is more of my interview with Catherine Storing:

    Do you have any recommendations for dressing casual at the office?
    Business casual was meant to relax corporate dressing and give employees a little more freedom to express themselves through their clothing.  Business casual should be professional only a little more relaxed. My motto is comfortable = confident. Clothes should be loose and comfortable; they should fit well and be designed for your body type. If an article of clothing bothers you when you put it on, take it off.  It will bother you all day.

    Here is an example of appropriate business casual attire:

    Just because your office has a business casual dress code, it doesn’t mean you have to adhere to it, at least not completely. If you’re looking to get promoted, you need to dress seriously. And you have to dress the part-as if you already have the part you want and have earned.

    Suits are very important. If you own two suits including a jacket, skirt and pants you should be able to create ten different outfits. Wear them with a colorful funky blouse that is form fitting. The jacket should hit right below your waist and shouldn't cover your butt completely.

    Purchase one or two charcoal separates because they are so easy to pair with something else.

    Dresses are also a good choice because they eliminate the need to find a matching blouse to wear with them as you would with a skirt or pants.  They can also be dressed up or down.

    What about accessories?
    When done right accessories compliment and elevate corporate attire. Just remember you are going to work and not to a party.

    Earrings are a good choice because they frame the face. Wear small hoops.  Over-sized hoops do not belong in the office.

    Necklaces – layer medium size bangles of like colors and textures.

    Watch – every career woman needs a good timepiece.  No girlie watches and never one with rhinestones. She recommends Michael Kors for affordable style.

    Rings – wear one or two that compliment your outfit.

    Here is a photo of Catherine having fun with accessories.  Also, I love her shoes:

    Speaking of shoes, can I wear high heels to the office?
    It is fine to wear 3-1/2 inch heels, but don't wear black and never skinny. Wedges are easier on your feet, as are platform boots. I recommend wearing heels because you want to be at eye level to be seen and heard. For comfort I like Naturalizer and Rockport.

    What current trends do you recommend?
    Color - I prefer solids. If you want to wear a pattern make sure the pattern is small.


    Awesome wrap around sweaters

    Jeans - trousers are amazing. Wear them with a little top for a polished look.

    Capris are fine as long as they are form-fitting. They shouldn’t be short.

    Tights off black or black are great for winter.

    What stores do you recommend?
    Talbots – for dresses.

    Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft – for your power suit.  Watch for sales.

    Banana Republic – for pants. They also have a great selection for petites.

    TJ Maxx – for accessories especially watches. Also, good for undergarments, tights and socks.

    Make sure your style is age-appropriate:
    For the 30 – 50+ crowd you should not wear low riser jeans. Do not show your stomach or wear really tight clothes.  When I talk about form-fitting clothes I mean tailored to you, not tight.  Forever 21 is a store for teen girls, not for adult women.
    What are some of your business casual don’ts?
    No flip flops ever.

    No sweats.

    Never go sleeveless.

    No cleavage. You want people to notice the color the color of your eyes.

    No miniskirts. Your skirt should fall either right below or above the knee.

    Never wear nude nylons. Unless nylons are the right color they don't look natural. Instead she recommends shaving and not showing too much skin.

    For more tips on dressing appropriately for work please see Business Casual Dress Code Done Right.
    What should a woman wear to a meeting where she is the only woman in attendance?
    She should wear her favorite outfit or power suit, the one that fits her well and is comfortable.  This is not the time to go out and buy something new.

     What should a woman wear to a conference attended almost entirely by men (all wearing blue oxford shirts and khakis)?
    A dress and don’t be afraid to wear red.  She should also wear make-up.


    What should I wear when I need to make a quick run to the store? More than once, I’ve run into a colleague wearing sweats and no makeup.
    Wear a trench coat. Close it and it automatically dresses up whatever you are wearing. Also be sure to wear a bra.


    How should I dress for my body type which is athletic?

    By athletic do you mean flat chested?

    Yes, that is what I mean?

    For the athletic body type:
    Your look should be feminine. You should wear dresses and skirts. Wear necklaces and scarves to draw attention away from a smaller bust.  Opt for fitted clothing over clothes that are loose.  Make sure your bra maximizes whatever there is. You do not want your bra to separate, but to lift.

    Are there any books that have influenced you or that you recommend to others?
    The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin. Gretchen is a mom and business owner who promotes balance and forgiving yourself for not getting it right.

    Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life's Work
    by Steve Pressfield

    What do you know now that you wish you’d have known when you were 18?
    What I wanted at 18 will change over time and that is okay. Study what you want in college don't care what your major is. Go for what you love.

    What is the most important advice you give to clients?
    I believe I am an amazing person and everyone else is too. Everyone is so judgmental about what they look like and can't take a compliment. Just say thank you.
    Is there anything else we should know about you?
    We are a work in progress.  and  Where we are is where we need to be.

    Thank you, Catherine Storing for an enjoyable and informative interview. In addition to Catherine Storing's website, She can be found on twitter and pinterest.  To learn more about Catherine's services, please visit:

    Sunday, January 06, 2013

    Take Hostile Breakup Threats Seriously

    I received the following comment on my post Is working for your boyfriend a good idea?
    My daughter is now involved in a very hostile breakup with her long time fiancé (7 years) whom she worked for. He is denying her right to claim unemployment benefits and things have become threatening (I am going to ruin your life) going to the length of saying she used company points to fly off to see other people. When actually all was agreed that instead of using cash she could use points etc...Really a very terrible and scary situation as he is extremely hurt and revengeful. So no do not ever work with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Starting a business together once married is way different. Hard to know what to do because he is powerful and has money.
    Your daughter’s story is an excellent cautionary tale of why someone shouldn’t work for their boyfriend, but her situation has turned serious and needs to be treated as such.  Has your daughter’s ex-boyfriend threatened to harm her? If he has she needs to alert legal authorities immediately. Also, I suggest she contact the domestic violence shelter in her area. To find the nearest shelter please see:

    According to the WomensLaw.Org website, shelters provide many services other than shelter. Most have support groups, crisis counseling, and safety planning assistance. Many also provide legal support (and sometimes representation), help getting back on your feet with government benefits like food stamps and housing, job training referrals, child care, and more.

    Your daughter should ask for assistance in working through her denied unemployment compensation claim and for help getting reestablished in the job market.

    If the organization nearest you isn't helpful, try calling another one. If you do not find what you need in your community, you may also call these national organizations:

    - National Domestic Violence Hotline -- 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224

    - National Sexual Assault Hotline -- (800) 656-HOPE

    - Stalking Resource Center -- 1-800-FYI-CALL, M-F 8:30 AM - 8:30 PM EST, or email

    There have been far too many stories in the news lately of women being harmed by an angry ex. In this case, your daughter’s boyfriend no longer has control and power over her and is fighting to keep it. She needs to seek assistance from others in her community to help keep her safe and strong as she recaptures control over her life.

    Do any of you know of additional resources or have advice to help this woman?

    Tuesday, January 01, 2013

    Life is not about perfection

    A few years ago, I had the pleasure of attending a presentation given by Eliz Greene of Embrace Your Heart. She shared her miraculous story with us:
    Eliz Greene was seven-months pregnant with twins when she suffered a massive heart attack. Her life changed — not only did she survive a ten-minute cardiac arrest, the cesarean delivery of her daughters and open-heart surgery, all on the same day — she gained new perspective and passion for life.
    Eliz is this teeny tiny woman who shook her booty across the stage as she persuaded her audience to exercise in ten minute increments when we were unable to fit a 30 minute workout into our schedule. She also told us how she had lost 80 pounds after the birth of her daughters and is now motivated to live a healthy lifestyle.   She wants to be here to watch them grow up. 

    I was so impressed with her presentation I went home and signed up for her newsletter. Yesterday the following appeared in my in-box:  

    This year make a small, simple daily goal instead of a resolution!
    Life is not about perfection.
    It's about moving in the right direction!

    This was just what I needed on the last day of 2012.  After reading your comments on my post Continuing to Struggle with Work-Life Balance in 2012, I’ve been thinking perhaps I am too hard on myself.  Instead of focusing on my failed 2012 challenges, in 2013 I am going to concentrate on accomplishing one small task each day. My ultimate goal is to eventually become a stronger person, but I realize with all the hassles of daily life this is not going to happen overnight. As Eliz writes:   

    -  Don't beat yourself up. The beauty of a daily goal is it resets every day. If you missed today, start again tomorrow.

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