My boss said it.
To my face, not about me. He was doing an impersonation of another “fat girl” who was in the same role as me, at another school. He was imitating her eating Tic Tacs.
Because “fat girls” eating. Gross.
He let loose this little pearler while sitting in my office, casually and suddenly discussing my role within the organisation – a place I’d worked my (fat) patootie off at; years and years of underpaid or pro bono work because I believed in it.
He told me “fat girls shouldn’t be front of house” because he believed the first face a parent met should be marketable. They should embody the brand. And they should be slim. He used the word “disgusting” to describe the other woman.
I’ve never met her, but I assume she did the same kind of work as me because she too believed in the pedagogy.
The following week I was called into his office to let me know he’d be replacing me as the front-facing representative of the business. Officially, I’d still have a job, “filing, enrolments, admin, all behind the scenes” but he’d be replacing me with a more suitable prospect and my hours would, naturally, need to be reduced to pay for the new front of house employee. I asked if there was anything in my dedication to my role or my deliverables which made him think I wasn’t up for the current job. No, but he also knew that as a “single mother with a chronic illness” I wouldn’t be able to afford to keep my family on the reduced hours and would, therefore, be needing to find another job. I was months away from long service leave.
The rest of that story is long and boring (besides word travelling fast in the industry, and within a week I’d been headhunted by another school). Not so dramatic, then. World didn’t end. Fat girl found another front-facing job and flipping nailed it. You get the rest.
I didn’t do anything about the non-dismissal-for-fat-girl-
carry those words around with me for the next 8 years.
Today’s the day I’m letting them out.
But first, I’m showing you how I used them as a tool to step away from the stories in my own head and make my brand so quintessentially Jay, it’s practically uncopy-able.
(Though a few have tried.)
Because, you’ll have experienced this too; 1001 people can tell us we’re incredible and working with us has changed their lives, but it’s the one message we receive that is hateful we’ll hold onto. That nasty FB message when we’ve touched a nerve. That competitor slagging us off in our industry because we’ve come to close to their territory. That fake Google review from someone we have never worked with.
It doesn’t matter if you know it isn’t true. It stings. Like Tic Tac juice in an eyeball.
And those stories, we will turn them into reasons. No, excuses.
✖️ Reasons we shouldn’t accept a nomination for a business award (that was me, for 3 years, because what if I won and had to go on stage being the “fat girl”?)
✖️ Reasons we shouldn’t put our face on our About page because we’re worried we don’t look like what we think a copywriter/business strategist/fitness instructor should look like
✖️ Reasons we don’t write what we mean because what if someone decides they simply. don’t. like. us?
I’m not a psychologist, I can’t tell you how to move past it. Maybe we never do. But, I can tell you how I used that injustice-induced rage and grief and turned that muck into the first step of a ladder on which I built the success of my business.
I built the first rung in the ladder of a brand.
Because when I was wobbly about my face, my weight, my accent, my late entrance to the online consultant game, the chip in my front tooth, my lack of a degree in Advertising, or even just my inability to spell ‘disappointed’ correctly without spellcheck,
I turned the spotlight away from my own head-stories and I shone a light on my brand.
- My brand that I 120% believed in.
- The brand I knew could catapult me into a life my children and I deserved.
- The brand I knew if I infused with utter Jay from The Legendary House of Too Muchness, I could stand behind fully.
Most importantly, the brand I knew could help other women find the words stuck somewhere between their hearts and fingertips so they could find their own voices and quit being an echo of someone else’s.
Stop being “meh”. Start being heard.
And I teach this again and again. To 1:1 clients, in my copywriting courses, in the comments in the margin for my done-for-you clients.
That while your brand has to be based on a thousand percent ‘you’, it’s OK to sometimes rely on it as if it’s a separate entity. You’re in its DNA, but it’s bigger than you – bolder, more sturdy on your wonky days, and so, utterly worth it.
Because you know what you sell or what you teach or what you guide people towards – that’s valuable stuff. You don’t have to feel completely valued 24 hours of the day to KNOW whatever you’re offering is worth it.
I guess what I’m saying is, it’s sometimes OK to believe more in your brand than you do in yourself.
And if you’re feeling that way, lean on your brand rather than berating yourself for having a shoddy mindset. There’s no ‘right’ way to build your brand, regardless of what the experts say.
(Ohhhh, mama, don’t worry! Mindset work will happen. It has to. You’re in business for yourself – personal growth is a’comin’ whether you like it or not.)
In my Biography, I mention that some days I stay in business simply as a middle finger to those who said I couldn’t do it. Business is brilliant, and also tough, and also more than we ever thought it could be, while being harder than anything else we’ve ever done. And sometimes all of that – on the same day.
My “fat girl” story is just one element that makes that middle finger oh, so glorious to pull.
And no matter if you believe everything I’ve written today or it just sits with you for a less wonky moment, know this:
✔️ We have a right to take up space.
✔️ We have a right to be the face of our brand.
✔️ We have a right to eat Tic Tacs.
✔️ We have a right to take our wounds and turn them into A-class motivators.
✔️ We have a right to feel not 100% confident every single moment of the day and still do incredible work.
✔️ We have a right to build a brand so flipping sturdy, even the worst stories we carry around with us can’t touch it.
So? Go. Do that.
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