Editor’s note: Triangle entrepreneur and thought leader Jes Averhart, CEO of Jes & Co and host of the “Reinvention Road Trip,” is a regular WRAL TechWire contributor who explores topics pertaining to reinvention, especially prompted by the onset of the global pandemic. Her columns appear weekly.
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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – It’s Women’s History Month; so you know I’m floating on a cloud! And while we all know that women have been Trailblazers and History-makers for centuries…I’ll gladly take a month dedicated to celebrating those wins, both seen and unseen.
That said, I’m handing over this week’s column to a woman I deeply respect because she lives her life out loud. Enjoy these thoughts about “Showing Up as a Soft Person in a Hard World” by Sarah Chick, Senior Manager of Strategic Engagement, Research Triangle Foundation. And may we all encourage the women that inspire us this month!
Showing Up as a Soft Person in a Hard World
After 6+ years of school and a decade working as a counselor, I suddenly found myself hungry for more. More what? I’m not even certain I knew; it seemed ubiquitous. But I do know I wanted more of all the things I didn’t have—more balance, peace, purpose—you name it, I wanted it. And wanting more meant I had to make changes. It was time to reinvent myself.
You see, trying to be like everyone else, trying to show up as who I thought I should be to fit into a corporate world wasn’t working for me, and this is why. I had thought it would be enough to present as tough, bossy, dominant… all the stereotypically “strong women” things. But I realized if I really wanted to be a “badass” as a woman in the workplace, all I actually needed to do was be myself, to embrace my own softness, kindness, and authenticity and show up just as I was.
And so I started doing just that. I stopped trying to be the “boss babe” (or insert any trending slogan here) and started leading from the heart. It was then that I was met with opportunities and connections I had never anticipated.
I was scared to be myself because of a limiting belief that I now realize is untrue: the belief that a soft, tender-hearted person like myself could not be successful doing business among men, among competitive women, and in an often cold world, in an external facing role. It felt like this new world was likely not as tender as the prior industry I had launched from.
Several things helped me move forward, one of which was 28 Days of Reinvention by Reinvention Road Trip®. I met Jes through a unique avenue in my new role as Senior Manager of Strategic Engagement at RTF, and to my surprise I found myself in an intimate, sacred space with like-minded women, a space where vulnerability was welcomed and sisterhood truly laid roots. “new Sarah,” but also to assert myself in the professional world as this person. What that looked like for me was a long overdue embrace: of my authenticity, my ability to empathize, the warmth and care I brought, and in turn, being validated for being that person. I wasn’t showing up to “man-up,” to “be one of the guys,” be hard, or whatever else women are told they have to do to thrive. I started showing up exactly as I am, and knowing that I could still be a “get sh*t done” person while still being true to who I was. It turns out these two things are not mutually exclusive.
Even as I’m writing this, I’m smiling at a collage of sticky notes I collected that document some of things I learned through this journey. One in particular says, “This is uncomfortable, but it is not impossible.” When I really dug into the core of the things that defined me—the stories of resiliency, survival, of being a softer human than most—I started realizing my differentiating factors, and that maybe what I once had considered weaknesses were actually some of my most valuable attributes for this hardened, struggling world.
I chose to embrace myself more—as I am, gentle and tender. It was uncomfortable but I assure you, it was not impossible. There were skills to be learned in this new world, but what I was bringing to the table was not in need of alterations. Suddenly, being who I innately was became a non-negotiable, and that was a reinvention all by itself.
For years, I wondered, “How am I going to transition from this empathetic, intuitive, and compassionate therapist to this new world?” But it turned out, there wasn’t so much I needed to change about myself; there were only skills that needed to be polished, perfected, and put to work. So now, I do just that: I show up soft but strong, and I do it with confidence and with ease, regardless of what a room reveals around me.
“Some people try to turn back their odometers, but not me. I want people to know why I look this way. I’ve traveled a long way, and some of the roads weren’t paved.” – Anonymous