The other day I was doing research for a client’s website copy around the topic of unconscious bias.
That’s where I learned about the concept of
which is kind of obvious when you think about it, but I’d never seen words put around it.
Part of appearance bias is:
- Beauty Bias
- Weight Bias; and
- Height Bias
What this means is that people perceived as conventionally, attractive and fitting into societal beauty standards are generally perceived as more competent at work – a concept which is known as the Halo Effect or the “what is beautiful is also good” principle. They are more likely to advance in their careers, getting hired/promoted compared to those who are considered more unattractive. Therefore, larger-bodied people, short people, people who don’t conform to today’s beauty standards and, in certain industries, older/aging people may be considered less competent and capable.
Articles I read also mentioned biases based on people being ‘oddly dressed’ or tattooed. Now, that may be more relevant to a corporate environment, but it may still impact the way we show up in our businesses as well, fearing that if we were to be completely ourselves, quirks and unusual fashion choices included, we won’t fit in and won’t succeed.
It’s seriously no wonder we all struggle so much to be our authentic selves in business and in life.
I can’t deny that I see this play out in the online personal branding world. Have you ever noticed majority of female influencers/personal brands being
- Thin; and
It can feel almost IMPOSSIBLE to put yourself out there in the same way, if you don’t look the same.
I know many of my clients over the years have expressed concerns about getting their photo taken in particular, which tends to be one of the key areas women start to be ‘visible’ in their businesses. I’ve had clients delay shoots until they’ve lost weight, I’ve had clients make me edit their chin, I’ve had clients receive lovely photos back from their photographers which they then airbrush to make everything look soft and glowy.
I see how insecure we all are. I’m right there with you all, especially after having kids and going through the world most days with unwashed hair and activewear with avocado smeared on it from my kids’ grubby hands grabbing me. When the gap between how you look in your photos on your website and the reality of daily life feels so big it might swallow you up it can send you down a spiral of self-doubt and ‘who am I’s.
I think it’s especially hard in the personal branding world because so many businesses are set up to be aspirational.
They are selling us the dream. The lifestyle. The transformational before and after “hero story” – I did this and so can you.
They are showing us this life that we so desperately want for ourselves, whether it is about losing weight and finally feeling amazing, being able to work from Bali 4 hours a week and making 7 figures as a coach, having the most beautiful home and picture-perfect family and managing to juggle it all and so on.
So what happens if you don’t have a fancy lifestyle to sell? If you don’t have a fancy house that’s totally on-brand to take social media photos in? If you don’t consider yourself particularly stylish or fashionable? If you know you can help people with your expertise, but you don’t have all the flash and sparkle that other personal brands have?
And what if maybe this whole aspirational selling is a bit of BS anyway? Does any part of that feel a bit inauthentic or sleasy in some way, with some individuals? Like they’re selling something people can’t really realise for themselves, perhaps?
I want you to know that you are not alone. I see you. I understand you. I feel this all so deeply too.
There may be unconscious bias and the pull to conform, but that’s all the more reason why the world so desperately needs people like YOU who can carve the way forward for the rest of us. Whatever way you may feel like an outsider, the world needs that representation. The world needs to see a person like you in a leadership role. And if you are running a business you are a leader.
If you are plus-sized/fuller figured – the world needs you.
If you are creating your empire later in life and aren’t like the cool, hip influencers of today – the world needs you.
If you are a person of colour or from an underrepresented culture – the world needs you.
If you like to wear quirky “oddly dressed” clothes – the world needs you.
If you are a LGBTQIA+ leader – the world needs you
If you have tattoos all over your face and body – the world needs you.
If you are a woman in a male-dominated industry – the world needs you.
If you are anything at all different from the norm – we need you.
I watched the most amazing show recently on Prime called Lizzo’s Watch Out For the Big Grrrls. It’s a reality tv show where music icon Lizzo searches for plus sized women of colour to become her backup dancers for her upcoming tour. This show is seriously revolutionary in that we as a society expect dancers to be of a certain size and look and this show completely challenged that. Similar to how Lizzo herself has been challenging the music industry, being completely herself in the process. She had two awards for each episode the best dancer got the ‘100% that bitch’ award and the most improved got the ‘Juice’ award, which tie into some of her songs. Every part of it felt totally on-brand for her and so much fun. It had me rooting for every single girl and not wanting anyone to leave because you could see how much this opportunity meant to each and every one of them. The cool thing about Lizzo and all the dancers is that they don’t hide how they look. They fully embrace every inch of themselves and don’t hold back with their wardrobe. It made me breathe such a sigh of relief and also start to question why seeing this kind of representation is the exception NOT the norm. It reminded me once again, how beauty and confidence is just a state of mind. No one gets to tell us what it looks like. If you haven’t checked out the show, please do!!
With all that in mind, showing up in your photos without needing to airbrush within an inch of their life or being on video/live, speaking on stage or sharing your voice and truth is an act of rebellion, revolution and radical self-love.
Putting yourself out there despite not being size 6 or a wrinkle-free 25-year-old or from an underrepresented group, you’re giving others a massive sigh of relief when they realise they have permission to do the same. Yes, we want to put the best version of ourselves forward, but only in a way that feels natural and aligned to who you are. I’m all for getting hair and make-up done for photos (if it still feels natural and like you).
People need to see you to know you, like you, understand you and trust you. You have the opportunity to show up and believe you are worthy. When you’re stuck worrying what everyone will think or that you’re not enough, remember this is so much bigger than just you. The simple act of putting yourself out there consistently might change the way another woman sees herself. It might even change the world!
My vision for Soul Stirring Branding and the work that I do is for women to claim every inch of their authentic selves and feel confident and safe to be visible and share their light with the world, no matter who they are or what they look like. We do this by stopping making decisions purely from a HEAD space where all our doubts, insecurities, comparison and perfectionism lies. Instead, we connect to our bodies and our heart space so that we can intuitively draw out and unearth what has been there all along. The soul of our brands. The one where you have a deep knowing that it is true to you. The one where we stop questioning and comparing and judging. Then you call in the people who will resonate with your unique frequency and feel like they have come home in your brand. If you want to learn more, I will be launching Align & Embody, my 12-week online course to guide an amazing group of people through this process later in the year.