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Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran Wants You To Embrace What Makes You Unique

Self

When you spend a good portion of your life trying to fit in, as I'm sure most of us probably have, it can be liberating to embrace who you are as an individual and to be comfortable in your own skin.


Embracing what makes you, you are at the heart of the Maxx You Project, which was created with the goal of helping women to embrace what makes them unique. The project includes a series of interactive activities that are appearing at various pop-up locations around the US, a qualitative research study to identify the barriers and levers that stand between women embracing what makes them stand out, and an advisory panel with female powerhouses Laila Ali and Barbara Corcoran, as well as Professor of Psychology at UC Berkley Dr. Serena Chen, who will guide the initiative every step of the way.

“The Maxx You Project is about helping people to find their inner light, helping women find what is particularly strong in them, and also inspiring women to be better than they are right now," says Corcoran.

Corcoran told SWAAY about the mission of the project. Her involvement started when she led a workshop of 80 women on self-esteem, confidence, and embracing your individuality, where she felt that both she and T.J.Maxx were “able to make a difference in their lives." This led to the second stage of the Maxx You Project, which entails a national research expedition that will study the principles of individuality, specifically focusing on the barriers to access that many women face in expressing their unique selves. “To help women let their individuality shine, we want to bring them in to co-create the future of the Maxx You Project. So we're talking to women of all ages, across the country to investigate this complex topic," Jillian Rugani, Manager of Marketing at T.J.Maxx, said in a press release about the project.

In a world filled with trends and obsessed with fitting in, it might seem impossible to confidently embrace who you are as an individual- especially as women. Corcoran agreed that many young women experience external pressure to accept norms and quiet their individual voices, but realized at a young age that the price for playing the game was too big to pay. “I realized fitting in was too costly...the minute I let that peer pressure and the sizing up pressure go, I felt like I got twice as strong," she told me.

If you know anything about Barbara Corcoran, you know that many would call her a fierce, unapologetic, real-estate powerhouse, as she built a billion-dollar business with a $1000 loan. You probably know her best from the no-nonsense, yet caring, approach she takes with entrepreneurs on Shark Tank, a persona that she has never shied away from. With that, comes a sense of authenticity that Corcoran conveys not only on the TV screen but also when speaking to her, one on one.

Photo Courtesy of Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

When I was selling real estate, really the only real estate I could sell was something I really believed in, which made me lose a lot of sales," she says. “But, as a result of that, I built a long stream of people who trusted me." I could feel her strong sense of authenticity when it came to her involvement with this project, which she explained was derived from her ability to inspire young women. “With the Maxx You Project, when I heard exactly what it was about and who it's target audience was - to help young women find out more about who they are - I felt like that's exactly what I do all the time- that's not a stretch!"

Certainly not, as she has made it a point throughout her career to speak to and inspire fellow women who want to make a name for themselves as entrepreneurs.

Corcoran reflected on what makes her an individual and how she's found that the more she's embraced what makes her, her, the more she's been embraced by others. For her, this is her sense of directness, her no-nonsense attitude, that makes her stand out.

The pillar principle of the Maxx You Project is letting women embrace who they are and what makes them unique. Since the goal is to inspire women to embrace the infinite possibilities of who and what they can be, I wondered how Corcoran saw this mission as relating to women in the workplace, specifically female entrepreneurs. She emphasized that individuality is important to succeeding in any career - especially when you're working to guide a team into your vision as a business owner. “Embracing your individuality will make you pick out the right people to surround yourself with, since they have to match that and be complementary in some way," she advises. “If you embrace your individuality in the workplace, people know who you are and you build teams around you without even trying."

“The more direct I am and the more that I am genuinely myself, the better people respond to me, I have found. If I just cut to the chase, people accept it and they're willing to play with me," she reflects on her experience. As far as embracing your individuality goes, she says that being yourself leads to others trusting you (given they can smell BS a mile away).

“I think all of us are smarter than we think, you can sense when someone's ingenious, you can sense when someone has a hidden agenda, you can feel a politician a mile away and all of those buttons go off in your head. I think if you're truly okay with who you are, good and bad and let it shine...I generally find that people come from the party," Corcoran says.

With that, she is frustrated by the trend she sees of women feeling that they have to earn the ability to be themselves, conforming at all cost until they reach a certain level where individuality somehow becomes acceptable.

"I don't get it, because all of the people who succeeded in my business that were promoted were strong individuals who knew who they were and attracted other people because of it. So, I don't see any upside at all to not embracing your individuality as early as you can," says Corcoran. She brings this point back to why she's so passionate about being involved in the Maxx You Project, since women are being given such a large and inclusive platform to embrace who they are. "That's why this project is important because it gets that messaging out," she says thoughtfully.

Photo Courtesy of Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

Staying true to yourself both as a woman and an individual will allow you to reach your fullest potential and live your life the most authentically possible, which the Maxx You Project is out to prove. Stay tuned for the culmination of their national quantitative study, which Dr. Chen told me is expected to be completed by the end of November, which will give us access to even more insight about how we can empower ourselves, and women everywhere, to embrace who they are as individuals.

The next time you're afraid of being different, sticking out, or thinking too outside-the-box, ask yourself WWBD (What Would Barbara Do?) and let your individuality shine.

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Unconventional Parenting: Why We Let Our Children Curse

"Sh*t!" my daughter exclaimed as she dropped her iPad to the floor. A little bit of context; my daughter Victoria absolutely loves her iPad. And as I watched her bemoan the possible destruction of her favorite device, I thought to myself, "If I were in her position, I'd probably say the exact same thing."


In the Rastegar family, a word is only a bad word if used improperly. This is a concept that has almost become a family motto. Because in our household, we do things a little differently. To put it frankly, our practices are a little unconventional. Completely safe, one hundred percent responsible- but sure, a little unconventional.

And that's because my husband Ari and I have always felt akin in one major life philosophy; we want to live our lives our way. We have dedicated ourselves to a lifetime of questioning the world around us. And it's that philosophy that has led us to some unbelievable discoveries, especially when it comes to parenting.

Ari was an English major. And if there's one thing that can be said about English majors, it's that they can be big-time sticklers for the rules. But Ari also thinks outside of the box. And here's where these two characteristics meet. Ari was always allowed to curse as a child, but only if the word fit an appropriate and relevant context. This idea came from Ari's father (his mother would have never taken to this concept), and I think this strange practice really molded him into the person he is today.

But it wasn't long after we met that I discovered this fun piece of Ari Rastegar history, and I got to drop a pretty awesome truth bomb on Ari. My parents let me do the same exact thing…

Not only was I allowed to curse as a child, but I was also given a fair amount of freedom to do as I wanted. And the results of this may surprise you. You see, despite the lack of heavy regulating and disciplining from my parents, I was the model child. Straight A's, always came home for curfew, really never got into any significant trouble- that was me. Not trying to toot my own horn here, but it's important for the argument. And don't get the wrong impression, it's not like I walked around cursing like a sailor.

Perhaps I was allowed to curse whenever I wanted, but that didn't mean I did.

And this is where we get to the amazing power of this parenting philosophy. In my experience, by allowing my own children to curse, I have found that their ability to self-regulate has developed in an outstanding fashion. Over the past few years, Victoria and Kingston have built an unbelievable amount of discipline. And that's because our decision to allow them to curse does not come without significant ground rules. Cursing must occur under a precise and suitable context, it must be done around appropriate company, and the privilege cannot be overused. By following these guidelines, Victoria and Kingston are cultivating an understanding of moderation, and at a very early age are building a social awareness about when and where certain types of language are appropriate. And ultimately, Victoria and Kingston are displaying the same phenomenon present during my childhood. Their actual instances of cursing are extremely low.

And beneath this parenting strategy is a deeper philosophy. Ari and I first and foremost look at parenting as educators. It is not our job to dictate who our children will be, how they shall behave, and what their future should look like.

We are not dictators; we are not imposing our will on them. They are autonomous beings. Their future is in their hands, and theirs alone.

Rather, we view it as our mission to show our children what the many possibilities of the world are and prepare them for the litany of experiences and challenges they will face as they develop into adulthood. Now, when Victoria and Kingston come across any roadblocks, they have not only the tools but the confidence to handle these tensions with pride, independence, and knowledge.

And we have found that cursing is an amazing place to begin this relationship as educators. By allowing our children to curse, and gently guiding them towards the appropriate use of this privilege, we are setting a groundwork of communication that will eventually pay dividends as our children grow curious of less benign temptations; sex, drugs, alcohol. There is no fear, no need to slink behind our backs, but rather an open door where any and all communication is rewarded with gentle attention and helpful wisdom.

The home is a sacred place, and honesty and communication must be its foundation. Children often lack an ability to communicate their exact feelings. Whether out of discomfort, fear, or the emotional messiness of adolescence, children can often be less than transparent. Building a place of refuge where our children feel safe enough to disclose their innermost feelings and troubles is, therefore, an utmost priority in shepherding their future. Ari and I have come across instances where our children may have been less than truthful with a teacher, or authority figure simply because they did not feel comfortable disclosing what was really going on. But with us, they know that honesty is not only appreciated but rewarded and incentivized. This allows us to protect them at every turn, guard them against destructive situations, and help guide and problem solve, fully equipped with the facts of their situation.

And as crazy as it all sounds- I really believe in my heart that the catalogue of positive outcomes described above truly does stem from our decision to allow Victoria and Kingston to curse freely.

I know this won't sit well with every parent out there. And like so many things in life, I don't advocate this approach for all situations. In our context, this decision has more than paid itself off. In another, it may exacerbate pre-existing challenges and prove to be only a detriment to your own family's goals.

As the leader of your household, this is something that you and you alone must decide upon with intentionality and wisdom.

Ultimately, Ari and I want to be the kind of people our children genuinely want to be around. Were we not their parents, I would hope that Victoria and Kingston would organically find us interesting, warm, kind, funny, all the things we aspire to be for them each and every day.

We've let our children fly free, and fly they have. They are amazing people. One day, when they leave the confines of our home, they will become amazing adults. And hopefully, some of the little life lessons and eccentric parenting practices we imparted upon them will serve as a support for their future happiness and success.