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.
Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.
When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.
2016: What rules?
Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.
Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.
And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.
And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?
Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.
Digital policies for 2020 and beyond
While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.
Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy
Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:
- If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
- While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
- If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
- Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
- Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?
Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.
Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply
The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:
- Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
- Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
- Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
- Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
- Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
- Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
- Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
- Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.
Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles
Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.