Why Are We Still Putting Women in Boxes?

4min read

If you had to pick one, would you rather be smart or beautiful?

To put it simply, I don't want to choose. Call me selfish. Call me crazy. It doesn't matter. As a woman, I should be viewed as beautiful and smart. I shouldn't have to worry about what my work acquaintances think of me when I choose to post a photo of myself in a swimsuit. But I do. I worry about it.

Society tells women to choose. You are either pretty or smart. A mom or a career woman. Sporty or a fashionista. And don't get me started on the rumors when you start stepping outside of these narrow confines. How she must have slept with someone to get that job. Or that maybe she is related to the boss.

But why are we constantly choosing and worrying? Why is it that society thinks it's impossible to be both? Why can't we just be every damn thing we want to be? Why can't we accept that women have great jobs because they are qualified, talented, and hardworking?

As a senior political staffer who models occasionally, people have been trying to put me in a specific box for the last six years of my career. As Senior Deputy Chief of Staff for the Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island I manage community engagement strategies; project manage the City's International Arts Festival that draws over 130,000 attendees over 4 days; and run high-level Mayoral initiatives around education, small businesses, strategic partnerships, and economic development. Additionally, I serve on five boards, mentor young people in urban cities, visit the gym every single week, and regularly walk in fashion shows or participate in photoshoots.

Competing at the Miss USA 2016 pageant, representing Rhode Island

While preparing to compete in the nationally televised Miss USA competition in 2016, reporters or anyone I met with always wanted to talk about how rare it was that I had "beauty and brains," how I had a full-time career while juggling photo shoots, why I was prioritizing my visits to the gym but was already "too skinny" and didn't need to work out.

Reporters or anyone I met with always wanted to talk about how rare it was that I had "beauty and brains"

Some of them didn't know they were putting me in a box. Some of them were just trying to give me a compliment. And this isn't about gender: some of them were men and some of them were women. All of them repeatedly were putting me in a box, telling me that I had to choose, telling women that we must constantly choose.

And in 2016, when I was balancing pageants and politics, I didn't choose. And today, in 2019, while still balancing pageants and politics, I still refuse to choose. I still work 50+ hour weeks. I still visit the gym with my personal trainer every single Wednesday. I still walk in fashion shows. I still participate in campaigns, such as #ThisIsBeauty, which remind people to show the vulnerable yet powerful side of beauty. I still get in front of a camera when I can. And I love it all.

Shot from the #ThisIsBeauty Campaign Photo by Jessielyn Palumbo

You know why?

I can advocate for policy changes. I can be a mentor for young people. I can testify at the State House. I can enjoy dressing up for work. And I can also walk down a runway in a bikini. They all make me feel empowered. They are all my choices.

So, refuse to get in that box, refuse to choose. Because I am tired of people trying to make me be only a small part of who I am. We are all multidimensional and it's time we embrace every side of what makes us who we are!

Our newsletter that womansplains the week
3min read

It’s Time for Women to Stop Worrying About Being “Too Much”

We are living in a time when women are rising to new heights which means they are regularly being confronted with the fear of being "too much". For women in business this is pervasive and costly.

A few ways women can be perceived as "too much" are:

Speaking up about their successes and achievements.

Sharing one too many photos of their cute kids.

Telling one too many people about that date night.

Looking a little too good in that swimsuit.

These can lead to being publicly attacked on social media or privately slandered which in turn leads to women dimming their light and walking on egg shells in hopes of avoiding conflict and judgement.

The minute a woman feels it's unsafe to shine she will begin to overthink, worry, and fear how she shows up in the world.

Forgetting to announce the book is done and the interview is live.

Choosing to focus on what's still on the to-do list rather than what's been checked off.

Many female entrepreneurs are subconsciously altering their behavior in an attempt to not attract too much attention to themselves, rather than focusing on allowing authenticity and magnetism to attract their ideal clients and community.

Women are afraid of being criticized, ostracized, and abandoned by other women for simply being who they are. This leads to quite the quantum when being who you are is simplest way to accelerate the growth of your business.

New research shows men are far more comfortable with self promotion than women are. Researchers found that men rate their own performance 33 percent higher than equally performing women. What we know is that self promotion pays off and this is where women are missing the boat.

The world needs more women to step into leadership roles and no longer be intimidated about creating six and seven figure careers.

Here are five ways to release the fear of being "too much":

1. Approve of yourself.

While it feels good to receive outside validation it will never be enough if you don't first appreciate yourself. The key to having a healthy support system is to make sure you are part of it. Being your biggest critic is what your mother's generation did. It's now time to be your biggest cheerleader. Becoming aware of self talk will reveal what belief is ready to be re-wired. Create a simply mantra that affirms how incredible capable you are.

2. Connect deeply to those you serve.

One powerful way to shift out of people pleasing behavior is to get clear on who actually matters to the wellbeing and success of your life and business. Leadership is not about being the most popular, instead it's a decision to be brave for those who can't be. Take a few minutes each day to visualize and meditate on those your business serves and supports. See your future clients moving toward you every time you choose to stand in your power and use your authentic voice.

3. Remember the legacy you wish to leave.

Having your life purpose and legacy in writing is one of the most transformational exercises you can do. Reading this often will keep you focused on what matters. Knowing what you wish to leave in the hearts of those you love most is incredibly grounding. You didn't come here to keep your mouth shut, dilute your truth, or dim your light-you came here to make a difference.

4. Forgive those who have been unsupportive in the past.

The past has a way of informing the future in a negative way when there is unresolved pain. Take a few minutes to get quiet and ask yourself who you have unforgiveness towards or maybe their name came to mind as you read this article. Listening to a forgiveness meditation or writing a letter to the person you are ready to forgive are both simple and effective ways to process and heal.

5. Be part a community of bright, successful women.

Meaningful relationships with others who have similar aspirations is what will keep you out of isolation and playing small. These connections can happen in a networking group, online community or a local Meetup. Thriving in every area of life is depend on you knowing where you belong and being celebrated there. Don't wait to be invited, go actively seek out people and places that support your dreams and desires.

6. Accept you can have it all.

Women have been fed a lie for generations that says, you can have love or money. Decide you can have it all and allow it to flow to you. You can have a successful career and an amazing mother. You can balance motherhood and loving marriage. Don't let anyone write the rules for you. This is the time to create the life you desire on your terms.

7. Celebrate everything!

The fastest way to leave the haters in the dust is to celebrate everything! At the end of each day lay in bed and recall the best moments. At the end of each week, publicly acknowledge and celebrate what's good in your life. Once a month, have a celebration dinner and share it with those who have helped you in the journey. If there's something good happening, talk about it with everyone who will listen!

May you be a woman who chooses to shine so that others may be reminded of all they can be and do.