On Embracing Individuality

This blog entry comes out as a result of my muse under the shower. Yes, bathroom inspiration isn’t a myth, especially when you have a long hot shower! Haha..I’ve been thinking about what a woman has told me on a travel mart I attended earlier this weekend for quite some times.  To give you a background story; this travel mart was a table top style business to business dealing. So the buyers came and sat face to face with the sellers to have business talks. The sellers, who mainly were tour operators and hotels, sold their products to the buyers, who mainly were travel agents. Each round lasted for some minutes, and once a season ended, the buyers would move to the next seller’s table.

And there came this woman to my table. A young, energetic, loud woman in her late 30s, who showed high interest on my company’s products. It was a regular business talk until she told me “You have interesting products and you seem to be a fun person. However, being an adventure travel company owner, you should represent yourself and your company the way it should be. You should wear a safari shirt and cargo pants instead of this sleek suit. Wear your trekking boots instead of these high heels. You look too sweet and pretty to convince us that you and your company have what it takes to run an adventure travel company. Just saying though”. The evil part of me said “Talk to my hand! Since when do I care?”, and the angel part of me said “Everyone has their own opinion. Relax and sell on!”Not wanting to lose my precious limited selling time, I just told her “Thanks for your feedback, I appreciate it”, and sold on. I was there to make money, and who knows that she would be one of my prospective clients? So I carried on until the table top ended.

However, what she said bothered me somehow. No, not that she said I didn’t appear to be credible enough. To put things into perspective: I didn’t see myself as a victim because I wasn’t one. I dressed the way I wanted. It was a business to business dealing so I wore my pants and suit to respect the occasion and the dress code. I didn’t think I wore the wrong attire.

What bothered me was the fact that we are still defined by stereotype. The way she portrayed adventurer girls bothered me. In her imagination, adventure girls should look strong, like, manly strong, and not sweet. In her imagination, adventure girls should look rebellious in their t-shirt or safari shirt and cargo pants or shorts. In her imagination, adventure girls would look the same, regardless their individuality.

Those who’ve known me for quite long time would know that I was tomboy growing up. I played tennis on Sundays with my dad back when I was in elementary school. I was active in Girl Scout as well back then. I was in flight flying brigade in middle and high school, and was physically trained to stand for hours under the brutal sun of equator. I would do sets of pushups, sit ups, and backups every morning. I played guitar and made paintings in my art classes instead of dancing. When I danced, my dance teacher would teach me traditional dance that normally would be danced by male dancers. I kept my hair chin length most of the time until freshman year of high school.

As I grew older I embraced more of my femininity. Well, I’m still far from being a lady. I still laughed loudly with my friends. But I know I am a woman and I found that my femininity is really empowering. I put make up on when I wanted. I know I can put either skirt or pants when I want to. I am still me regardless what I’m wearing, be it skirt or pants. On top of all, I dress to express, not to impress.

I accept my contradictions. My staffs, colleagues, and clients mostly are men and that doesn’t make me have to behave like men. I like adventures but I have femininity that I’m proud of. I ran the mountains wearing my pink shoes and pink running tee. And putting some girly things didn’t make me less strong than other runners. I know people would doubt that a short delicate looking girl would climb mountains, let alone taking clients to the mountains. But hey, I’ve reached some mountains with crazy prominence, with my feminine upbringings. I know some strong female ultra-runners who’re really feminine. I know some great business women who are good at leading the companies yet still show their femininity. I know iron ladies who are feminine and classy. My close female friends are strong and confident, yet they embrace who they want to look like or dress like.

It’s ok to be different from the stereotype. We don’t have to fit the mold. Credibility isn’t only built by look. Wear what you want. Be what you want. You can be feminine or tomboy, as long as you’re comfortable with that. There’s no “you should appear the way it should be”. As long as you’re comfortable and it’s appropriate, go ahead. Be strong, act strong, even when you don’t appear “strong enough”.

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