So, now that I have successfully (and by successfully, I simply mean, done it) accomplished creating this digital home for all of you to come, I finally feel ready to reflect on the painful detour I took a year ago.
Last year, a dear friend told me that what I really needed was a more professional and upgraded website to be “taken seriously”, a logo and a font of my own, and that it would be crucial to my success. He had started a business of his own, and was adamant that this was what I need to really take off, and I needed it NOW. This didn’t totally land with me–my client roster was already full, and I kinda liked the website I’d designed myself for now–but I reasoned that he had done this before, and I had not, and that he knew better.
As luck would have it, he also introduced me to a world-class and well-known designer–we’ll call her B–who was willing to work with me on this, even though it was way below the scope and the scale she usually does. It was a BIG investment. But I was (and am) so passionate about my work and reaching the right people, that it seemed like a smart investment. So, I sucked up my pride, took loans from family and decided to take the leap.
Then, the day came to see the suggested designs and I could hardly contain myself. Yet, when I saw them, my heart sank. One was a cartoon version in primary colors of the game of Life, something you would see on the wall of a kindergarten classroom, and another was orange. ORANGE! Now, there is clearly nothing objectively wrong with the color orange, or with Kindergarten, but anyone who knows me that orange is not a color that you would choose as my website palette (see current website!), and early childhood references are completely irrelevant. The logos felt tacky and cliche and something more appropriate for a fast food chain. I couldn’t find anything that had anything to do with me or my work in these pages and pages of designs. I felt nauseous, and like I couldn’t breathe.
In the days to come, I was filled with self-doubt. “Perhaps I don’t really know myself as well as I thought, if this is how she sees me.” “I don’t know what is good for me and my business, and she does because she is the professional.” “I’m just scared.” “Maybe I’m not cut out for this.”
Every time we were scheduled to get on the phone, I was filled with dread and had a pit in my stomach. Or I just wanted to get back into bed. I frequently rescheduled our calls. I went on vacation. (note: if you feel these things, they are there for a reason, and not to be ignored!) I ignored them, and chalked it up to my own fear, and re-committed myself to sucking it up and walking through fear.
I finally pumped myself up and pulled it together to make some suggestions and clarify what I had in mind for my site. I would save our collaboration, I thought! As I excitedly made suggestions for change in the background photographs, and the color scheme, she rejected every single one. “That will make you seem too feminine,” she said (but I am kinda feminine…and I do happen to be a woman, I thought). “That will make you seem like you are in your 30s.” (But I am in my 30s!) “That will make you seem too New York.” (But I am a New Yorker!).
And, it finally clicked. It was not “fear” that made this so painful for me, it was my truth. The nausea, and the suffocation, and the depression were all alarm bells screaming at me that this was not who I am, this is not who I want to be, this is not in my integrity. The brand she was building actually had nothing to do with me–it was an orange-loving avatar that used my name (and this was pre-Donald Trump!). She was building a brand that started from the question, “why wouldn’t someone hire you?” and compensating for all those things, and completely blotting me out in the process.
I had spent years showing up in the world, especially at work, as the person that I was “supposed” to be, and catering to being the most hireable, the most desirable teammate, the best daughter and friend and girlfriend, and I knew this conundrum well. I truly thought I’d left it behind, yet, here I was again. I had been so great at doing that to myself, and now I actually hired someone to do it for me, to me? How did I fall into this trap again?!? On top of that, my entire body of work as a coach is based on this. I should know better!
I knew I had to end things with B. Yet, I was so conflicted. I would be letting down my family, who had loaned me a significant amount of their hard-earned money for this. I’d be letting down my friend, who’d put his professional reputation on the line to make this referral. And, of course, I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.
This was a true test. What was my integrity, my authenticity, worth to me? Was it worth losing thousands of dollars? Was it worth potentially irrevocably damaging some important relationships?
The answer was a resounding YES! and I fired B. And I would make the same decision again, even if it was $100K. In fact, I act like I am making that decision again every day–as if that that much is on the line, because, really, it is. Because, now I’m going to get real cliche with you: my integrity and authenticity, and the freedom that comes from that, is priceless. And, I needed to have a real hard core dollar amount next to it to realize it. And, I have B, to thank for that.
How much is your integrity worth to you?