Here I am, sitting across from a man who could be my Dad in an important meeting. A meeting where he will decide if he’s keeping his business with our company or not. It’s my responsibility to make him feel confident with his choice to stay with us based on my knowledge, expertise and experience (no pressure).
Between business talk, I casually mention the redheaded girl in his family photo. I say “I have two redheaded daughters”, and then the question comes. The question I dread but expect “You don’t look old enough to have kids! How old are you?”
Suddenly I sit up a little taller, my shoulders become a little broader. I feel my body react in defense. The little voice kicks in, the voice we all have “you’re not enough”. The thoughts start racing through my mind, “lie about your age, say you’re older than you are, find a way to avoid the question, do something!”
See, I’ve been trained to think this way. It started when I found myself all on my own and expecting a baby at 17. I didn’t have any other choice. I needed to graduate and start working. I not only was responsible for myself but a baby now too. So that’s what I did. I finished high school early and started working full time.
I was fortunate to land a job in a professional arena that was way beyond my years, but I had someone who believed in me, saw my potential, and gave me a chance. So, I ran with it. I went and bought a few new outfits and started doing my research. I was going to make this work. As I said, there was no other choice.
Through that experience as a 17-year-old working with professionals sometimes 3 times my age, I have to admit, I did lie about my age. I was pregnant, looked young, and was new to the industry. I couldn’t have my age working against me even more than it already was by my appearance. When I didn’t lie about my age, I found creative ways to avoid the question (I got really good at avoidance). I don’t think anyone I worked with for those 3 years, besides the one man who took a chance on me, knew my real age. I didn’t enjoy it, but I thought that was just my reality. What I had to do to keep up and more importantly, to be taken seriously.
12 years later, and here I am, sitting across from this man, experiencing that same panic. Panic that isn’t necessary anymore. I’m an adult, I’m a mother, I’m successful, I’m proud of what I do, I’m confident. I no longer lie about my age, but the panic is still there. Let’s face it, thought patterns run deep and they don’t change overnight.
But despite the panic, I answer the same way I have for years now, with confidence. “I’m 29”. Now here is where I get the slew of comments back. Some well-intentioned but maybe not the best response, “You’re a baby!” (No sir, I can assure…I am not a baby. I am a grown human). But this man responded in a way that validated that confidence in myself and settled my panic more than any other had before. His face shifted, he looked at me, and in the sincerest way said: “Wow, you are really impressive”.
Now, I have a hard time writing this. I feel like I’m boasting about what an amazing human I am. Look at me, young, accomplished, and taking over the world! But really, this is just a story about a scared little girl who bought a few outfits, took a terrifying leap, and had enough will power to keep going. And through that will power, eventually realized that my age, gender, life circumstances, or any other fear society planted in my head, had nothing to do with my capabilities.
My conclusion to this story – stop selling yourself short! I’m not any different than you. We are women. We are built for this.
You are bigger than you realize. You are stronger than you know. You have more will power than you can even imagine.
And to add a call to action, turn to the woman sitting next to you, and tell her how impressive she is. We all need to hear it.
About our Guest Writer:
Haley Kirkpatrick started her professional career working with Lehi City. After 2 years of administrative work, she decided it was time for a career change when she had the opportunity to accept a position with WCF Insurance. She has now been with WCF Insurance for 7 years. She never imagined she would land in this profession, but she loves the opportunity it gives her to serve business owners and our community. WCF Insurance is very service oriented and very much involved in our community. She loves to take advantage of this by serving as often as she can. When she isn’t working, she is at home with her two beautiful red-headed daughters.