There she was, sitting across from me on my couch, apologizing for being scatterbrained, “I can’t think today. I’m sorry.”
I’ve heard apologies for people tripping themselves, accidentally spilling or dropping things, for not remembering my name, for forgetting information or having to ask a question for a second or third time. I have yet to come across a single one of these apology-instigating actions that I haven’t done myself and that I haven’t seen anyone else not do. We’re all human. We all fumble around. No one is perfect - this is a fact of life.
Earlier this week, at a business event I was attending, something peculiar happened. A man, whom I had never met, approached me and greeted me by name and with a firm handshake. Now, granted, I knew I was wearing a name tag but it was mostly obscured by my hair and I’m sure I looked bewildered because in my head I was instantly searching the archives of faces of people I had met. I knew I had never met this man before! So after searching and re-searching far back and thoroughly through all of the face files in my brain and being the awkwardly blunt human that I can be, I said, “Well, hello! Thank you for greeting me so warmly. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe we’ve ever met before. What’s your name?” He introduced himself and said we had, in fact, not met before but he wanted to address me by my name to show he cared.
Now, this event in itself wasn’t peculiar. It was the fact that, immediately after this gentleman walked away from me, a woman I did know came up looking at my name tag and addressing me by name. I greeted her warmly as, while I didn’t remember her name either, I knew her face and remembered her being a sweet individual and asked, “would you kindly remind me of your name? I remember you but I don’t remember your name.” She confessed she didn’t remember my name either and was thankful for name tags so that it could look like you remember names “because knowing names is important in business.” The woman who had just joined us stated, “people care if you know their name. It shows you care about them. My brain doesn’t work that way. That’s why I also like the name tags - especially the ones that are written large and clear. I can pretend I know people.”
I was slightly bemused at what I was hearing. It wasn’t the fact that remembering someone’s name shows you care, it was the pressure and shame behind the words and the repetition of the thought “knowing names means you care” in such resemblant phrasing from three separate people. This is something these people had been taught and was an area of stress for at least two of them. The first woman was truly embarrassed I saw her looking at my name tag. The second outrightly admitted she felt the need to pretend. I chortled lightly and let both of them know I would never be upset if they didn’t remember my name - that it’s okay to be human.
I see this pressure to be perfect and put together 100% of the time - not just in business interactions but on Instagram and social media and with my clients when we sit together. It’s a wonderful thing to strive to be better, to constantly improve yourself but, how many of us can agree that it is exhausting and emptying to try to show up like we are perfect all the time? (If I wasn’t typing, both of my hands would be raised along with my eyebrows).
Do you know that I’ve also been given the business advice to only show up when I can be 100% “my brand?” Thankfully for me, my brand is very much me - which includes my quirks and awkwardnesses and insecurities and transparencies. The point this speaker was making, however, was that as a business and as a person you should never appear to falter, you should always appear to have it together. I get where she was coming from, I really do, and there is value in what she was saying. You should instill trust in people and provide them with all the reasons to be confident in themselves and you (and your business). How many of us also want to hear a genuine apology when businesses mess up though? Or find it helpful and encouraging to see that the “perfect people” of the world are just as human as we are? It’s not that we relish in these mistakes or people’s flaws, it’s that we are seeking genuine connections and genuine people.
That’s just it, guys, it’s okay to be human. It’s okay to be scatterbrained, to forget information or a name, to have to ask a question multiple times. You don’t have to be #instaperfect or make it look like you’re living “your best life.” It’s okay to not be perfect 100% of the time. Your life is valuable and attractive because YOU are in it. It’s perfectly okay that you are not perfect. We are all in the same boat with you. Let’s all just be human together.
There she was, sitting across from me on my couch, apologizing for being scatterbrained, “I can’t think today. I’m sorry.”
In June of 1963, President John F. Kennedy addressed Frankfort and stated, “As they say on my own Cape Cod, a rising tide lifts all the boats.” The latter of this quote has been embraced and could well be on the flag that is raised with pride in the heart of every small business. You’ve probably even seen these words splayed across the walls in your favorite local small businesses or gracing the digital walls of the makers and artists you support on Instagram and Facebook. Serving as a depiction of general prosperity affecting individual prosperity, this sentiment is one of the many reasons I love to support other local and small businesses.
Shopping and supporting local, for me, is about relationships and making a concentrated positive impact. I know many of the people behind the products and services I support. I know their family is affected by the ups and downs of income, and I know their success will mean the eventual success of my city, Winston-Salem North Carolina. That’s why, when Jen Brown the founder and owner of Fearless Winston Salem, told me about an idea pitched to her by Danielle Hoover the owner of Southern Comfort Boutique, to help uplift and support lesser seen small businesses I knew I wanted to be involved.
In the world of social media, ecommerce and their ever changing geography of algorithms, small businesses can be drowned out. Danielle, as she herself runs her boutique online, has a heart for other entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and micropreneurs in the same position. She desires a platform for herself and those like her to be able to be more visible to the public and therefore consumers. Jen was the perfect person to connect with. She is involved with the Small Business Center, the Launch Challenge and makes her living giving people courage and confidence to speak on and represent their work and dreams. (Check out Engaging Educator to see how she does this). She also recently opened a women’s space built as a source of community and relationships called Fearless. Here, women can build connections with each other and delve into relationships in a way our city had been previously lacking. Together, Jen and Danielle decided to create a vendor fair. Shortly after they met, Taryn Jerez, the owner of One Crafty Miss, and I were brought on board and we founded Small Biz Crawl.
Small Biz Crawl is the perfect place to support local businesses around the holidays. There will be 17 vendors with an array of goods and services as well as 10 brick and mortar businesses offering gifts and goodies for the holiday shopper who likes to shop local. It is a great opportunity to connect with our community and a true example of the good that can happen when people work together and put competition aside. If you love to shop local like me or just want to see what the event is all about, feel free to come and visit us!
Vendors and Businesses You’ll see involved at Small Biz Crawl 2018
Annabelle Beet Designs
BowBow by Kyle
Camel City Goods
Camel City Hemp
Colony Urban Farm
Fearless Winston Salem
Honey and Woodbine
Janet Holmes, Artist
Jasper & Fern
Lucky Duckling Baby
Mossy Rock Massage
ReLove It Clothing
Sass & Ink
Sassafras Family Farm
Southern Comfort Boutique
The Humble Bee
The Sweet Truth
The Tap West End
West End Coffeehouse
“Are there any colors you don’t want to wear” I asked as we sat across from each other, our fuzzy sock clad feet kicked up on the couch.
“Black” she said. “I want to add color to my life.” Her words were chipper and light. Deeper, you could see there was more to what she was saying.
With crystal blue eyes set against dark chestnut hair, she would look stunning in black. Wanting to fully understand her, her preferences, her personality, her story and the directions in which I could encourage her, I wanted to see if she was completely opposed to wearing black.
”What do you dislike about wearing black?”
It was in the quiet, waiting for her answer as the soft crackling of the eucalyptus candle flames flickered, that the wisdom, pain, weariness and determination behind her eyes began to unveil.
She took a moment, crafting her thoughts. This was her story, not just a color preference. After taking the time she needed, she said, “he always made me wear black. He said it hid my body, that no one should notice me. I was made to feel ashamed. My whole wardrobe is made of shades of black, frumpy clothes. I want to wear the opposite of how he made me feel.”
She was in the midst of a prison break.
Explaining further, she shared that she recently divorced and was reforming her life and herself after an abusive, manipulative relationship. She wanted to use this portrait experience to encourage herself, to see herself in a way he had previously shattered. She wanted to see herself as beautiful, to become the joyful, smiling person that had once been suffocated. My chest was throbbing.
When I first met Sarah [*not her real name] she greeted me with a warm smile on her pretty, makeup-less face. She was wearing a dress that belonged to her mother, her dark locks frizzed and tucked behind her ear in a hurried ponytail. She later admitted to me that she never really took time to brush her hair, ever, and that a ponytail was her way of styling her hair after years of being told there was no point to make the effort. The second time we met, she was sitting across from me, fuzzy sock clad feet on the couch, with black baggy goucho pants and a new teal workout t-shirt that was at least two sizes too big, her hair down and tangled.
As we talked, she revealed that after being in a toxic marriage for almost twenty years, she had no idea how to dress herself or care for her appearance anymore. She was a little embarrassed that she was nearly forty and had no idea about these things. She knew she wanted colors and comfort. She was focused on healing and was just starting out on that journey.
”Give yourself grace,” I told her as I shared with her part of my own journey and how clothing choice and colors played a role in my own reformation. “We all heal in different ways, at different stages of life and at different paces.” The hope in her eyes lit up the room as she talked.
She tried on dresses of different styles and colors, getting giddy when she could see a waist she never knew she had or how the eggplant dress made her eyes look dreamy. She was gorgeous as she recognized herself.
As her confidence grew, I asked her gently, “would you be open to trying on this dress?” Across my arms draped a gown with layers of soft, dark charcoal lace. Knowing the color could potentially dampen her spirits, I gave her a smile and continued, “You have such beautifully dark hair and, with this dark charcoal dress and your hair, your eyes would be more easily noticed for just how stunning they are.” I was aiming to tip the scales towards the courage I knew she had. She radiated hope and she was ready to heal. I held my breath low as I waited to see if she thought she was ready. If she said “no,” I had three other gowns to ask her opinion on to help her step away from the potential negativity.
With an enormous grin, and a rooted confidence, she said “Yes.” Swooping the gown out of my hands and heading to change, I was almost astonished at how boldly and swiftly she was charging forward in disassembling the lies told to her. It was incredible to witness.
When Sarah came in for her session, her nerves were visible as her hands clenched around her purse strap and the handle of the suitcase that contained her brand new wardrobe. She was excited but apprehensive. A week or so had passed since she was last in the whirlwind of trying on dresses. The time passed had been exhausting - trying to see herself through a style of clothing, an extra filter to look through as she was determining who she was, in addition to dealing with a few ugly last strings popping up from her divorce needing to be tied up. I had been there to answer a few emails with pictures of outfits she was debating on and to listen if she needed it.
This was her “moment of truth,” she told me as my team prepped her for hair and makeup. On the verge of tears, she apologized because she knew she was going to cry at least once. She asked to pay her no mind as she dealt with her range of emotions. I assured her she was always welcome to be human here. Wine in hand, we chatted as her hair was put in curlers. We set out her new wardrobe, splashes of colors and luscious patterns now dotting the couch. She had done a marvelous job picking outfits that complimented her skin, eyes, hair and proper sizing!
Sarah began to relax as we spent time pampering her. Her look completed, we helped her into her first outfit, waiting for her to see what she looked like once she was completely styled. We positioned her with her back to our full length mirror.
“You are incredible. Are you ready?” I asked.
With a nervous laugh, she turned to see for herself and a flush of color greeted her cheeks. Hot tears streamed from her eyes, apologies flooding out her mouth for messing up the makeup.
”Is that really ME?” Her voice rang out with bewilderment and shock. “I’ve never seen myself like this…” her voice trailed off as she stared in the mirror, looking at herself from toe to face. Inching closer to the mirror, she grew quiet. A silent moment passed as she examined herself. Turning to me with wild eyes she said, “I look like ME. I wasn’t expecting to look like me.” She could recognize herself in her reflection, a monumental cornerstone in her healing. It was beautiful, watching her glow and transform. I don’t think I will ever forget that moment.
The last I saw Sarah, was for her Reveal & Order session. I was sitting at my desk waiting for her to arrive. People walk past our windows all the time. So, when I saw a figure start walking across them, I didn’t think much of it. Every footstep oozed confidence, perfectly curled locks bounced against her shoulders a few strands waving glamorously in front of her face. Surprise caught me, however, because this person walked in our door. I took in the moment because it was near cinema perfection. Light mascara and a touch of blush complimented the radiance in her face as she greeted me with a beaming smile. It was Sarah - not just “Sarah” but SARAH. To think that, just a few week prior, this same woman had been sitting on my couch, quiet, meek, unsure and searching was the same woman hugging me now was staggering. She was no longer shrouded in black, shoulders curved inward. She was radiantly beautiful and you could really see HER. She was decisive and fearless. She loved seeing herself and, when she left, she made a point to say she would no longer be shamed to wear black.
*”Sarah” gave me permission to share her story to encourage other women. She wishes to keep her photographs and personal details private.
There’s a shift when warm summer rains turn cold. They become dreary, feel heavier. These days are not often "happy" days. However, I always try to choose to love the light that filters through the cloud layer, to be happy in the knowledge that the rain is nourishing the green growth that is to come and by choosing to be content in the fact that, if not for the bad days, we would appreciate the good days less.