Kat Kelly – Y’all, I’ve got an admission to make. I don’t fit in.
This is probably why Hermey, the Dentist, was always my favorite Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer character.
You would think that at this point a grown woman in modern day America wouldn’t be saying that out loud to anyone other than her therapist or her group of besties, but not me, I’m going to shout it from the rooftops.
I remember when I was about 16 years old and was fixing the lawnmower in the backyard, my momma said to me, “you’re never going to find a man because you always have to do everything yourself.” I told her I didn’t need a man.
For the next 20 something years, I rarely took help unless it was from my brothers from whom I was estranged since childhood only to later reconnect with. It felt really nice while they were in my life to have men to lean on.
Growing up it was always just me and my mom. And I had to take care of a lot of things at home.
As my professional career has developed throughout my life, I have always struggled to fit. Interviewing has always been this terribly awkward event where I knew I wasn’t meeting up to people’s – particularly men’s – expectations of what a woman *should* be.
Even now, in the day and age of “diversity and inclusion” as a member of several marginalized groups, I am a skeptic about D&I as a discipline.
Not only have I been a “non-fitter,” when I have squeezed into a circle, I have seen the other side. I know that there are a lot of ‘isms’ and that regardless of how many workshops and learning modules corporate America assigns, decisions are still made to favor homogony.
There have been so many times that I’ve been the perfect candidate with all of the right chops, or the generator of the winning idea, or the person who saved the big deal. But, I’m big. And I’m loud. So, I’ve often made myself smaller in those moments to make everyone around me more comfortable and to talk myself out of ‘wins.’ Things like, “you didn’t get that job because they decided not to fill the role.” Or, “those guys went to all the best schools and were really close friends, so they just left you out of the boys’ club.”
But yesterday, a colleague of mine whom I really respect said to me, “have you ever heard that you might intimidate people?”
I knew it was true, but kudos to this colleague, a white man, who had enough self-awareness to tell me what he sees.
When I asked him to tell me more, he replied, “you’re a smart woman with really big feelings. That can be intimidating.”
I didn’t know whether to take that as a criticism or a compliment. I’m still sitting with it.
But, wait until he meets me face to face and sees that I’m the size of a football linebacker too! If I were still in my 20’s and had the understanding of myself that I do now, I’d be playing in a women’s football league as I always wanted to instead of worrying about what everyone would think.
So, if I can save one younger person the years of self-doubt and insecurity that I struggled with I would. From being told what I couldn’t get, what I couldn’t achieve, how I’m too loud, and to not wear my heart on my sleeve….nahhhhh.
I am a big person who takes up space, both physically and energetically – and that is absolutely ok. It just means I have to carve my own path and be confident while also working to change the dialogue. But, don’t just take it from me, here’s a really cerebral look at this epiphany.
And while D&I programs may not be where I’d like them to be, it’s a start. At least we have started the conversation and I will carry the torch as far as I can now that I know.
So, never make yourself smaller in any way for someone else. Take up the space. Own your story. Own your power. And let’s change this world together.
In the meantime, please enjoy my favorite Rudolph jam.
More to come…
Kat Kelly is the founder of Vexteo Media Group and is committed to making this world a better place for people who don’t fit and to help make kindness the winning strategy.