Ask Abbie: Believe in yourself

Published 9:13 am Saturday, June 15, 2013

by Abbie Long

Question: I am a female sales rep. My boss recently told me my dress is only allowing me to service our middle level customers and excluding me from our executive level accounts because it makes me seem immature and unprofessional. I like to wear unique items that don’t look like everybody else. Wearing something conservative like a suit makes me very uncomfortable and self-conscious. I do aspire to higher positions but I feel like I will have to compromise who I am to get there and I don’t like that. What do you think? Thank you.

Dressing for success

Answer: “I hate them. They are built for thin guys. It makes me look like I have big old love handles. It makes me look fat, and I’m not fat.” This quote from the Wall Street Journal by Alex Boone, a lineman for the San Francisco 49ers, was in response to the NFL’s decision to change the players’ jerseys from a looser fitted design by Reebok to a new more form-fitting “Body Contour Fit” design by Nike. The tighter style elicited many complaints of discomfort and embarrassment from the larger players. One of these larger players even asked his wife what she thought of his new tighter uniform. She reportedly replied, “It looks like you have eaten a small child.”

A person suffering from low self-esteem becomes uncomfortable around others due to his constant self-evaluation/self-judgment of how he measures up to them. He worries he won’t meet expectations and fears failure. He is too focused on himself to give any task at hand his undivided attention, which puts his overall job performance at risk. Consider the NFL player who is constantly trying to make sure his tight game jersey is covering his “Dunlop” or tire that went flat over his belt and play football at the same time. He cannot focus 100% of either one if distracted at all by the other. His distracted performance not only can have debilitating effects on his own emotions but also on the success of his team.

In order to determine if the discomfort you experience when wearing the uniform of the higher level team at your job is related to your self-esteem, listen to your inner voice for any indication of negativity or self-criticism regarding any of your unmet aspirations. These hints will let you know you need to work on believing in yourself and your abilities before you can declare your self-esteem healthy.

Should you determine your self-esteem to be in need of a boost, focus on what you do well and on the value you add to others. In addition, identify any situations around you that trouble you. Make yourself aware of thoughts about that troubling situation, evaluate them, challenge their negative components, and adjust your beliefs accordingly. Once your self-esteem is healthy make a commitment to preserving its health and you will never again have to question whether or not you are holding yourself back from a future opportunity for advancement because you think it might be above your reach or because you are afraid of failure. Then, enjoy your new gift of self-acceptance.

Self-acceptance, unlike the apparent compromised self-esteem of the large uncomfortable football players, is not debilitating and is in fact quite freeing. It will not make you oblivious to any negative outside opinions, just immune to them. You will not feel the need to constantly look in the mirror or to get lost in the incessant whirl of social comparison. Self-acceptance ensures job performance; it does not jeopardize it.

If you are still questioning whether or not to conform your dress to the request of your boss, even after ensuring your self-esteem to be healthy, remember you should always dress for the position you aspire to attain regardless of the sacrifice you have to make in order to do so. No exceptions. If this appears to be a seemingly impossible task you need to take a step back and re-assess your next intended career move. Ensure it feeds your deep-down passion rather than starve it because when it does you will actually look forward to suiting-up every day into whatever the required uniform happens to be. Always believe in victory for yourself, your unique abilities, and for the purpose only you were put here to achieve. As a result, you will be stronger and better equipped to defend any and all opponents who stand between you and the goal line you must cross in order to celebrate having won access to your life’s ultimate purpose and potential. The end-zone awaits your arrival.

Abbie Long is a Franklin native and advice columnist for The Tidewater News. Submit your questions to