Authenticity, or at the very minimum the pursuit of it is central to my life, for I believe it is the key to true happiness. I do many talks for Universities and Women’s Groups, but I rarely know what kind of impact, if any, my words have.
This Fall, I spoke for the Harvard Undergraduate Women’s Intercollegiate Business Convention. The title of my talk was “Daring to Be Yourself as a Career and Life Strategy”. It was one of my most poignant talks ever, with lots of tears (mine and the audience). Afterwards and throughout the day, many of these young women came to speak to me about it or that their friend told them about it. Two of them especially caught my attention. They were beautiful in their burning desire to be themselves. We ended up sharing the same table for lunch. I was so amazed and in love with their spirit that I gave them each a bottle of Tiossan Eau de Parfum, as a talisman for them to always be reminded of seeking their originality. Along with many others, one of these two women connected with me right away after the conference and we are still in contact, and very much kindred spirits. But I have not heard from the other one. Her name is B. Often I would think of her and wondered how she was doing. Did she hold up to the inspiration I could see in her eyes? Or did her surrounding and peers kill it as soon as she returned? And then yesterday night, I received this amazing letter from her. Needless to say how thrilled I was to not only hear again from her, but happy to the depths of my being for the experience she shared with me in it. She just gave me the authorization to post her letter here. May you be inspired to have the courage to do what B did by deciding to embark on the journey to “find out who she is and do it on purpose” as Dolly Parton would say.
We met at the Harvard Undergraduate Women’s Intercollegiate Business Convention in early September. After I had the opportunity to hear you speak about your experiences and what you have learned from them, I stayed after to talk to you. We ended up chatting and eating lunch together afterwards, and I again got the chance to listen to your wisdom. You may remember me as the girl who didn’t look comfortable in a business suit. If you recall, I told you it wasn’t even mine, and that I was required to wear it. In response to that, you began to discuss the importance of authenticity.
If I did not meet you that day, I would be miserable right now. In the School of Management at Boston University and the college as a whole, if you do not fit the standards, you are looked down upon. I most definitely am not like typical student here. Yes we all got good grades in high school to get to BU, but as far as wealth, and as a result lifestyle, I couldn’t be more different.
I have only met one other person at this school who is not paying full tuition, and still our costs are not even close. That fact does not bother me though. I am extremely proud of who I am, where I came from, and my hardworking entrepreneurial parents. Yes they may not be doctors and we didn’t always have a lot of money, but that is part of my character. I am hardworking and appreciative of the opportunities I am given.
Although I have met very nice people here, I am continuously reminded that I am different from everyone else. Whether someone coveys the don’t appreciate the opportunity to go to BU, or looks at me like I am crazy when I say I do not like the corporate world, or has never tried peanut-butter and jelly–I find I am simply different. Your message of staying true to who you are has helped me immensely to stay strong and remain proud of who I am.
Everyday I think about my decisions and ask why I am doing this? Choosing how to act based on who I am and who I want to be has led to some revitalizing moments. One day, when all School of Management freshmen had to dress in “business casual” I was faced with the decision of what to wear. I knew everyone was going to be wearing a business suit, but I didn’t want to because it does not represent me. Instead I wore a bright red dress. Ha- lets just say I stood out. The only deviation from a black suit and white shirt was the occasional light colored shirt, but no one even considered wearing red. I got a lot of dirty looks, rude comments, and one insincere complement, and I realized how great it felt to be different. I was extremely proud to be me.
Thank you for giving me the confidence to be myself. You words have changed my way of thinking and my life. Although I am still not at the point I want to be, I am working on making decisions, even if that means taking risks, based upon authenticity. You are an amazing woman with incredible ideas and talent. While not everyone may be affected by what you have to say, know that I was. When I think about what I want to do in my career and future, I have no definite answers. However, I do know I want to have a positive impact on others as you have had on me. I want to help others explore who they truly are and let them know their authenticity will make them happy, which in my opinion is the definition of being successful. I hope to stay in touch with you to hear about the great things you are doing. You are truly an inspiration.