The Light Within
January 10, 2013
Executive Director, The Jane Group
Topicsemotional intelligence, Leadership, self-awareness
She’d been impossible to miss – tall, impeccably groomed and stylishly dressed – flitting from table to table, rarely spending more than a minute or two before moving on. Movement out of sync with the 20-minute table rotations at the women’s networking event.
Her final perch was our table, joining us in the last few minutes of the concluding rotation. Not looking directly at anyone, she announced the event a waste of time.
“Why do you say that?” inquired a young professional who had just moved to town. “I had a great time.”
“There was no one here worth meeting.”
“You didn’t sit through the full round on our table, so how could you know that?”
“Just by looking. It’s obvious no one has a background comparable to mine.”
“What have you…?”
Rudely interrupting the young professional, chic woman declared, “And I’m sure you don’t either.”
With that, chic woman left our table with a disgusted toss of her perfect head, leaving all of us speechless.
I confess that for most of my life I’ve wanted to look like that woman: tall, willowy, graceful, not a hair out of place, flawless make-up, mannequin perfect posture, size six beautifully-fitted clothing.
But suddenly it hit me that while she may be striking on the outside, she certainly came across as shallow on the inside. I’m trying not to be too judgmental since our encounter was so brief. Yet she declared she’d been sizing people up (no pun intended) by how they looked. Yikes, it doesn’t get much shallower than that in my book.
I met some extraordinary women that evening — a writer, secretary, college professor, dream interpreter, lawyer, spunky single mom. Women who were tall, short, round, thin, young, old. Women who had contributed to the greater good. Women who had made something of themselves after starting out with very little. Women with resilience who kept trying despite setback after setback. Women passionately in pursuit of a vision.
None of those rich stories were obvious in their faces or in the way they were dressed. Their light came from within, not from designer clothes or expensive face creams. I felt sad for the chic woman who missed out on all that inner radiance just because the outer package didn’t meet her lofty standards.
I still want to be tall and willowy but if the trade-off for that is being superficial, I think I’ll stick with short and round.
Image credit: The Female Buddha
I’ve seen the kind of lady you wrote about Jane and believe it or not, there are men out there who do the same! They usually have a self-esteem issue somewhere.
In a speed networking situation, it is difficult to break the barrier and get to know the real person behind the facade. However, if there is a space of even a minute to actually talk to the person, one can actually break the barrier and know the person. I’ve tried it and often been surprised to find warmth and intelligence. Then again, I’ve had to count to ten and run away wondering why did I bother?
I do of course prefer substance and integrity and try to inculcate those qualities in myself. It helps bring out the inner radiance of others with whom I interact.
Great post Jane. People never cease to amaze me. Shallowness is a plague of our modern society with roots in the celebrity and beauty culture we have created. Thanks for the reminder to look at the person inside.