The world is full of beautiful, giving people. The world also has more than its fair share of people filled with negativity. The trick is to retain – no, grow your own inner beauty no matter what the people around you do or say. In a town like Washington, this can be a challenge – especially for ambitious, successful women.

If you are a woman who radiates hope, light, and positive energy, you will draw others who do the same – as well as those who will do all they can to smother your light by attempting to “own,” control or intimidate you.  This makes “them” feel more powerful and more influential. In the workplace, this can take the form of gender-based discrimination, sometimes even outright sexual harassment or assault.

To help you navigate through and around this kind of negativity, I’m sharing my personal thoughts on how to squash spirit-killing tactics and live empowered. Regardless of your region, career path or industry of choice, I am going to offer some universal tips that, I hope, will help women thrive as we navigate some common challenges in the workplace:

  1. Be yourself.  If you are uber-feminine, own it. If you aren’t, own that. Just be authentically you, whomever that may be. Your beauty comes from within. Don’t let anyone smother that or stamp it out.  Being different is not just okay, it is preferred! Who wants a box of crayons that are all one color? Immediately reject any ugly people who try to dull your unique shade of crayon. This is only to help them feel more comfortable, not you.
  2. Fake it till you make it. This is not at odds with Point 1! Perceptions are critically important. Exude confidence and peace. Even if you don’t have that high-powered, high-paid job just yet, feel like you do! Those around you will pick up on the confident attitude and that “I’m going somewhere” energy. 
  3. Always take pride in your appearance. You don’t have to be fancy, but in the professional setting always wear clothes that fit properly, are not too revealing and are clean. You must give the impression that you respect and take care of yourself.  You know the saying and it’s totally true: Don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want.
  4. Bring your A Game. Do your homework and be prepared with your elevator speech. I was once told by a new contact – someone very accomplished in a male-dominated field – that “I’ve never heard someone who looks like you
    [a young female with lip gloss, trendy suit, high heels…] speak so intelligently on these issues.” I actually was not offended! In fact, just the opposite: this was high praise coming from a mature and successful man in a traditionally ultra-masculine field. If I hadn’t known my stuff I would have ruined my own credibility with a very influential contact. In the process, I would have negatively affected his first impressions of future young women working with his office, as well.
  5. Prepare to be punished. I’ve lost jobs and business for not agreeing to be someone’s girlfriend. It sucked. I was scared, hurt, broke and powerless – or was I? I was being punished BECAUSE I had the power: the power to say no. Find your voice and know exactly who you are, then be completely and utterly comfortable in your own skin.  This may mean saying no to someone who can hurt you – financially, professionally, personally. This may mean rejecting something or someone that isn’t what or who you want in your life. That’s okay. There might be some discomfort, maybe even actual pain, when we act in our own best interest. But trust your instincts and you WILL grow as a human. You WILL be proud of yourself later and just that much stronger.
  6. Be Fearless. Nelson Mandela said “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” Fear holds you back. Hope and positive thinking are crucial in order to take on new challenges and have any chance for success. Even when you fail, you’ve learned something: what didn’t work and that is valuable intel. Reflect, learn what you can, then move on.

Two of my favorite quotes on this topic are from Winston Churchill:

“Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm."

”Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”

This is my definition of success: to be authentic and to live genuinely. There is freedom in knowing who you are and what you want out of life. Don’t let anyone hold you back, regardless of the discomfort that will accompany many of your challenges. Go get it, girl.