When I was young, I created an image of a successful woman that looks like this:

To me, a successful career woman must be wearing a smart suit and high heels with carefully coiffed hair and perfect makeup. She should be using the latest gadgets and carrying fancy accessories like a Bottega Veneta handbag. She must also be driving expensive cars like a BMW or a Porsche. She should be holding a position where meeting important people, closing sales, and collecting high commissions are normal. This image of a stunning, successful career woman was my life goal before.

I had all of these things except for the car as I hate driving. After some time, I realized that this image I once admired wasn’t for me. I was not happy. Don’t get me wrong because during that time in my career, I had awesome opportunities and I met lots of important people. I managed to create a vast network, travel in style, and do a lot of things that others can only dream of, like having an entourage of army escorting me from the airport and playing hooky with the police commissioner. I’m truly grateful for those experiences because it made me realised that it wasn’t the career I wanted in the end. I was uncomfortable because I was pretending to be someone I am not. 

I realised that what made me happy is this:

I’m at my happiest when I’m in tee and jeans, working in shifts at a call centre where it was the busiest and noisiest environment I could ever be in. That kind of noise is a bliss to me. The adrenaline I get from taking every phone call surges, and hitting the customer satisfaction target makes me high every time. I always love the close bond that I had with my teammates, the trust and respect I gained from them, the togetherness that we achieved while exceeding customer expectations. All of these made me not to want to log off from work and I kept finding excuses to do overtime just to hang around (until I received a warning from my bosses to go home!).

Nobody cares if I am carrying the most expensive bag or wearing makeup at all. What is more important for me are the results that I get and how I achieve all of it. 

By fitting into an image of success that I created in my head, I felt I was a hypocrite. Like a wolf in a sheep’s clothing. I was pretending to be someone that I am not. 

In reality, I don’t like wearing heels at all. If I have to choose right now between Christian Louboutin heels and flip-flops, I’ll go for flip-flops. It’s not just comfortable and inexpensive, but it’s more practical for everyday use.

Wearing makeup is not essential for me too. All that gloop caking on my face just makes me uncomfortable. Worse, I can’t even touch my face without worrying that I’ll smudge on something. 

I also don’t like wearing tailored suits. Living in a tropical country in Southeast Asia and wearing a suit is not ideal at all. At the end of the day, I’m sure that I will be just wearing patches of sweat under my arms. 

Of course, I love to dress up and apply some blush on once in a while. But to sacrifice an hour of my sleep every single day so I can look perfect for work… I just think it will not work for me. 

Now as a freelancer, I am happy too! Of course, I miss working in a team with all that noise in the office, executing major projects with a huge group of hardworking and smart people, and bonding with my colleagues especially those after-work suppers where the entire team come together to share over good food and rant about everything and anything. 

In my new career, I get to learn so many things and conquer various projects under different clients in diverse industries. This is one aspect that I will never obtain if I had stayed in one company and the same industry. Also, the satisfaction level that I get is very different.

As a freelancer, satisfying my clients is on a personal level. But then again, every failure or error I make becomes a personal learning experience too. These failures help me to be better and be wiser for the next opportunities to come. In this journey, I learned about my limitations and my working attitude with a much deeper understanding. I pushed and exceeded those boundaries that I couldn’t do before in a company with so many processes and regulations. 

In the end, I learned to get rid of the image that I created before on what a successful career woman should be. I replaced it with a new mindset: “Instead of looking at the surface, go deeper. Find your true place by learning about yourself and go deeper within you. Once you know where your true calling is, you will surely shine as your happiness will bubble up from the inside-out.”

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57 replies on “Pretended To Be Not Who I Am

  1. Amazing Kally.
    I too had found out the utter futility of position and perks and the rat race long back – I quit as CEO in October 98.

    Life has been cool ever since. I did free lancing till ‘14 and last 6 years only : Meditation Love Travel 😊

    All the best to you

    Liked by 6 people

  2. I have thought about how when we are younger we accept the media version of what a successful woman looks like, insert feminine cut powers suit and high heels here, and what we find find really works for us. For me, the summer is skorts, tunics or cotton dresses and Chacos. Winter is leggings with longer tunics or long sleeved dresses and Vans. I am comfortable, look nice and I can move.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Kally, I really enjoyed reading that! It’s really easy to get caught up in doing what society considers success. I think you’re awesome for being brave enough to leave a way of life that might have seemed perfect to everyone else but wasn’t making you happy.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such a great post and observation about being who you are in the workforce, Kally. Like you when I was younger I also aspired to be a career women in a nice suit, traveling here and there conducting business. Now many decades later I prefer otherwise. While I enjoy climbing the career ladder, I so prefer being in T-shirt and jeans and working with people who all voice their opinions, as opposed to giving directions and colleagues silently agreeing.

    I have worked in a few call centres and agree, these work places are full of chatter and buzz. Dress attire is casual, and it can be casual-Fridays most days in some call centres too. As an introvert and one who does not like noise I realised this kind of environment for me – but good on you for enjoying your time in call centres.

    Quite a few of the call centres I have worked in prided quantity over quality – that is taking more calls is more important than ensuring the client or customer is happy, and getting them off the phone as soon as possible is the best. Or is you do a good job and go above and beyond for a customer, it is not rewarded. Then again, I also worked in other call centres that put customer satisfaction first which is great. What I have noticed is call centres always have the most down to earth people with different personalities from different backgrounds.

    A successful career woman is so much more than looks, and you are so right about that. Success is defined in so many different forms and means different to each of us.

    Hope you are doing well and staying safe over there, Kally. It seems like an uncertain time over there and hope all is okay.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mabel. All is well here with the exception that we are in lockdown again. Life still goes on even with the inconveniences. I’ll update my situation in this Friday’s post. Keep a lookout! 🙂

      I suppose it is because we are more comfortable in our own skin and capabilities that we do not need an outer shell aka suits to show that we mean business.

      I do miss working in a call centre but one that prides awesome customer satisfaction.

      Actually, the Key Performance Indictors for call centres in customer service is number of calls taken per hour, one call resolution (meaning you solved the customer’s issue within a single phone call without escalating or transferring) and customer satisfaction rating.

      These are just some targets among other matrixes. The number of calls per hour is actually there to make sure you use the quickest most efficient way to solve customer’s issue (without sacrificing customer’s satisfaction – hence the feedback rating) so that other callers do not have to wait in the queue for too long.

      Managers should look at those numbers as a whole to tell its stories while analysing the target individually to see how improvement can be done.

      The quickest way to boost productivity and customer satisfaction overnight is through empowerment and trust.

      Imagine you call in through with a complain, if a call centre agent is empower (with authority like a manager’s) to decide quickly how to help you whether it is making an exception for you to resolve certain issue, giving a discount for service recovery or even going above and beyond.

      Empowerment without needing to seek permission from a superior, take responsibility for his or her own action and making decision at his own discretion.

      Trust is us managers trust our frontliners to make the right decisions and be prepare to defend them when top management question their decision.

      But such empowerment is rare but I have been in two such call centres and both times, I am dragged by the ankles to leave the companies unwillingly.

      Like

      1. I see you updated your COVID post and I will go and have a read 🙂

        A call centre tha prides awesome customer satisfatcion is a great one. I do think KPIs are different for each call centre – at least that’s from my experience having worked in a few. KPIs are indeed great for motivating the call center operator to swiftly resolve calls in one call. I have seen some organisations do put their call center operators under a lot of pressure to achieve KPIs and that can lead to poor customer service. Striking a balance between KPIs and staff well-being can be tough, but with the right managers it is very much possible.

        One thing I like about call centers is that you learn a lot being hands-on taking calls. You learn there is no silly question asked and you learn to solve problems big and small. Being in such an environment also shows you the reality of life on many fronts.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m fortunate to be in call centres with awesome managers.

          Yes, different call centres have different KPIs but usually it boils down being productive, clearing the calls as fast as possible.

          The key thing I see as a game changer is how the manager interpret the data, how he/she manage and motivate the team and how to inspire the routine of call in/ call out tasks to something fun and exciting at work.

          It makes a hell of a difference everywhere actually, if you have an amazing boss 🙂

          Like

  5. Ah Kally, you realize the more lasting our interactions, the happier we are.

    The previous position you described, while accomplished, and certainly lucrative, lacked genuine, lasting encounters. Maybe they seemed “genuine” at the time, but their moment came and went quickly. Always rush, rush, and on to the next acquisition. Quite lonely, actually.

    Now, though, you enjoy much more relaxed, and lasting, company. You’re part of a group that grows and explores with you.

    What a great way to remember we are, indeed, social creatures.

    Liked by 1 person

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