When I was young, I created an image of a successful woman. To me, a successful career woman looks like this:

Smart suit, high heels, carefully coiffed hair, perfect make up, armed with the latest laptop and a Bottega Veneta handbag, driving a BMW. In a position where I will be meeting important people, closing sales and collecting high commissions. 

I had all of that except the car (hate driving). But that wasn’t me. I wasn’t happy. Don’t get me wrong, I had awesome opportunities, met lots of important people, created a vast network, travel in style and doing a lot of things that others can only dreamt of (like having an entourage of army escorting me from the airport or playing hooky with the police commissioner. I’m grateful for those experiences because it made me realised that it wasn’t what I wanted. I was uncomfortable because I was pretending to be someone I am not. 

What made me happy is this:

I’m at my most happiest when I’m in tee and jeans, working in shifts at a call centre where it is the busiest and noisiest. The noise is bliss to me. The adrenaline I get from every call surges and hitting the customer satisfaction target gets me high every time. The close bonding I have with each of my teammates, the trust and respect I gained from them, the togetherness that we achieved while exceeding customer expectations. All these made me not want to log off work, I kept finding excuses to do overtime, 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 make up at all. What is important are results and how I achieve them. 

By fitting into an image of success that I created in my head, I felt I was a hypocrite. A wolf dressed in sheep clothing. Pretending to be someone I am not. 

I don’t like wearing heels at all. Right now if I have to choose between Christian Louboutin heels and flip flops. I’ll go for the flip flops. 

I don’t like wearing make up. All that gloop caking on my face and I can’t even touch my face without worrying I’ll smug something. 

I don’t like wearing tailored suits. It is hot in tropical South East Asia. At the end of the day, I’m wearing patches of sweat under my arms. 

Sure, once in a while, I love to dress up, slap some blusher on but to sacrifice an hour of my sleep so I can look perfect for…. not me. 

Now as a freelancer, I’m happy too! I do miss working in a team with all that noise and chattering. I do miss executing major projects with a huge group of hardworking smart people. I do miss after work suppers where the entire team group together over good food and bitch about everything and anything. 

In exchange, I get to learn so much more things and conquer different projects under different clients in different industries. This is one aspect I will never get if I were to stay in one company and one industry. Satisfaction level is different, of course.

Being a freelancer, satisfying my clients is on a personal level. Then again, every failure or error is a personal learning experience that I get to keep and grow myself. During this journey, I learned about my own limitations and my working attitude with a deeper understanding. I learned to push and exceed those boundaries that I couldn’t do it in a company with process and regulations. 

Overall, I learned to throw away that image of a successful career woman in my mind. And replace with a mindset “Don’t look at the surface. Go deeper. Then go deeper some more. Find yourself and you will find happiness bubbling up from within.”

56 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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