The Day I Did Something Different

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A few weeks ago, I did something on stage that I’ve never done before, and it was one of the most liberating experiences I’ve ever had.

If you've been around here any length of time, you know we talk a lot about how important it is to show up in alignment with who we want to be.

And I want you to know that I’m putting in the work here too. Part of what connects all of us in this community is that we’re constantly working on showing up as our best selves—and working through stuff that has held us back from doing that.

This is a life-long process. The more we dig deep, the more we learn about ourselves, the more we uncover and grow.

So let me tell you about an incredible moment of clarity and healing I had recently…

A few weeks ago, I started feeling like I really wanted to change the way I dress when I do speaking engagements.

Honestly, a lot of it was just plain practical. When I’m speaking, I have to think about where I’m going to attach the mic pack and whether my collar will fit the mic set and if I’ll be able to move around without a wardrobe malfunction.

In other words, I need to wear clothes that don’t distract me from my real purpose. I don’t want to waste any of my energy worrying about that stuff when I’m supposed to be fully present.

I needed to be comfortable. And to me, that looked like wearing sneakers, or jeans, or sleeveless tops.

So I reached out to a friend who is a stylist (my girl, Brittany!! She's incredible.), and I told her all of the things I was working through. I had a couple of upcoming events, and I wanted to feel fully comfortable in my skin AND outfit. I knew if I did this I'd also feel more confident and collected.

And man, she heard me. She came through with some ah-maz-ing outfits!

Check out the Outfit of the Day below.

It was perfect. PLUS it pushed me right over my comfort zone because there was just this one thing…

(And it's something you may or may not know about me)

I have a lot of tattoos. 13, last I counted. 😎

If you scroll through my site or check out pictures of me at work, most of my tattoos are usually covered. But this sleeveless top was gorgeous and I was so excited to wear it.

It also meant that my tattoos would be joining me on stage in front of a room full of leaders in the healthcare supply chain management industry.

Now, y'all, I love my tattoos. Every single one is special and meaningful to me. Even my least favorite ones still hold a special place in my heart. (If you’ve got more than one piece of body art, you know I’m just keeping it real here! They don’t always turn out the way you’d imagined, but they can still be beautiful.)

They’re truly part of my identity. Each one tells a story that is part of who I am.

Yes, I love my tattoos, but I’ve usually kept them covered when presenting on stage or in any "corporate" setting. I was never really sure about how an audience might react to them. Would they judge me? Would they question my professionalism? Would they take me seriously?

This was going to be the very first time I’d ever shown my tattoos at an event, and I was nervous.

And then the most incredible thing happened...

As I’m preparing for my talk, the chair of the event walks into the room. The chair of the event—this thing is her whole baby. What was she going to think about this look?

Well, she gives me the warmest welcome and then says…

“Look at your tattoos! I love that you have them out!”

Man, that was such a good moment. Here I was, feeling a few butterflies in my stomach, and the chair of the event is telling me how glad she is that I’m showing my tattoos.

But it gets even better...

Because the next person I meet is the executive director of the group, the person who is going to introduce me on stage. Again, she gives me such a whole-heart welcome, and then says…

“Wait, are we showing tattoos today??”

And then, she pulls off her cardigan, shows me the most beautiful lotus tattoo, and tells me,

“I’m going to show my tattoos too!”

My heart overflowed with pure joy. 😆 We’re all laughing and high-fiving and just celebrating this sense of connection. We take some pictures, and then it’s time to get the event started.

After my talk (which truly was one of the best experiences of my career), the director asked to take a picture with me. We’re getting positioned when she turns to me and says, “Why do you keep doing that? Every time you pose with someone, they stand on this side covering your tattoos. You have to show them!”

I hadn’t realized it, but in every photo, I’d positioned myself so that the other person was covering my tattoos. I wasn’t doing it consciously, but subconsciously, I think, I was still hiding them.

So we switched positions and put my tattoos front and center. After we’d gotten the shots, she told me again how much she loved the presentation, my energy, the total package.

I shared with her how much I appreciated her sharing that. I told her that this was my first time bringing my tattoos onto the stage with me and really standing fully in what I know is my authentic self. The fact that she not only noticed, but also cheered me on, just told me that it was the right decision. It boosted my confidence to continue showing up as my full self.

Being on stage and speaking to people isn’t something I take lightly. It’s a space that’s sacred to me. I want to be taken seriously, and I want to connect with the people I am there to serve. And it felt really good to know that I can do that without having to consider whether or not I should show my tattoos.

Because my body art doesn’t diminish my intellect. It doesn’t take away from my gifts. It doesn’t minimize my work ethic.

In fact, my tattoos add to the presence that I bring into the room. If anything, they amplify my personality, my energy, the way I carry myself.

Not just because they’re beautiful art but because they’re a pure, genuine reflection of who I am.

Lots of us dim parts of ourselves to fit the world’s expectations. We tell ourselves that we have to set aside pieces of who we truly are to be “more professional” or “more authoritative.”

For some people, it might be their hair. I worried for a long time about whether or not I should wear my curly hair. A lot of black women, and women who have curly hair in general, have been taught that curly or natural hair looks “unprofessional” or “messy.”

And that’s just not true!

In fact, embracing my curly hair has allowed me to show up fully, which opens space for me to preserve that mental energy and put it toward my purpose instead.

For other people, it might be something that’s not visible. Maybe it’s your sense of humor. Maybe you avoid cracking jokes in the workplace because you worry that people won’t take you seriously.

But being your naturally funny, goofy, witty self will be exactly what draws other people in and lets you connect with your team and the people you serve.

We always need to be considerate of how we show up and impact other people, but it shouldn’t be at the risk of losing parts of our identity.

Because those things that we’ve been told we need to cover up, set aside, quiet down? They’re exactly the things that make us fully human. Embracing them and sharing them frees us to be our fullest selves.

Here’s to uncovering the best parts of us, friends.

Hiya! I'm Karen.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

My main goal is to give you the mental skills you need to experience less stress and more joy.

Your life is a direct reflection of your thoughts. If you want uplifting content that will help you master your mind join the community. We'd love to have you!

If not, no hard feelings. Feel free to stop by whenever you need a pick-me-up! I'll be here.

Either way-see you soon!