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Be the Girl in the Front Row

I recently attended a workshop on shifting your mindset and taking action. It was an awesome workshop filled with professional women who were kicking butt in their careers, businesses, lives, etc. I was pumped. I love being around like-minded, powerful, empowered women who want to help each other and make a difference. Great way to spend a weeknight. One thing though…the group photo.

Any business owner who knows the basics of self-promotion knows that if you have an event, you get pictures. For the web site, for your next event marketing materials. For your own sense of accomplishment because, hell yeah, you sold 50 spots to your workshop! When the facilitator asked everyone to gather for a photo (remember, all women in attendance – and maybe one brave man), more than a few women let out an audible grumble. Ugh. Hmmm. Sigh. Then, the jockeying started. If every one of those grumblers could be in the back row, hidden from the camera, they were putting in an Olympic athlete moves to get there. Weaving through tables, sliding behind chairs, jumping over us shorter ladies (just kidding…sort of) and eventually resigning themselves to slinking next to another woman hoping their black sweater would blend in with her black sweater. And don’t even get me started on the comments these women are muttering about their badass selves under their breath. Seriously…I can’t even.

For more than 5 minutes the photographer, the facilitator and others who were brave enough to just suck it up and stand there for the pic, encouraged the ladies in the back to move in, move closer, come to the front row, crouch down, scooch…you know the drill. Poor photographer, she just wants to take the damn picture and go home.

At the time, it didn’t even stand out to me that this was unusual. Because it happens all the time. In every group picture. For me, I always stand somewhere in the middle but usually get shoved to the front of a group picture because I’m 5’ 4” on a really, really good day. But this dance of uncomfortableness that I’ve seen dozens (maybe hundreds) of times in my life is the norm. Women dread a group photo. Not all. But most. Powerful, successful women suddenly become shrinking, shy, self-conscious, awkward teenagers who act like they are worried about being asked to the homecoming dance. And, only recently did it dawn on me that this is ludicrous. Made me ask my shorty, front row self…What in the entire hell is this about?

The answer isn’t rocket science. It’s confidence. Body confidence to be exact. Very few professional, successful women have a high level of body confidence. In fact, the Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report found that low body self-esteem directly impacts a woman’s ability to reach her full potential. The study also found that nearly all women (85%) and girls (79%) said they opt-out of important life activities when they don’t feel good about the way they look. That includes taking on more public roles in their career or business – doing presentations, speaking engagements, etc.

Whoa. Y’all…this is so not about the group picture. That’s just the symptom. How many of those same women don’t speak up at a meeting when the boss is looking for someone to lead a pitch for a new client? Or, pass on a speaking engagement at an industry event because they are carrying a little extra weight? Now I’m groaning and wanting to crawl under a desk and hide.

Have you ever seen a man complain about being in the front row of a picture? Or, not want to be on stage because he is overweight? Um…I’ll wait. No. I cannot recall any man I’ve ever worked with not standing tall in a photograph or jumping at the chance to present on stage. Like ever. Regardless of how he looks (do some of them look in a mirror before leaving the house?). Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are fellas with self-esteem issues. Maybe. Anyway, the point is this…why are women so hard on themselves? NO one else thinks we look as hideous as we’ve conjured up in our heads. On a scale of Jabba the Hutt and Ursula from the Little Mermaid, we all think we’re Jabba on a good day. Crazy, I know. But you know I’m right.

So, what’s the solution? How can we all be front row bitches? Proud, and pushing toward the front of any group photo? Here are a few tips:

  1. Just stop it and be a front row girl. Ha…as if. But I’m dead ass serious. Do it at an event that you don’t know a lot of people. Do it after you’ve had a cocktail. Do it on a dare. But just do it. Who cares what you look like in the picture. Your confidence will get a boost from the action of moving to the front. If needed, grab a friend’s hand (or a stranger’s if you don’t know anyone) and move to the front. Strength in numbers. She’ll either run away or be like, “hell yeah” and follow you. No one will be in your way and people will be so relieved that you’ve freed up two spots in the back. But you’ll also be setting an example for other women. They may be the front row pioneer next time.

  1. Stand up tall and smile for god’s sake. Oh my god, Niki, have you lost your damn mind? Stand up tall? Proud? Like the super confident, capable badass that I am? Yes. It’s not a damn funeral, it’s a chamber of commerce networking event. Regardless of where you stand – front, back, on top of a table. Stand tall, shoulders back, head up, and with a freakin’ smile on your face. Not that weird, fake smile in your headshot. A genuine, “I love that it’s an open bar at this event” kind of smile. I promise you, you will photograph a thousand times better when you aren’t slouching, shrinking, frowning, furrowing and trying to hide.

  1. Be honest; then do something about it. Ask yourself what the real issue is. Is it your weight, your hair, your clothing, your dull smile? What bothers you about a photo? And, no, the answer is not EVERYTHING! For me, I’m short and curvy. Flowy clothes that make my tall, lanky, blonde friend look like a model make me look like I’m wearing a pop-up tent that a village of children could take cover under. We are both a size 6 and maybe 10 lbs. separate us but I do not photograph well in that flowy shit. So, I don’t wear it. I figured out the issue and I changed it. If it’s your weight, you need to figure out how to change that or dress to compliment your size. If it’s your hair, find a new style. If it’s your smile, get some Crest Whitestrips and brighten that up. You get the picture. My point is…approach this like any business problem. Honestly assess the situation and then ACT.

I want to reiterate that last point as it might be the most important. Take action. Move to the front. Stand tall and fix what you don’t like. We’re smart, resourceful women leading multi-million-dollar businesses and climbing the corporate ladder. We are not back row, sad sacks just waiting for a boy to ask us to the dance. We are ass kickers who buy the right outfit, whiten our teeth, fix our hair and proudly stand at the front of that picture because that’s where our bright shiny selves belong.

Be a front row bitch and send me a picture proving it! #frontrowbitchesunite

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