As a young entrepreneur in a bubbling business hub like Lagos, I can say for sure that I have experienced my own share of the pressure associated with climbing the ladder of business success. Many times I have been made to feel inadequate or should I say ‘not up to standard’. There would always be people who would want to check you out, size you up, analyze your financial worth, assess your social status before they even give you the chance to say “hello”.
It was while starting to get involved in serious business matters in Lagos I heard the term “packaging”. I was categorically told that to network with the “worthwhile people”, I need to package myself very well and by that it means that I have to always appear very elegant and maybe expensive even if I would have to achieve that by all means. I was told that I have to look really capable of handling serious business by having the appearance of someone who handles a lot of money. You know what I mean, I guess?
I have been to a couple of business network events and initially, I would be totally lost in the crowd or not even recognized even when I attempted to sound relevant. I learned that it is more important to appear relevant than try to sound relevant because nobody would give you a chance to prove that you have content if you are not first of all in a good package.
It was such a struggle, then I decided to ‘up my game’ for example by shopping for better outfits and just when I thought it would get easier, it got worst. Regularly, I would be bombarded with either questions or expressions that refer to the kind of car I drive, where I live, where I get my hair and nails done, where I have holidayed. I would initially be sometimes embarrassed, uneasy, unhappy and even disappointed until I taught myself to grow a tough skin. I vividly remember one encounter with a lady I met at an event here in Lagos a couple of years ago, who totally ignored me when I walked up to her because at the time I was sort of fresh in Lagos and without any ‘game’. I met this same lady recently while in the privileged company of some “meaningful people” and she was a totally different person, I was shocked when she said ‘hello’ to me, and I bet she didn’t even remember me.
To a reasonable extent, I now understand how to handle such pressures and that did not happen until I had a deeper knowledge of self discovery and that knowledge boosted my self-confidence. Now I don’t let myself get easily boxed in. I tell myself that I am worth more than what meets the eye. Sometimes I even say it out, I tell who cares to listen that I am not my car, I am not my hair, I am not my mobile gadgets, I am definitely not just about my handbag, I am a lot more than what my physical appearance displays.
We all need to understand that there is lot more to a person than their appearance, as a matter of fact sometimes a very expensive and seemingly flashy appearance is false advertising. The bad news is, people are easily persuaded by false advertising. The package may have the potential to convince and persuade but what has the potential to deliver results and earn true respect is the content. I am definitely not saying that the package should be totally over-looked but that the package shouldn’t be the primary measure of consideration and validation. I meet people who face the same challenges and I tell them not to worry so much about the packaging. I tell them that the most expensive and most elegant packaging is self-confidence. You can’t even pick that off a shelf in a designer store, it’s something on the inside of all of us that needs to be worked on constantly because I’m still working on mine.
And more importantly I discovered that most times the ones who make us feel less relevant are even struggling with their self-worth internally while they exude great confidence externally. So at the end of the day, we are all relatively in the same struggle, trying to be relevant, to be heard, to be respected irrespective of our status, to be given a fair chance to prove ourselves.
The good news is, we are all uniquely important, relevant, worthwhile and meaningful. Go and start to build your self-esteem like I am doing and step out in style and I bet you that the world will notice you.
Jesmine Chinwe Onyeukwu is a Productivity/Simplicity Coach, Speaker, Writer, Trainer and the CEO of JessylsCharm, Nigeria’s first and leading Professional Organising/Productivity Company. JessylsCharm helps clients beautify their lives, reclaim their effectiveness and boost their productivity with her space, paper and time management solutions.