By Christina Grasso
“You will always be too much of something for someone: too big, too loud, too soft, too edgy. If you round out your edges, you lose your edge. Apologize for mistakes. Apologize for unintentionally hurting someone profusely. But don’t apologize for being who you are.” – Danielle LaPorte
When I moved to New York from the Midwest nearly 5 years ago, I was willing to more or less do anything to work in fashion. (True story: I may or may not have applied to be a security guard at a certain magazine hub because, gotta start somewhere, right? For the record I have zero experience and/or interest in law enforcement, and shocker, didn’t get the job.) Despite having internship experience with some of the top names in the industry, I didn’t feel fully confident in my skillset, and more importantly, in my sense of self. Not because I intrinsically felt insecure, but because a few people I encountered left me feeling as though I should.
During my second week as a burgeoning New Yorker, I landed an interview with a successful designer who wanted to meet with me one-on-one. I brought with me a few crisp copies of my resume, subtle nerves, and my smile.
After we discussed my experience and goals, we mutually agreed that the particular role was a little too senior for me at that time. But she went on to say that she, quite frankly, felt I might want to reconsider a career in fashion as I might simply be “too nice” to succeed.
Fair enough, I thought. The fashion industry isn’t necessarily celebrated for its warmth and approachability, but I knew what I was getting myself into all along. And at that point, appearing tougher, at least in interviews, was a small price to pay (in my impressionable mind) for something I had worked for my entire life.
So for a while, I rounded out my edges, so to speak. I hardened, I smiled less, said “sorry” more, and tried to mold myself into whatever shape someone wanted on a particular day. I am a firm believer in “faking it until you make it,” but only when the “it” isn’t a forced and untenable façade.
Thankfully, the more stoic persona I had adopted didn’t last long because as difficult as it can be to be oneself in this world, it’s anything but empowering to try and be someone else. It was also brutally boring.
It took me a while to really figure out that being true to oneself – whatever that might look like for you – is truly the most effective process of elimination in finding work, prospective husbands, true friends, glass slippers, mattresses, you name it. There have been opportunities and relationships (and bedding) that have not worked out and, often, it’s heartbreaking. But anything worthwhile will never make you sacrifice your values. By keeping your edges and following your true north, the right people, work, etc. will come. True story – the most cherished people and things in my life have come through being open, honest, kind, and a little bizarre, because that’s who I am. What’s meant to be will find a way – and stay.
Over time, I have learned that, yes, even in the fashion industry, we attract what we are. Kindness begets kindness. And trying to shove oneself into a shoe that is ill-fitting does neither you nor said shoe any favors, nor does it leave room for growth. Find better shoes and thank yourself later. I promise you won’t turn into a pumpkin.
Christina Grasso is a writer, activist, and social media consultant. In addition to her work in fashion and beauty, she serves on Project HEAL’s Advisory Board and founded its New York City chapter in 2012. She lives in Manhattan.