I'm 'Peppy,' but Not Limited. How About You?

Having moxie shouldn't hurt me

When I was a kid, my mom would have loved nothing more than for me to be a cheerleader. Outgoing, popular and trendy, but I marched to the beat of my own drum. I relished finding uncool things cool. And I had a desire to hide rather than put myself in front of 3,000 classmates. 

Flash forward to adulthood. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I would be pegged as a cheerleader in the office nor that the stereotype would be a hindrance. 

As I was finishing my last final exams in college, the company I worked for part time was hiring for a new promotions coordinator, my dream first job. I was in the running—engaging event attendees, troubleshooting the engineering equipment, jump-starting the junky company van when it broke down time and time again, folding T-shirts and carrying 50 pounds of equipment with no issue. One of the key constituents never noticed. He summed me up as having a lot of spirit, but not much else. When comparing me to my male colleague who was also up for the promotion, I was told I was described as being “great at events, but she can’t lift a tent.” (For the record, I lifted the tent every damn day.)

What I learned from this experience was that my natural moxie, passion and physique would distract people in the workplace

I’ve been told by many people that before they got to know me, they thought I was “fake” and even intimidating because I’m “too happy, too energetic” all the time. For years, I grappled with how to come across as more serious, more professional. I’d volunteer for tasks, deliver projects early, take classes and read trades to be more informed. The one thing I couldn’t do was subdue my energy.

By my late 20s, I had adopted red lipstick as my go-to power accessory. Never having been a girly girl, something about red lipstick fit my vibe—loud, intense, strong. As it turned out, it was another thing adding to the stigma. One leader denounced me to my former colleagues as too peppy: “Can you believe her red lipstick?” No matter what I brought to the table in my work, it seemed that some people would only ever see the surface level. 

While attending an advertising conference, I had the pleasure of watching Seth Godin present. He was enrapturing with his humor and his honesty. I leaned in, and when he took questions, I raised my hand. Before he asked for my question, he asked my name and told me that I was forever invited to every speaking engagement owing to my “generosity” as an audience member—smiling, laughing and paying attention. My natural self was not only appreciated, but it resulted in a one-on-one mentoring session with one of the greatest marketing minds in the world. 

Godin’s lesson was my most impactful career lesson thus far. My natural cheerleader personality is a superpower. I set the tone in the room; I bring the energy. That is powerful. Maybe even intimidating.