Honesty, Humor, and Intellect: How My Sister Became Fearless
My sister, Beth, is an incredible person which is something you will no doubt come away with after reading our interview. She is open and honest, hilarious and inappropriate, intelligent and tough, fun and bold. I don’t think I could ever fully explain how lucky I feel to call her my sister and my best friend. I can trust her with anything and I can ask her anything. I don’t think I have ever laughed as hard or cried as hard with anyone in my life. We have been there for each through our worst moments, our best moments, and everything in between. It is a bond words cannot fully express, I can only tell you that I am blessed to have her in my life. She is a boss lady, with so much experience, but also confidence in who she is, and she is able to share her insight with both honesty and humor that makes anyone feel comfortable to be around her. You will not regret getting to know this amazing woman that I also get to call my sister.
What was the hardest thing for you growing up? How has that affected you as an adult?
When you are little kid you aren’t aware of your body, you are just a kid. Then there comes a time when someone makes you aware of it. I grew a little bigger between 6th and 7th grade. I didn’t realize that it had happened until someone else said it to me. Immediately after that I was now in middle school and more self-conscious. I never thought about how I looked until that moment and then all of sudden I became aware of my body. Then in 7th grade a kid found out my weight from the nurses office and came back to science class and told everybody what I weighed. That led to a slow build of feeling completely aware that now my body and how it looked was more important than who I was. These events made it so I was never completely comfortable with myself in middle school and even high school. I remember being in a gymnastics competition and the boys laughing at me. It was really tough for me. I was a gymnast and an athlete but I still was self-conscious. In high school I just grew in to myself and slimmed down. And then I got ‘good comments’ from that, which then again reminded me that all that mattered was how I looked. I was just going through natural changes but since there were negative or positive comments based on how I looked it messed with me both ways, for different reasons.
In college this really affected me. I obsessed over the idea that I would not gain the freshman 15. Honestly it turned me in to a very unhealthy person, obsessed with their weight and exercise. I never thought I had an eating disorder but looking back I realize I probably did. Even throughout my early 20s any time I felt bigger than someone or didn’t think I looked good it put me in a terrible mood and place.
It wasn’t until I had my first kid that I started to grow out of this. I think it may be weird because I don’t think it is true for a lot of people, but having kids helped me. I don’t think I really understood that people truly do just have different body types until I had kids. I just didn’t conceptualize that people can do all the same exercises or eat the same foods and never look the same. I just started to have appreciation for my body versus being obsessed with it. I came to terms with it and also realized that all these other aspects of who I am were really important. I couldn’t let my weight define me. I intuitively knew that my body was healthy and I started to understand what was right for my body and what worked best for me. I learned to trust my body and listen to it. It definitely hasn’t been easy but I think I have gotten there, to accepting my body, and of course I still fight it from to time but I have become so much better.
How do you handle that with your own kids?
It is hard with your own children. You don’t want them to suffer through what you have gone through but you have to know that commenting on their weight or saying the wrong things can affect them for a long time. I think about this all the time with my daughter as well as with my son. Being a parent is hard. You don’t even know how to protect yourself as a woman from society’s idea of what a woman ‘is supposed to be’ and how they should look, and then you have to try and teach your kids to ignore that? It is really hard. Society still puts certain priority on how you look as a woman. How do you navigate through that fucked up idea? It feels impossible. The best I can do is to help them understand that you change and you grow over time, which is completely normal. Most importantly they need to know that I love them and that I want them to love themselves to the best of their ability.
One of my favorite things about you is that literally give zero effs about what anyone thinks about the way you dress. And by that I mean there are all these old archaic mindsets of how a mom should dress. When did you decide you were just going to do whatever you wanted?
I didn’t think a lot about my clothes when I was younger, we didn’t have a lot of money or options growing up. Our mom started buying me smaller tops as I got older, but to me it was just what she was buying us and what we could afford. When I was starting to wear those clothes I had a really supportive boyfriend who always said how beautiful I looked. I had been so concerned with hiding my body because I was ashamed of it for so long. Then somehow that mindset that he shared with me helped me. It made me aware that I had to get out of my own head about my body and just ask myself “what do I like to wear’ and ‘what makes me feel comfortable’.
Then as I got older it was about putting on what I want to put on. You are at a different level. You are just determining what makes you feel best and what makes you feel most comfortable. It isn’t about anyone else, it is about you. When you can get there then you don’t care about other people’s opinions. And I don’t mind the shock value. Listen, I don’t care if I am a mom, my kids need to see me as comfortable as possible, if that means I am braless well then so be it. I won’t apologize for my body and I won’t apologize for what makes me feel confident in myself.
We grew up as the daughters of a minister, did you find this difficult?
We were lucky because our parents weren’t scary. They didn’t try to scare us in to things with the ‘wrath of hell’. I appreciated that they were regular people who tried more to show us where they weren’t perfect then where they were. They grew up with a lot of experiences and they shared those with us. I respected what they said. I respected that they were honest about their struggles.
I think really what was hard was growing up in a world where not every one’s parent is a minister or goes to church. So even though they weren’t putting pressure on us when you realize there are certain expectations of you as their child that would be difficult. You struggle with people’s constant need to judge everything you do, even when your parents aren’t judging you.
It feels like you can’t question your religion because there are so many eyes on you even when it is not the eyes of your parents. My parents want me to have a relationship with that religion for me, not for them. They want me to find what they found but on my own. It is simply coming to terms with what you do and don’t agree with and forming your own path.
What are some of the best lessons you learned from our parents?
Perseverance: My parents didn’t always have it easy, and they certainly never had a lot of money, but I also never felt deprived because we had a lot of love and hope in this family. I knew that no matter what happened that we were going to be OK because our parents never gave up. In both bad and good times they kept pushing through and they put the family first.
Respect: Watching my parents interact with people and treat everyone with respect. I appreciated that my parents never judged people but accepted people as they were. They were never forcing people to be someone else, they were just loving them as they could, as they were.
Empathy: Both of my parents have a huge heart and feel for other people. You want someone to know that they matter, and when you send them something, or say something it isn’t transactional. It isn’t about what you get back. It is about honestly feeling something and wanting them to know you are there for them in whatever capacity you can be. They do not care what anyone can do for them, they never even think about it.
What is one of the best lessons you learned to do differently than our parents?
I think I appreciated the fact that my parents gave me such a wonderful childhood even though we had so little, but in turn I don’t want money to stress me out as much as it did them. I try to live in a moment, which may not always be the most responsible, but I don't want to worry about money to the point that I can't relax - so probably go to the opposite end of the scale.
What is your best parenting advice?
Sometimes your kids find your vibrators and that is OK. (Laughs out loud)
You shouldn't go in to parenting with unrealistic expectations and you don’t know what you are going to do when you get there. So don’t be harsh on yourself. You think you will do things one way but end up doing it another and that is fine, you are learning as you go.
If you can parent and can somehow maintain yourself that is most important. You still need to be you. Your kids are going to respect you the most if you are honest with yourself.
I was offered a job and the pay was more than I was making, I was so excited and you were like ‘nope you do not accept, you go back and negotiate regardless’. Can you give some insight in to that mindset because so many women have no idea they can do that.
I am lucky to be an industry that is very female driven. I have a lot of great mentors. When I told you that I was thinking back to a time when I was going to switch jobs. I talked with the VP of my company and she asked what they were offering and then said never take a promotion unless it is a 25% increase in pay, especially if you have proved yourself beyond entry level. I would feel lucky to get offers and I would talk to my mentors and they would say no, you aren’t lucky you are qualified.
They instilled in me that if a new company, or even your own company, really wants you then they expect you to take more time to think about things or to ask for leverage. So you start above where you want to be and you make them work with you. It is hard to find people and if they want you they will work for it. The worst they can say is no and then maybe that job isn’t for you and it helps you make a decision. Regret in not asking is far worse than just asking and seeing what they say.
Women have a tendency to settle for less and they aren’t as pushy but you have to know that you deserve it. Having those female mentors helped me feel confident in doing that from job to job.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I like to think of myself as someone who people feel comfortable coming to whether it’s for advice or because they want to learn from my experience. I can work with almost anyone. I can read a room and then determine how I can best interact, which makes me collaborative. How can I give people information that will make them better? How can I help people grow in confidence? I want every person to feel important, regardless of level, and to help them develop their drive.
I think you and I get that from our dad. Our dad can go in to a room, no matter how fractured it may be, and he is open, listening, and ready to moderate. He won’t throw opinions. He wants you to feel comfortable and share your perspective. Then he is able to find a vision that leads to success without injury or hurt feelings of other people.
What are some of the qualities that have elevated you in your career?
I think the qualities above make me someone people want to work with. And some people may see them as ‘soft’ but I don’t think that is true. The people that work with you understand your value and respect that type of leadership. They know where the lines are, but they respect what you do and value your input. And I think that respect helps you eventually move up. They are qualities that are different then what might be a ‘societal norm’ of being powerful with no regards for other people’s feelings, but I think less and less people respond or thrive in that kind of work place.
What is your best advice for when something in your career completely fails?
You learn through the hard times but it is not a fun thing. You learn how to avoid certain pit falls and how not to do certain things again. It is life. It isn’t a bad thing, it will make you better. Once again that doesn’t make it easy but it doesn’t make it the end of the world.
When you mess something up and you get called out on it, that day sucks, BUT you learn through it and you won’t do it again. It also about taking whatever happens and being able to take responsibility and learn from it.
Everyone finds their self-worth in different places and it is OK if it is at work. If that is the case when you fail at that it can feel really terrible, but you have to remember that you are more than just your career.
What is your best advice for anyone trying to make a change in their career?
Don’t be scared, don’t doubt yourself, just do it.
My dad changed jobs a few times throughout our childhood and the one thing I learned from that is if I get to point where I feel unmotivated all the time or feel negative all the time, then take the risk if you can and change it.
Also therapy is something everyone should do when you are making life changes, it really helps. It is nice to have an objective, outside perspective who is not going to judge you and your feelings. You hide certain aspects of yourself with people you know because you know how they may react. But with a therapist you can say exactly how you feel and not worry about their response to it.
What do you like most about me? What annoys you the most?
Likes most: Zero things (she laughs as she says this) I do appreciate that you can talk to me about anything. I value your opinion because you know me better than anyone. I appreciate that we have this relationship where we trust each other with everything. You won’t coddle me.
I also like that you are fun, and that we like to dance and appreciate similar clothing (some people call it "small", I call it fitted and body confident :)
Annoys most: When you are self-conscious about your body, I never could understand, and it would make me so mad, I get it, BUT REALLY?!? Have you seen your body? It's amazing. If I had those boobs and that backside.... well...I don't! ha ha. But I'm jealous either way.
You see the world in black and white compared to what I see. You have opinions and are steadfast about what you believe. You don’t play both sides, you make up your mind and you tell your opinion. You make a decision and then you tell me it. It can be difficult because we think differently, but it also something I value because we are different in that way.
If your life had a theme song what would it be?
I Want It That Way Backstreet Boys
Favorite place to do a girls weekend?
Las Vegas or New York City
Who drops it low better you or me?
I think you drop it low better. Do I even drop it low? I think I get stuck because of my knees. I mean I got moves. But you know how to work the twerk. I am in the endless pursuit of twerking.
That said, while you may be able to drop it low... I can do the splits. So there.