A reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, asks: I am a 35-year-old Asian woman, weighing 65kg. I am working as a secretary in a consulting firm in Abu Dhabi for the last two years.
I am writing this following a recent conversation with my boss regarding hiring a new secretary as a replacement to the one who is leaving the company. The boss told me that he needs someone who has a pretty face and he told me, on my face, that he is suffering too much from me.
I know that they are not suffering due to my work... it was an indirect statement at my looks and I admit it, but I am not that bad looking. He (the boss) even told me that the company is looking for someone who has a pretty face.
Now, this bothers me so much, I don't know if I still have to continue working or find another job. I was really hurt and I feel like they are retaining me because I am familiar to everybody here and knows everything about administration support. But there is always the fear that some pretty face would come in and get familiarized with the work and I would be kicked out.
My confidence level is sinking and I keep wondering why am I not blessed with good looks. I am pressured and stressed and I keep coming to the conclusion that good looks are important than job performance.
Please advise me, what should I do? I'm a woman who doesn't like too much of make-up and am not very fashionable.
I badly need your advise.
Carey Kirk (M.Ed, Counseling Psychologist at The LightHouse Arabia, Dubai) replies: It is never a good feeling when we believe we are being undervalued and unappreciated in our workplace. I understand feeling really hurt in this situation and the reaction of bother you are experiencing sounds to come from a conflict between your values (eg: people should be appreciated for and judged on their hard work) and the values being expressed by people in your workplace (eg: attractiveness is more important than knowledge and effort).
For many adults today, work is where we spend a majority of our time and how we feel in this environment can have a huge influence on how we feel about our life in general. No one deserves to be in a work environment that makes them feel bad about themselves and less than other people. From your letter, it sounds as though this is how you feel in your work environment. You do not deserve this treatment and, if situations do not change, it sounds as though it would be best for you to find a work environment in which you could feel safer, appreciated, and valued for who you are and the work you do.
When it comes to looks, whatever standards of attractiveness you feel you do or do not meet ultimately do not matter. What matters in day-to-day life is how you take care of yourself. While a person doesn't have to be into fashion or wear make-up in order to care for and take pride in their appearance, it is important to be well-groomed in professional settings. This includes wearing clean and neat clothing that fits and suits your body type as well as keeping hair maintained and taking steps to be healthy.
Being well-groomed is important in professional settings because it sends a message to those around you that you value and care about yourself. This message then influences how other people around you will see and treat you. I want to be clear that regardless of how you treat yourself – it is not excusable or ok for anyone else to treat you with disrespect. However, how we treat ourselves often serves as a guide for others.
- I would like for you to take some time right now to consider how you treat yourself and your appearance.
- Do you wear clothes that suit and fit you or do you just throw whatever on with little thought to how you look?
- Do you keep your hair and nails maintained in a way that you feel suits you and enhances your features or do you not care?
- The reason I encourage you to ask yourself these questions is not for vanity’s sake or to look good for anyone else. What I would like for you to consider is whether or not you feel you are worth the effort. At the most fundamental level, taking care of ourselves and our appearance comes down to our sense of self-worth. Do you respect and value yourself enough to take care of yourself?
If you answered no, my next recommendation would be to ask yourself “why not?” What makes you not worthy of your own respect and care? Sometimes we can work through these types of questions on our own. Other times, we may need the help of a professional such as a licensed counselor of psychologist.
Whatever the case may be for you, I hope that you can find a safe and fulfilling workplace and realize that you are worth respect and care – from others but most of all from yourself.
Disclaimer: This blog is a conversation and is not an alternative for treatment. The recommendations and suggestions offered by our panel of psychiatrists are their own and Gulf News will not take any responsibility for the advice they provide.