Insecurities are never pleasant, especially when your insecurities are called out and highlighted by others. However, I’m excited to share how I turned my insecurities and a negative experience into something positive.
Those of you who know me personally may have heard my story that I have struggled with my weight throughout my life. It has been something that has haunted me for many years and has shaped me into the person I am today.
This past summer, a Lululemon store at the Devonshire Mall in Windsor, Ontario, transformed a negative experience into a positive one. To give some context, I recently lost a tremendous amount of weight and was looking to purchase some workout clothes to wear in the summer because nothing in my closet fit anymore. Because my weight has consistently fluctuated throughout my life, I struggle to look at myself and see my actual body size objectively.
When I was trying on a few different options, I felt lost. I hadn’t been this size in over six years and needed some reassurance and opinions from others on which shorts looked the best on me. The sales clerks were wonderful and supportive and were quick to share their thoughts and feedback. I had explicitly connected with one of the employees on a deeper level. I shared with her the struggles I had gone through and my insecurities regarding my body image. She also shared with me about her weight gain after giving birth. She related and connected with me from the heart, so her words held more weight than a regular compliment. She understood where I was coming from and genuinely wanted to support me in any way she could.
As I was waiting in line to buy these shorts, I began making small talk regarding Lululemon sizing and body positivity with other customers. We began discussing how great it was that Lululemon plus sizes existed. Sizes now range from sizes 0-20. Lululemon’s extended size range to a size 20 allows them to serve individuals of various body types. And as all of us were complimenting Lululemon’s inclusivity in their size offerings and size ranges, I started sharing a story that had happened to me in the past.
Years ago, I was speaking in Mexico at a Fitness Resort and Spa. During the day, I’d be presenting in business clothes, but off-hours, I’d be working out at the fitness resort. As I was on my downtime one day, working out and wearing my Lululemon pants, a woman came up to me and said,” Oh my God, I can’t believe they make Lululemon that big, my sister is just about as fat as you. What size are you wearing?”
To give context, I was much heavier back then and did not fit perfectly into my Lululemon pants. But because Lululemon pants stretch, I was able to squeeze into them. I was also extremely self-conscious and insecure about my weight, so that comment crushed me and my self-esteem.
Here I am at one of the most prestigious fitness and spa resorts in the world, and all I wanted to do after that woman made her comment was go home. All I could say to that woman at the moment was that I was wearing a size 12 and walked away with my tail between my legs.
Later that day, I went for a hike and kept ruminating about what had just happened. One of the key lessons I teach my clients suddenly came into my mind where if you don’t learn the lesson that life is trying to teach you, it’ll follow you. I knew I couldn’t just leave my conversation with that woman where it was – I had to finish it. I had to say something to her; I was not about to let her rude comment ruin my stay at the resort.
The next day, I found the woman, and I used a communication model that I teach in my leadership classes. I stated, “When you said, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe they make Lululemon that big, my sister is just about as fat as you. What size are you wearing?’ I felt hurt, and what I’d like you to do in the future is to know the impact of your words.”
This communication technique is adapted from Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication Process model, which teaches you how to express and present what really matters in any given situation without the use of guilt, humiliation, shame, blame, coercion, or threats. The approach looks like this:
- You recap what you observed the other person do,
- Then, you state your feelings on how their actions impacted you and
- Finally, you request what you’d like them to do in the future
This way, the other individual can understand your perspective, how much it affected you, and how you’d like them to change. After I stated how I felt, ultimately, all the woman ended up saying was, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry! You’ve got such a pretty face,…” blah, blah, blah. But it didn’t matter to me anymore what she said. What mattered was that I spoke up for the wounded child inside me.
Anyways, I shared that story while I was in line at Lululemon. All of a sudden, the manager, whose name is Bree, comes over and says, “Can I have your purchases?” I was confused and told her that I already paid for them. She said, “No, we’re going to do something for you today. I am so sorry for that negative experience in your life, and I wanted to turn it into something positive.” She ended up returning, crediting me, and bought me one pair of the shorts I had just purchased.
Whenever I’m teaching others about emotional intelligence and how to assert themselves respectfully and non-offensively, I share that story about the woman at the resort. Not only did that experience teach me to put my emotions aside and share how I’m feeling respectfully, but I now use that painful story as a lesson for others. When you encounter a negative experience in your life, consider how you can turn it around into not only a life lesson for you but one that can influence many. While it was, and still is, a difficult experience for me, I also see it as a personal triumph.
In hindsight, at the end of the day, I see this experience as a win for all. It is a win for Lululemon to include more body types, shapes, and sizes into their inventory. It is a win for my clients; they get to hear a relevant and real story teaching them how to be bigger than their emotions and respectfully share how they feel when in uncomfortable situations. And it was a win for me as I learned how to stand up for myself and speak my truth. On top of all of that, I got gifted a pair of shorts to boot! Thank you, Lululemon.
What is a negative experience you’ve had in your career? How do you view that incident today, and what have you learned from it?
If you need further support on leading people through difficult situations, book a call with me here; I’d love to listen and provide support in any way I can.
Or learn more about working through difficult times through our Enhancing Your Emotional Resilience keynote or about developing your communication skills through our Communicating with an Impact keynote.