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014 | Professionalism

Updated: Jan 3, 2022


Hey, hey, hey. You're listening to Souls Undressed. This is episode 14 + I'm your host, Tori Rankovich. Today's episode is diving into professionalism.

What is it anyway? How do we define it? How does it impact us? Where does it apply? How does is fit into our day to day norms and expectations? How does it differ to person to person, or job type to job type, or lifestyle to lifestyle?

Today's quote is one by an author who is unknown. It's a quote that after you hear the topic you might not feel connects very closely with professionalism specifically, but for my personal journey with professionalism + it's expectations that come along with it, it applies + hits really close to home.

So without further ado, I'm going to read that to you.

"Somewhere there's a past you, overflowing with so much pride, looking at how far you've come." - Unknown

I choose that quote because the idea of professionalism use to cause me to have a lot of self doubt + use to really underline how little I felt like I fit in with my surroundings. It became an scapegoat for me noticing how much I didn't feel like I fit in. So maybe I gave professionalism a worse name in my head then other people might, but it was kind of the tell tale sign for me that I wasn't really in an environment that meshed really well with who I was as a person, as a human.

I read a quote last week that was in a meme on Facebook. It talked about encouraging women to normalize the fact that their make up, or whether or not they were wearing any, should not have an impact on how professional they were considered or how professional they felt. I think that also applies very closely with this episode too.

This episode today is going to cover + talk about to the ways we're taught to be professional or presentable by arbitrary norms, patriarchal standards, + pressure from our elders or other white collar type settings + commentary. If your life is anything like mine, it's been my whole life.

Before we dive to far into it, I did want to talk about some definitions of the kind of verbiage that I'm going to be using so that I can hopefully put us on the same page. By arbitrary norms, I mean norms or common practices based on random choice or personal whim. So when I say we're taught ways to be professional or presentable by arbitrary norms I'm sayings these things that are considered presentable or professional that we were taught as young children. That are sometimes often carried into adulthood just as random choice, personal choice, or preference that said, "This is considered professional."

For example, there is no reason to me why in particular settings closed toed shoes are considered professional. There are certain settings that closed toed shoes are considered safer + better for the type of settings or the type of activities that are taking place. I'm not sure why that was ever something that was considered professional. We all have toes, we all have toe nails, some people's are painted, + some people's aren't, some people get pedicures + some people don't, but I don't know the last time my toes impacted my ability to do a job.

The definition of patriarchal standards is standards or norms governed by or catered to men. So patriarchy in itself is referring to men. Right away the first thing that comes to mind is the dress code at schools.

White collar commentary would be comments made by one who works in an office or other professional environments. The white collar setting is considered an office other professional environments. All these definitions are by the New Oxford American Dictionary with little spoken details by me.

The definition of professional, which I think is important for our last definition, is to be engaged in a specified activity as ones paid occupation rather than as a past time. So if we look at the definition of white collar commentary, which is comments made by one who works in an office or other professional environments, but the definition of professional itself is any engagement or activity that someone is paid for that's not just a hobby or past time. I think that it's relevant in considering the way we use the term professionalism in the way that we have in white America crafted this made up definition or ideal around professionalism to be formed around this white collar standard, because that is what is taught to be professional when really professionalism is just doing something to make money for it.

I don't know about you, but I can think of a couple hundred different ways to make money + the fact that doing that as a profession is going to look + require different things from different people + different settings are going to require different norms + different standards from different people. I thinks if we really think about different norms, rules, + standards we can think about the ways those really are created by, crafted by or catered to one particular type of population. It's a different population in all the different settings, but I think it is important for us to think about.

Without further ado, lets dive right in.


Alright, alright. Thank you for staying for my spiel and definitions, first of all. I think that's super important before we dive into something as opinionated as this topic. I want us to have as much chance as being on the same page + having a ground basis for understanding.

I'm going to list them off some ways that I was taught or have been taught to act, behave, or think in order to be professional or presentable + I want you to pay attention to see if you catch yourself nodding or having been taught those things or having even expected those things out of others. Have styled hair. Wear tank tops that didn't show to much skin. Talk quietly. Be nice (aka complacent). Wear close toed shoes. Most of what I'm about to list has to do with teaching. Wear make-up. Smile a lot. Don't smile too much. Don't miss any work. Be informed. Don't ask too many questions.Don't wear jeans that aren't nice. Stay out of bars. Drink in private. Don't do drugs. Get medicated. Don't complain. Be a yes man. Be early. Be eager.

I don't know about you, but a variety of those expectations that have been taught to me over time to be, act, or think professionally are extremely arbitrary. Meaning, that they're extremely randomly chosen, decided on, set as preference, + as standard. A lot of them cater to one specific type of lifestyle + they try to morph other lifestyles into that particular view.

From so early on we're taught that we're not good enough as is to be presentable. Which I think lays intensely early learning blocks for us to believe that we must be adjusted, or minimized, or behaved to be good enough or worthy enough of being in public or even going to school. If you have long hair it must be brushed. If it's warm at school your shoulders must not show or boys will be distracted durning class.

I want you think about that. It has not been that long since it was us in school. Our kids in school are still taught this through these rules + expectations put on them through the school dress code + through things that follow that type of mindset. You're 5, 6, + 7 years old when you're going to school + you're being taught that you're tank top straps must be thick enough to cover another inch of your shoulder so that your shoulder skin isn't distracting to others in class. You are taught that as you are + as you come is too much or must be covered up to be accepted.

I also want us to think about when we tell people to be nice or to be quiet. We're usually really telling kids + expecting adults that to be desirable they have to be passive, silent and complacent. When you tell someone to be nice to someone on the playground who has been mean to them, you're telling them to be complacent with the disrespect their receiving. That they should be nice regardless of the way that someones actions, feelings, words or insinuations are making them feel.

We're teaching kids from, so early on that in order to be accepted, desirable, good enough, presentable that you have to accept whats given to you so you don't ruffle feathers. Early, early, early on. Just think about they way that morphs into adulthood. As adults that looks like a whole generation of human beings who struggle with healthy conflict. By design people, especially women, who believe to have a seat at the table they must be agreeable + happy always. You'll be considered crazy, demanding, bitchy, have an attitude, stuck up, snobby, being a suck up, asking too many questions, and being nosey. There are so many different words, titles, labels that can be + will be put on a variety of different populations if they are not looking nice, being quiet, acting polite aka being complacent.

Different teaching expectations that were given to me, spoken + unspoken, I've said before the closed toed shoes, the make-up, the hair being done, as considered as being presentable. Can you tell me the last time your English teacher's presence of under eye concealer, mascara, + curled hair helped you learn about, "The Ilian and the Odyssey"? I don't think so. Yet in order to be presentable we have to look nice.

What professionalism looks like to me now in general is transparency, it's taking the time needed it be my best. I am failing my clients if I am half assing things. Dressing comfortably + appropriately for the setting. Progressional at your kids' beach shoot or at your natural session, outdoors in the freakin woods, or running around in the mud is not going to be a nice outfit. It's not gonna be something I would wear to your wedding. It's going to be something I can move around in + not overheat in when I'm running around for 60-90 minutes straight chasing you around while I make you sweat also. But that's different from shoot to shoot.

Another thing I've said about my professionalism is that after your experience with me, after the entire process from start to finish + you get your photos back, if all of that happens + you still remember what I wore to your session, I did not do my job well. I've failed you. So I want to think about from that perspective too. Where our importance is lying when we talk about what we're wearing versus what we're providing, what we're creating, what we're following through on.

Communication that is safe, open, clear, + constantly encouraged. Honesty + accuracy, along with transparency + communication; but this is where the elite professionalism characteristics comes in. Where it makes everything come together. Being able to say, "Hey, my timeline was off + I'm a little late; I got this going on." Or, "Hey, this timeline window is between this many days + this many days." Or, "Hey, how are you feeling? I want to make sure you know you've got my number + you can send me a text at any time.... give me a call at any time; I'm here to help you." Making sure things are honest, transparent, + that communication is always encouraged.

The ways that I was spoken to before becoming my own boss led me to believe that my mental health + having access to what made me the best at my job were less important than any other task. That, to me, is where the idea of professionalism becomes toxic. Yes, we are professionals. Yes, we are business people. Yes, we are entrepreneurs, managers, employees, specialists, + what not. But, we're also human beings. Humans who have to wake up every day + live our life from day to day + be able to muster ourselves up out of bed + get one foot in front of the other to go live an entire day + decide what it is that we want to do with our lives.

We have to realize that it is a hot ass load of crap to believe that there are other tasks more important then your mental health... + your boss doesn't have to say, "these tasks are more important than your mental health," to imply that. You can not be unwhole + professional at the same time. You can't do it. It was stated to me before I began teaching, that any day of work that I missed was a day of education that my class was never going to get back. I think in one perspective that sounds, potentially, accurate. On the other hand, it passes off super dangerous + unhealthy message. What that said to me + probably other people in the group that heard it, and the ones who heard it before me, is that what you have come here to do is more important you yourself.

I think that everybody at some point in their life wants to be apart of something bigger than themselves + everybody wants to contribute their skills + their knowledge to be able to add to a greater good. I think though, as soon as we allow that professionalism + *presentability* to overpower or to be over prioritized on top of our own personal well being, mental health, + individual comfortability, in a way that it will allow us to keep our momentum up rather than drag us down even further day to day. That has to be most important.

I think that, that specific comment itself really got to me, about missing a day of school and my students missing a day of education that they would never get back, because, there is a day of every month that I am in so much pain that it is physically excruciating + nearly mentally impossible to stand for extended periods of time over a few hours. So every month, I would wake up on a Thursday or Friday, + I would have just attempted to sleep through 4 to 5 hours of pain before my alarms went off. I would then go to work to a job where I would stand all day long + every 84 minutes I would rotate to another classroom + I would walk from one end of the building to the next. I would do so in a quick manner to get there before passing period ended + then continue to service each student individually in my classroom.

I was forced to face the decision to take care my own physical, mental,+ emotional needs because it's extremely terrible on my mental state when I'm trying to balance out my own physical needs versus my students needs. I had to decide then what was more important: a day of education every month that my all of my students "were never going to get back" or taking care of myself so then the following day of school I was able to be there for them. I had to decide what to sacrifice. Every single time I had to make the decision to put myself + my own physical, mental, emotional needs first, I felt like I was doing so much harm to my students because I had been lead to believe that in order to be professional + to be wholesome at my job for them, I had to put aside everything for them. If I was doing anything other than that I wasn't doing enough.

I think that we underestimate what that does to people's psyche. What it does to their decision making abilities, their own levels of self doubt, the way that they view + criticize + perceive themselves + the world around them. I think that as soon a professionalism suggests self sacrificing in the name of being presentable we're doing something wrong. Do I think we have to set aside preferences, or that we have to set aside leisurely things, or different preferences over certain needs? Do I think that that is wrong? No. But I think that we as a society have a broken perception of professionalism. It's because of the ways + the people who taught it + passed it down to us.

I'm hoping that someone who is responsible for setting professionalism norms somewhere is reading, + that this can cause you to go inwards + think about what it is that professionalism means to you. What standards + moral priorities are priorities to you. If you're building is 85 degrees on a normal day because the infrastructure just isn't that great all together, is it necessary to have a pants only dress code or a shoulders covered only dress code?

We really should be thinking about what we're passing down to our children as what's expected of them to be good enough... to be presentable. It really puts a messed up perception onto them of what they need to do in the future as they get older to be desirable + presentable to other people. We have a lot of women + men who don't feel good enough as they are because they've been criticized, critiqued, or adjusted every time they ever did something... Then told they were better now than they were before.

I really have had this topic on my heart since being in a more professional-- see? Even there the way I use it-- in that different type of school setting. It really has been special to me to get to navigate where my morals lie + what professionalism is to me as far as being my own boss, having a business that has standards that need to be set, morals that are followed + stuck to. It's really special being able to share this difference in perspective with you.

If this episode connects with you, + you have experiences with different expectations from professionalism or you grew up on different belief systems that made you feel like you had to be, act, or think certain way to be enough, to fit in, or be presentable, I would love to hear about it. I love talking more in depth + having deeper conversations about these topics with you guys. It's exactly why I created this podcast in the first place.

You can find me on Facebook on the The Souls Undressed Podcast Community + on Instagram at Souls Undressed Podcast. You can also leave a review on Apple Podcast + I choose winners from there sporadically who receive a goodie from me just for being apart of this community + taking the time to share your thought son these episodes with other potential listeners. You make it easier for everybody to get an idea what to expect from this little corner of the listening world. Thank you so much for being here. I can not wait to talk more with you next Sunday. I hope that we talk soon but until then I hope you have a great week. Love you guys.

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