I was in tenth grade and halfway through the school year when I saw him for the first time. He had just moved from Seattle to Vancouver, walked like he was important and had these eyes that hid a million stories.
That’s all I knew about him, other than I’d never wanted to be noticed by another human so much in my life.
Nothing brings out every insecurity you have like wanting to get someone’s attention who you believe is out of your league. Of course my mind responded by quickly telling me all the reasons he wouldn’t care who I was.
And although that was high school, as we age that desire and the feelings that come with it never go away.
Whether it’s wanting to impress your boss for that promotion, differentiate your brand as an entrepreneur, develop a more engaged social media following or yes, get the classic hottie who just caught your eye, we all want to stand out and avoid that sinking feeling in our stomach when we don’t.
So here are 6 things you can do today to stand out in every situation.
1. Argue with yourself.
In order to stand out, before you do anything else on this list, you have to argue with those voices in your head that say, “Who are you to stand out?” or, “You’re not better than her, why would they notice you?”
Remind yourself that you’re valuable to others, and that you’re worth being recognized, appreciated and paid for your talents. Because no matter who we are, we all need those reminders more often than we’d like to admit.
You can employ all the strategy in the world but if you don’t believe you deserve to be noticed, neither will 98% of the people you meet. Sell yourself to you first.
2. Chase the intersection of talent, passion and fear.
The best way to stand out is to have a productive relationship with fear in a world where most people are paralyzed by it.
Fear is awesome because it hangs out with anything worth doing. So instead of stopping when we feel it, we need to chase it instead.
Don’t just chase any fear because that’ll have you doing things that scare you but get you nowhere. (I know I’m not the only one who’s done dumb stuff in the name of acting fearless…)
Instead, ask yourself what you’re good at. Then, from that list, what are you passionate about? Once you’ve found that, make a list of everything you’re scared to do in that area, and do it. Chase the fear you feel.
And don’t stop chasing until your fear of doing is replaced by your confidence in doing. Celebrate and repeat.
There’s no better way to stand out than to live a life people can use as inspiration.
3. Treat everyone like they’re famous.
“People will forget what you said and people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
When I was in college, I was the star of the basketball team. But when I got to the WNBA and sat the bench for the first time, there were people who felt like I wasn’t important enough anymore for special treatment. For me, noticing the difference was a hard realization that most of us go through life lacking validation from others.
It was at that point that I decided to treat every person I spoke to like people treated me when I was “famous.” And let me tell you, it works.
Everyone treats people they see as important like they’re important. But almost no one treats everyone else that way. So when you treat everyone as valuable, no matter who they are, you automatically stand out.
4. Take Initiative.
Everyone will tell you that hard work and success go hand in hand. But initiative is what separates the tired, burnt out employees from the founders and supervisors living their dreams. It’s not work.
One of the best examples I can give of this is from the movie Hidden Figures. (If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it).
The character, Dorothy Vaughn – played by Octavia Spencer – is an overworked and underpaid employee at NASA who discovers that a new machine will eventually replace her.
Instead of just waiting to get fired, she learned how to program the machine instead of do its job. After teaching her entire department to program also, she saved everyone’s job and was promoted to supervisor.
Dorothy didn’t work any harder than she’d already been working. What she did was see a need others didn’t, recognize the opportunity, and take the initiative to solve the problem.
Hard work focuses in the moment. Initiative looks forward. They’re both needed, but in an environment where everyone is working hard, initiative will always make you stand out.
5. Outshine your outfit.
I may get some push back on this one. But I don’t think we should ever wear anything that our personality and knowledge can’t outshine. Here’s why:
Anyone can go to the store and buy the flashiest thing on the rack. Anyone can go to Victoria’s Secret and buy instant cleavage. And anyone can dress in a way that will make people remember what she wore.
Few people can be memorable simply because of who they are and what they say. That should always be your goal because it will make you stand out in any room, no matter how rich and well put together others are.
We all love nice things and we all want to look pretty. But when it comes to what stands out in people’s minds after meeting you, who you are shouldn’t be competing with what you wore.
6. Show people who you are.
Living an authentic life is a long process made up of momentary choices. Every day, with each interaction – whether it’s in person, over the phone, through email or on social media – we have a choice to show people who we are or who we think they want to see.
The more often we choose the person we are, the more authentic we’ll be.
Here’s the thing. You don’t have to try to be different because you’re already different. You were created that way. All you have to do is show yourself.
It doesn’t mean falling apart or being weak. You don’t have to tell people everything, but what you do tell them in word and action has to be true.
One of my favorite quotes says, “Charisma is public self-acceptance.” And charisma stands out every time, everywhere.
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