Marilyn Monroe was often cited as just a ‘ditzy’ blonde, but her personal library clearly demonstrates that couldn’t be further from the truth. Thankfully, she didn’t really spend time worrying about what other people thought of her: “I’ve never fooled anyone,” she once said. “I’ve let people fool themselves. They didn’t bother to find out who and what I was. Instead they would invent a character for me. I wouldn’t argue with them. They were obviously loving somebody I wasn’t.”
Not only was this woman whip-smart, she was confident and strategic – in short, she had everything we could want for our own careers. In fact, Monroe’s intelligence and wisdom can still be used today by any business woman who will listen, to glean advice and tips for breaking through your own glass ceiling goals. While we’ve probably all heard her quote about the right pair of shoes being a catalyst for a woman conquering the world, here we’ve collected a few of the lesser-known quotes – the ones that just might help you bring your business to the next level.
“I am not interested in money. I just want to be wonderful.”
Work needs to be about something more than just a paycheck. If you only work to make money, you’ll soon run out of inspiration and grow bored with your daily life. Monroe understood the importance of loving what you do and being wonderful at it. The money was secondary.
Obviously, a sustainable income is essential – but so is loving your job. “Loving your job creates an environment and mindset for you to be your best self,” says Cynthia Davies, Human Resources Director in Philadelphia. If you dislike your job, you are more apt to experience stress and anxiety not only while at work, but once you return home as well — and that’s definitely not sustainable.
People who feel work-related stress and anxiety also tend to become ill more often. “According to a study by the British Medical Journal, chronic stress has been linked to the development of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as other conditions,” says stress expert Elizabeth Scott.
If you want to stick with your career long term, you’ve got to love what you do.
“Fear is stupid. So are regrets.”
Many fears we deal with in our careers are completely legitimate – but we have to step out of our personal comfort zone in order to grow. Sometimes this means facing fears head on in order to overcome them.
Marla Genova, Hartford, Connecticut, has seen plenty of fear in her role as a Master Life Coach. Once paralyzed by fear, she now reaches out to others with social anxiety and fear of public speaking. “It’s my passion to reach and help others who are affected by anxiety the way that I was,” she says. She also understands how fear can be used to facilitate growth.
“Facing your fears is only temporary discomfort required to grow your business, compared to the everlasting regret of wondering what you could have achieved.” When you do make a mistake — and you will — it’s important to let it go. Learn from it, then let it go.
“Everybody is always tugging at you. They’d all like a sort of chunk out of you. I don’t think they realize it, but it’s like ‘grrr do this, grr do that….’ But you do want to stay intact and on two feet.”
Work and life tend to pull the modern woman in numerous directions. She is unfairly expected to be everything: a loving wife, a competent worker, a doting mother, and any number of other roles. Meanwhile, coworkers, spouses, children, and others continue to pull her in many directions, making it impossible to be that “wonderful” woman that Monroe speaks of.
“When people are pulling at me, I make sure to walk through my priorities,” says Emily Waters Britton-Arnold, entrepreneur in Peoria, IL. She admits that she tends to want to “make it work,” but has to honestly evaluate the situation in view of her goals to see if it corresponds to where she’s heading or detracts from it. “This causes lots of difficult ‘no’s’ in my life, but it’s how I must take care of me,” says Britton-Arnold. “At the end of the day, my priorities and my mental health are the things I must answer to, not the people I have to say no to.”
“I’ve been asked, ‘Do you mind living in a man’s world?’ I always answer, ‘Not as long as I can be a woman in it.’”
In 1950’s America, it was probably much more of a man’s world than one might perceive of today’s world, but as any working women will tell you – there are still problems. Women still don’t make as much as men in identical roles in the workforce, and brands even tend to charge more for products aimed at women (known as the ‘pink tax’).
“We receive so many subtle and not-so-subtle mixed messages about what it means to be a woman,” says Janette Levey Frisch, who is an employer/HR attorney in the New York City area. “Some of those messages are that women are not and cannot be valued in the same way as men, that the only way women can make valued contributions is as wife, sex symbol and/mother. Other times we are told that we can contribute in a valuable way if we behave like men.”
A 2015 study asked men what they thought of women who were smarter than they were. The research revealed that men certainly admire such women, but found that “[m]en are intimidated by women who outperform them — that it somehow dims their masculinity,” Andrea Syrtash, gender expert, told Good Morning America.
So can women really be themselves in the workplace without facing problems with the men around them?
“Whatever kind of world we live in, one point I do see in Marilyn Monroe’s statement suggests that every one of us has something priceless that we bring into this world, and we can really only truly do that by embracing, accepting and being who we are without apologizing for it,” says Frisch. “I am an attorney, a business owner, and a Jewish woman, wife, and mother. Whatever I may be fortunate to contribute to this world in my lifetime is because and not in spite of all of that.”
More Than Good Shoes
Being a successful woman in today’s workforce obviously requires more than a good pair of shoes. Face your fears; explore new areas without regret. Set your priorities based on your goals and stick to them, even if you have to say ‘no’ to something else. You cannot be everywhere at once, and you cannot be your best if you are spread too thin.
Marilyn knew more than most what it took to pursue success. No one will deny that it takes a lot of work, just remember not to make apologies for who you are. Be the best you that you can be. Be your wonderful self.
And yes: sometimes a good pair of shoes can help.
Laurie Esposito Harley is a freelance writer and mother of three who has written for organizations such as IBM, Monster, and CitiGroup. In her free time, Laurie enjoys writing and illustrating children’s poetry, as well as making animated poetic cartoons.