Zen and the Art of Walking in Stripper Heels

(I‘m the one grinning stupidly with a little trophy)


What did it take to silence my inner critic? 5 layers of thick browny orange tan, a small rhinestone bikini, and a pair of Perspex stiletto heels.

How the heck does that relate to a career in advertising? Read on my friend, read on.

After a pretty successful career as a creative, I was headhunted from a dream job to come to an agency in America. It seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I figured, why not?

6 months later, I was working til 2am every morning (usually 7 days a week) and was miserable. My confidence had taken a hit and it seemed my sunny American dreams were turning into a nightmare. Add to that, my waistline had grown. Late nights and an endless supply of candy meant I felt awful, inside and out.

Something had to change. My inner critic was reminding me of this on a daily basis (in-between saying some pretty awful stuff).

That’s when I decided to tell her to shut up…and strip off.

So what did I do?

Set a big hairy, scary, audacious goal.

Yours might be asking for a pay rise next review.

Mine was Ms Muscle Beach- a body sculpting competition at Venice’s famous Muscle Beach on July 4. It meant being in the best shape of my life, and going the furthest out of my comfort zone I’d even been. The scariest part? It wasn’t finding the muscles, it was the concept of teetering across a stage in ridiculous stiletto heels (when I live in gym shoes 24/7)

Find someone who believes in you more than you believe in yourself.

It’s easiest to tell your inner critic where to go when you have a cheerleader or mentor in your corner. Someone who reminds you what you’re capable of, even when you’re not capable of reminding yourself. Mine was my posing coach. Yes, there’s such a thing. Because as well as tottering around on pointy Perspex heels, you also have to be able to strike strong poses to display every hard earned muscle to the show judges. And boy did I need some help.

Practice practice practice.

That might mean a mantra you repeat every morning to remind yourself you are talented and worth the pay grade you’ve decided to ask for.  For me, it meant practicing my poses for an hour every day. It meant wearing my ridiculous heels round the house, walking the dog and brushing my teeth. And it was my coach making me walk the outdoor stage a week before the show- in my bikini at 8am on a Sunday morning, inadvertently gathering a small crowd of bewildered tourists and a couple of homeless gentlemen.

Fake it to make it.

The big day arrived. Yours could be a big pitch, a presentation to your bosses, a public speaking event or a pay review.

Mine was the competition. I was shaking like a leaf (a bright orange rhinestone covered leaf mind you). But I did what I’d practiced. Put my head up, my shoulders back, and walked like a boss onto the stage.

It scared the bejeebies out of me, but it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I told my inner critic to shut her mouth, I discovered an appreciation for heels (despite the fact I still live in trainers) and most importantly, every time I need to stand up for myself or present in front of a big group, advertising doesn’t seem so scary. For a start, I’m wearing clothes.