When I first started my career as a businesswoman, I was raising a son alone, totally broke, driving a long daily commute, and choosing a positive attitude was not easy. I didn’t feel I had much going for me. I often looked around at the successful executives as I swiftly walked from the parking garage to the banks of elevators and felt my life couldn’t be more different than theirs. I was nineteen and coming out of an abusive marriage. I was a divorced, single mom receiving no child support, with no help from either family in watching my son, and working two jobs to pay my bills. I forced myself to smile. One day, an advisor in my office, Norm, asked me, “With everything going on, how do you stay so positive?” I looked at him and mustered, “Staying positive is a choice.” Not only is staying positive a choice, but choosing a positive attitude is the answer to everything.
As a woman in a male-dominated field, I knew I faced more challenges than my male counterparts. I had to give it everything I had, which wasn’t a lot. Outside of honesty and a willingness to learn and work hard, I had a positive attitude that I worked hard to perfect. Of course I had negative feelings about my situation, but I refused to let them define my life. I knew if I didn’t maintain my positive attitude, I might fall apart. So to some degree, I faked it. If you can pull out a positive attitude in the midst of chaos, people will wonder what you’ve been up to and want some too.
We’ve been told bottling up feelings can lead to health issues such as muscle tension, high blood pressure, hormone imbalances, insomnia, and low self-esteem—none of which any of us can afford to entertain for long. Denying feelings is unhealthy—but we can’t allow them to cripple us, ruining our lives and relationships. But maintaining a positive attitude does not require you to neglect your emotions. It simply requires a more mindful approach to the way we react toward those countless inputs. It requires us to make that mental shift—to step back when we feel ourselves becoming frustrated and ask ourselves, Is this the most productive way to manage this emotion right now? Can this wait?
No fairy godmother will make your dreams of success come true. That’s something you must do for yourself, and it’s something you must strive for.
Marja Norris is the CEO and Founder of MarjaNorris.com, a company dedicated to helping women achieve their career goals with style and confidence. With a distinguished career in finance, Marja has successfully navigated the male-dominated business world. Working her way up from an entry-level assistant to a Senior Vice President, she draws on her three decades of experience in the corporate world to empower women to pursue their highest goals and blossom into everything they can be.
Marja is passionate about coaching women on projecting their best professional selves. With the publication of her latest book, The Unspoken Code: A Businesswoman’s No-Nonsense Guide to Making It in the Corporate World, Marja’s mission is to provide women with the tools to successfully navigate the workplace through heightened confidence, excellent communication skills, and dressing the part to achieve career success.