I was 15 when I began working part-time with my dad as a studio electrician in the film industry. I would leave school early and earn my work credits. No one really bothered me since I was still in high school and my dad was there. But as I grew older there were a few instances where there were inappropriate teasing about my body by some of my fellow male crew members, which, of course was uncomfortable.

Own Your Strength Small PicDuring my last few months of high school I gained 60 lbs in 2 months due to thyroid issues, which only added to everything else I was dealing with as a young adult. After I graduated from high school I began working full time with him and was put in charge of our crew. I didn’t feel great about myself but I did notice I felt more comfortable at work because I had put on the extra weight. I didn’t feel like I had that pressure of “needing” to be pretty anymore, I could just be one of the guys. Being in charge of men twice my age wasn’t awkward while being 1 of 6 women in a union of 3,000 men. I was in charge because I knew my stuff. Not because my dad worked there and I definitely didn’t sleep my way there, but those are comments I heard when I was a “normal” weight. When I excelled at a job, I felt that some didn’t think it was simply because I worked hard.

So when I gained all of that weight I felt comfortable because it was easier for me to discount people’s compliments, “sleep to the top” remarks, or if someone was to make a pass I could let it roll off like it was a joke. Who would be hitting on the fat girl? You almost never hear people talking bad about fat women in an authority position of sleeping their way to the top, but you probably would if she was fit.

So why did I leave my seven year career in the film industry when I had a great position, was paid well, and got free food all day? Being broadsided, one mile from home while on my way to the gym at 10 o’clock at night, left me with major nerve damage. I was kicked out of my union because I wasn’t able to pay my bills while on disability. Mind you I was in physical therapy or the chiropractor 5 days a week. I’m sure you’ve heard that it’s “who you know” in the film industry. Being 1 of 6 women (1 of 3 who actually worked in our union) wasn’t an easy spot to get to. I had to put in twice the amount of work to prove myself, and earn being called for the next job. Granted, the union provided great brotherhood – when one of the guys was injured, there was often, “Here brother, let me help you out” from the other crew members. When it came to women asking for help due to an injury, there was more likely to be comments like “drama queen” or “it must be that time of the month”.

When I tried to go back to work and found I was unable physically to do my job is when I bowed out. How could I continue to work if I had to ask for help all the time? Why didn’t I feel confident enough to ask for help even though I knew I needed it? How am I going to be the one that gets the call for the next job if I always needed help? This lead to a four year lawsuit with my insurance company for loss of wages. Every time I went into a deposition I had to explain over and over how the industry worked and how a 20 something girl was in charge of men more than twice her age. They couldn’t believe it – couldn’t wrap their heads around it. I was tired of having to prove myself and it was starting to wear down my belief in myself.

Things didn’t change much when I went into the food industry. I started out as a cocktail waitress and soon after added on a second job as a coffee shop waitress. It was a hard transition going from being in charge and making around $30/hour to less than $7/hour plus meager tips. Boy was I surprised how horrible and rude some people treated waitresses. In the film industry I actually had people to back me up. But as a waitress, if you told the manager you’re having problems with a customer, they tell you to deal with it or the customers are always right. Since tips are where you get the majority of money from you either talk back and get very little tip or sit there and take the gross comments and/or their rude behavior so you don’t get stiffed.

I eventually ended up changing from the coffee shop to a new family owned restaurant that was starting up. I decided I wanted to have the opportunity to make more than minimum wage and put myself through culinary school, and graduated with honors, while working full time in the restaurant. I was given the opportunity to create recipes, taught myself to program the POS systems, and set up systems and training manuals. So after I proved myself again, I was promoted and I was loving it. It was a great work atmosphere minus the one guy that had major issues with having a woman for a boss, but boy did that help me find my set of balls! Talk about hostile work environment. This guy brought in such negative energy and tension you could cut through it with a knife! Of course I was not given the green light to fire him in those terms. I was pregnant at the time, but I stood my ground, dug in deep, and I eventually won the battle.

After that store had a very sad closing due to the recession I thought I should go somewhere more stable since I had a little one to care for now, and I ended up at a corporate restaurant. Corporate was the worst, but taught me a lot of lessons. At this particular job I was required to start at the bottom again, regardless of my experience. I started as a hostess/cashier and moved my way up to manager pretty fast. This time I was discriminated against by our district manager – another woman. They fired our GM and never replaced her. Neither of the other managers that were there stepped up to take over, so I did. Every time the district manager would come in she would try to tear me down for something. When I asked why I was getting paid less than the men that I was training, who had less experience, she started transferring me to other locations all over the place.

There were a couple restaurants after that. I spent 10 years in the food service industry, both at the top and bottom. All with the same type of problems and stereotypes.  Doing more work, putting in more hours, and getting paid less. Expecting that women weren’t capable handle the work.Own Your Strength Quote

I have now been in multiple industries where men typically prevail and stood my ground and then some, but still only felt comfortable while overweight. Each time I would reach a healthy and fit size I would start to get compliments and people treated me differently. It wasn’t bad the way they were treating me but it didn’t seem sincere. I wasn’t looking for hand-outs just because I looked better than before, and it made me extremely uncomfortable when those situations would come up. So every time I finally got fit and healthy, within 2 months I had managed to self sabotage myself back to an unhealthy size. A size where I felt comfortable, where I could act like one of the guys and be taken seriously. I still battle with this. Right at this moment actually.

For years this has stopped me from applying for jobs and going after my dreams. Because I was fatter than the other people there, or inappropriate comments would happen if I worked there while I was fit. It was much easier to advance and be recognized for my work without my looks being mentioned. How could I let how people reacted to my weight and looks define the path of my career?

I was so happy to be a part of the first group of the Rock Your Curves Movement. Loving yourself whatever size is really the key. Even when I was fit I didn’t know how to love myself or even talk positive to myself for that matter.

What I’ve learned – and I wish I had learned it much earlier in my life –  is that the only one putting limitations on what I did and how I felt was me. It only matters what you think and believe about yourself. Sometimes things happen for a reason, to show you a part of yourself that you didn’t know existed. I’ve also learned that it’s not vain to love yourself, it’s necessary. When you do, all this other junk about what others think or say becomes just another drop in the pond of things that don’t matter.

Sofia Bishop

Sofia Bishop, aka: “Shrinking Sophia”, is an entrepreneur on a mission to help people get their lives back while being successful in business. Coming from life experiences such as loosing a great career due to a car accident, working jobs that kept her away from her kids and family, and battling health and weight issues along the way, she has found a way to combine her love of helping people and her love of being her own boss to help others live their lives on their own terms . Her willingness to learn and share that knowledge with others is a driving force in her journey.

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