I am a young woman of small build. I also give off the impression of being 'Ms Perfect' for the fact that I take care of my appearance and weight. I'm also ambitious.
I find I am constantly being 'dominated', to put it mildly, and bullied in worse case scenarios.
I'm sure a lot of this is because of my appearance, size and the fact that I'm softly spoken. I'm always called a 'lady' or a 'gentle lady' which is something I'm proud of and want to be, but I guess I've not learned how to own it.
I don't want this to come across as I'm a pushover - I'm certainly not. In fact when I do stand up for myself I get called aggressive, ruining group morale, communication difficulties etc.
e.g. Colleagues (especially women) ask me to the point of interrogation - what did you eat today, what did you eat yesterday, what are you having for lunch etc because I'm slim, and then I overhear them saying I have an eating disorder. This infuriates me and I get incredibly prickly! I don't know how to deal with it. I wish they would leave me alone.
Colleagues think I'm stupid because of the way I look, despite the fact I am in some cases better qualified, and a better performer. They patronise and undermine my work, make snide comments, etc. It is impossible to fight back, before being called a problem.
It may come as no surprise that women are the worst at this.
I find it exhausting dealing with negative vibes constantly.
How can I deal with situations like this assertively, and earn the respect of my colleagues without being seen as aggressive?