More and more female powerhouses are gaining recognition for amazing accomplishments personally and professionally. It amazes me to see the Sheryl Sandbergs and Kate Whites of the world digesting girl power one road block at a time, and a voice inside me cheers for them at every stop along the way. So why, then, is it so hard for me to own my own successes?
Several months ago, I got a compliment from someone who I really admire and look up to. She is a business owner and entrepreneur and is really doing amazing things. I'm so proud to have her in my life as a role model. As we were talking over lunch, she told me she admired my work and me. What? You do? I didn't know what to say.
So I used my go-to.
"Oh gosh, well it's nothing really... it's not really anything special and there are countless other people who are so much better, and know so much more..."
And she looked me square in the eye and said, "No."
"Kait, if you don't start showing the confidence in yourself that other people see, you're never going to be able to grow," she said. "It's important to be humble and it's important when to recognize your faults, but when someone tells you they think you are the best and they are being whole-hearted and genuine, the most gratifying thing you can say is 'thank you.'"
I was blown away, but it got me to thinking: Why is it that people, women in particular, always need to preface their accomplishments with an apology or a disclaimer? Why do we believe our shortcomings make us more likable?
Think about it.
When I'm working, especially in a group, or presenting to a larger audience, I will sometimes start out by saying "I might be totally off base, but..." And then continue on with my idea. When someone compliments how clean my house is, I immediately retort, "Oh well thanks, but what you can't see are our junk drawers and messy closets."
Why do we place self-doubt in someone else's head before we've even managed to convey our idea? Why do we need to soften a compliment by divulging a weakness?
I'm of the mindset that no idea can be entirely ruled out (or deemed crazy, foolish, etc.) until it's thought out or talked through, but women have this little voice inside our heads that is so consumed with trying to meet a certain standard of acceptance that we need to slap a disclaimer on our ideas, as if to say we are not competent enough to believe in our own ideas enough ourselves before we let them roll off our tongues.
"I wish I could just go tell all the young women I work with, all these fabulous women, 'Believe in yourself and negotiate for yourself. Own your own success.' I wish I could tell that to my daughter. But it's not that simple." -- Sheryl Sandberg
It can be that simple. I encourage every single one of you reading to take some time today to encourage yourself a little bit more, compliment something you're doing right or are proud of, and believe, whole-heartedly, in all of your ideas and aspirations. Celebrate successes and accept compliments, because you do deserve them.
After all, if you don't believe in yourself, who will?