Recently I was chatting with a female executive, who is also my mentor. I described to her what I’ve been doing for work, which I explained as “helping my clients run their businesses better.”
She nodded. Then, a smirk. “Do you know what the guys say when they answer this question? They say ‘I run my client’s businesses, not ‘help clients’. They own what they do. You just minimized yourself.’”
This was an eye-opening moment. It reminded me of the time in high school when Mike who sat next to me boasted his 93% score on his test to the entire class while I stood there silently with a 97%. People started to think he was a genius. I continued to be the nerdy enigmatic girl who was probably doing just okay in class. Not that I wanted people to think I was a genius, but people started thinking of him as the leader in the class after that incident.
While this experience is somewhat different from the work situation, this incident with my mentor made me think about all the other instances where I didn’t realize that I was minimizing myself. My mentor also reminded me that if I don’t stand up for myself, someone else is more than willing to step into that role or command a presence. Sound familiar?
Though we are not here to create and amplify stereotypes, we believe that knowing that this happens everywhere is critical. That’s why we are sharing this with you so that we stop minimizing ourselves, and so that we are not caught off guard when others are claiming fame in your absence.
When certain people position themselves in a better light while you do not, the world starts to believe in the loudest, visible voice, and your voice will be forgotten. While we do not endorse creating a false image of yourself just to be heard, we do want you to change one behavior – which is, we want you to think more introspectively about how YOU position your own accomplishments and potential to others.
Often, we are told not to boast. We become extremely good at minimizing ourselves, even if we deserve a bigger presence. Let’s use some examples. It’s something as trivial as saying “I practice yoga” when you really have a yoga teaching license that took months to get, or saying “I help my clients with their businesses” when you actually have complete control over the company’s business matters. These things start to pile up. People will simply remember you as a yoga hobbyist or an assistant to the CEO. Is this what you really intended?
Taking this further – let’s say you instead said “I am certified in teaching yoga and I practice yoga everyday” – people who hear this will start to remember you as the yoga master, not a hobbyist. When you start to say “I run my clients’ businesses,” people will remember you as the decision maker, not the assistant.
So, whenever you are asked who you are, what you do — actually be true to yourself. Don’t minimize your accomplishments in order to stay in your comfort zone. Think actively what the ‘others’ might be saying about themselves (like Mike in my math class back in the day!). Start to create a positive, honest narrative about yourself that is based on truth without feeling the pressure to make anything worth “less than.” You worked hard to get to where you are, so share that with the world. You deserve it.