When was the last time you were praised for something at work, and you replied, “Thanks, I worked really hard on that”? Chances are, it was more like, “I got lucky” or, “Could’ve been better.” We work ourselves to the bone, yet when our achievements are acknowledged, many of us shut it down. What’s up with that?
I think it’s because of the self-deprecating female culture we live in: we’re conditioned to believe that boasting is unseemly, that we’re more ‘likeable’ when we’re flawed, and aware of those flaws. So, we belittle ourselves, apologise and make excuses, to avoid being branded as bitchy, arrogant or bossy. We are even applauded for belittling ourselves – you often hear, “She was so likeable and self-deprecating” about female celebs. It’s as if, by not admitting to our success, we’re making sure other people aren’t intimidated.
Obsessing over likeability not only means that the things we’re being rewarded for get lost in the ether, but it also allows colleagues to walk all over us. Early on in my career, I was hired to produce a TV show – a big career break – but I was out of my depth. I took on someone to help me, but before we’d even started, I was making excuses for my performance – “There was so much to do”; “I’m a bit rusty.” The more I did this, the more his attitude towards me changed, and he was soon criticising my decisions and cutting me off when I was addressing the team. The most infuriating part? I did nothing to stop it. I never took him aside, addressed his behaviour or (whisper it) redressed the power balance – I allowed him to belittle me, because I was too afraid of how I’d come across. It kills me to look back on it.
But as I gained more career experience, I started to realise just how important the language we use at work is. When I was the boss at my vintage clothing business, I was close to all of my staff members, and I like to think they could talk to me about anything – but like all employers, I’d chosen them because I thought they could do the job. Phrases like ‘I think I can do it’ and ‘I’ll try’ show doubt in their own abilities, and despite how harsh it sounds, you start to doubt their performance, too.
Owning our successes doesn’t have to be a self-confidence challenge, but it does start by believing in ourselves from the get-go. We roll our eyes at those clichéd social media quotes – “Never underestimate your strength”; “When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt”; “Give zero fucks about likeability and do you” (OK, that last one was me) – but there’s a reason they exist. Sometimes we all need reminding of our own power, so that our rewards don’t get lost in the ether.
So, next time you get praised at work, remind yourself of your own capability, power and, dare I say it, strengths (because we all have them) – and just say, “Thanks.” Because trust me, it’s OK to #ShoutAboutYou.
Do: Use natural witch hazel toner. I love Thayers’ Rose Petal.
Do: Buy La DoubleJ skirts for bright, bold prints.
Do: Lend your favourite book (paper version, obvs) to a friend for National Read A Book Day on September 6.
Don’t: Wear thick tights. Go for 60 denier, max – or wear trousers.
Don’t: Be sad summer is nearly over. Embrace the beauty of autumn.
Don’t: Resist the temptation to put crisps in your sandwich. Just do it.