All the accomplishments I’ve had in my life, I’ve always dismissed them as not a big deal. I didn’t want to seem "braggy", didn't want to attract too much attention or look like I’m showing off. This is such a self-destructive thing to do. Especially if you’re in the business of personal branding. I’m not telling you to go out there and tell every person you meet about your accomplishments and what you have and what you did; everything needs to have setting and context.
Once I started looking into this topic of "humbleness", I realized this is something you see throughout every industry, and specifically in women. Awhile back I read this Forbes article titled “5 Ways ‘Humility’ Is Keeping Women Stuck And Afraid”, and I immediately connected with what the article laid out. I wanted to write about this because I think all women can relate to what I realized.
One of the ways listed in this article was that many women shun the idea of building a personal brand or understanding and communicating their competitive advantage. For some reason, a lot of us are really aware of our weaknesses and talk about them more - but we should do the opposite. When you focus on something strong, and talking about that part of yourself, it will lift all your other strengths up in your perspective.
Another point they listed was that many women shy away from networking, and not understanding how to talk about themselves and what they want. I had so many opportunities to capture a client or put myself out there and network with strong people and I just didn’t want to pitch to them. I see people pitching their ideas and strengths every day around me - they know how to approach it, how to lay it out; like who they are and what they can do. No one judges them because that’s business. So why don't we, as women, have the instinct to do the same?
The next thing I read in this article was:
“The adherence to appearing humble can hold women back from networking powerfully, but networking is the single best source (80% in fact) of landing jobs, and getting promoted and advancing in our careers. We simply can’t achieve our biggest dreams and highest visions without others.”
This hit me extremely hard - because if you don’t have mentors you don’t find supporters or people who inspire you and take you to the next level. Again, a lost opportunity.
I don’t want to get into this men vs. women thing, but this humbleness is a norm that women are raised on; this feeling that if you’re a woman and you want to be treated as one, these are the characteristics you should have: be humble, be modest. With men, this doesn’t happen and I see it all the time with Gary. He sees the opportunity and gain of self promotion in the right context and time; of when you’re out there advocating for yourself and you’re out there talking about what you know and who you are, your strengths, and capturing people’s attention. These are the right people who will present you the opportunities and give you the room to grow.
One example that came to mind is when I was invited to speak as a social media entrepreneur as part of a summit for business students. There were about fifty people and it was my first speaking engagement. I was asked to speak about my experience, my strategy, and how I built my brand, and for me, it was a really bad experience. I got all red and flushed, I was stumbling on my words, I had no idea the direction I was taking. Gary looked at me later and said: "you know, modesty is a great thing but your humbleness is hurting you a lot. You were invited as a social media entrepreneur, those people don’t know who you are, and you didn’t get their attention and didn’t legitimize why you were there. It looked like you didn’t even know why you were there."
Meanwhile, I didn't know why I was there because I was being too humble - I didn't think I deserved to be there. What I can see now with hindsight is that of course I deserved it.
I was really disappointed with myself. It made me wonder how many people do this in their careers, in their relationships, and just with themselves. We just don’t give ourselves credit for our victories, even the small ones. We have to remind ourselves we are badasses, we’re doing amazing, and encourage each other to look at these things we've done - from the small to the big. It made me aware of this behaviour of down-playing our accomplishments and being too humble, and how it’s limiting my own self and letting all these wonderful things that want to come my way disappear. I’m not giving them the room to come forward.
Be assertive, passionate, strong-minded, and stand up for yourself. Say what you think and stand up for what you have and what you deserve to have. We should all be proud of our hustle. If we don’t advocate for ourselves, no one is going to do it for us. I do believe in working hard - some people may notice your hustle, but it’s a noisy world out there, and you have to promote yourself and bring hard work to people’s attention. Because you’re fighting for that attention every day.
How many of us just let opportunities slide by us because we don’t want to seem aggressive or passionate? There is no novelty in playing small and trying to fit into a certain criteria and certain definition of what it means to be a woman. It’s an amazing time, we’re really defining what a woman is, what she can be, what she can achieve. I want this message out there - maybe you’re not standing up for what you deserve in your daily life. Maybe you’re not asking for what you want. You're not asking questions, not being loud. So be conscious of that small behaviour, and un-humble yourself.