If you looked in Jae’s closet, you would have seen a scene straight out of those movies where the main character needs to loosen up–rows of the same shirts, pants and jackets–all in black and white.
I’ve written to you before about how I see issues of confidence as the #1 thing that holds women back from their full potential — no matter where they are in their career — it just shows up in different ways.
For that reason, I’ll soon be releasing Defeat Self Doubt, a mini course that I’ve created to help you put self doubt to the side. It will help you rewire your brain for more confidence and ease. Rewiring your brain is all about little hacks that help you build a new reality that you first start to live–then start to believe. Over the next few weeks I want to share with you a few hacks that I used to do that for myself, especially when starting my business–which was imposter syndrome central for me.
Welcome to my book report! Today we’re talking about techniques to communicate powerfully and get what you want.
Think of these book reports as cliff notes to best books on a topic–I read them and pull out the most useful information for you, so you can apply it to your own life. And if you’re intrigued–feel free to nab a copy for yourself.
A view from my solo road trip last October.
I didn’t get my driver’s license until I graduated from college.
I grew up in a city, and didn’t have a parent who wanted to teach me, and so I just never got around to it.
But in the spring of my senior year I suddenly had to learn to drive: I’d accepted a job in California, and driving the company car was part of the gig. “No problem!” I said, because who doesn’t have their license at the age of twenty-two?
And so then I needed to learn how to drive, and fast. I persuaded my college friends to take me out for the kind of driving practice you do when you’re fifteen–I still have memories of swooping around circular highway off-ramps with my friend Jeff, and thinking, “Holy crap, will this curve never end? This is a lot harder than a video game.’
I was terrified.
Driving phobia runs in my family–my grandfather started teaching my mother to drive by reminding her that “a car is an instrument of death.” Yikes. And so when I got behind the wheel, I was bringing in all that history and baggage, as well as a little bit of shame that I was behind the curve, and of course, the time pressure to figure it out–and fast. This turned into a lot of self pressure, performance anxiety and more–every time I got onto the road I was setting myself up for even more runaway anxiety and fear.
And then I had a realization that changed the driving game for me. And it’s helped me with performance anxiety ever since.
“Stupider people than me do this ever day.”
People get into their cars every day, and while accidents do happen, the majority of people who drive every day in America do not kill themselves or others. Of course, getting behind the wheel is a serious responsibility (I’m sorry, I know I sound like an outdated DMV manual here) but I had to just be a bad driver until I became a good driver, otherwise I’d never be a driver at all.
Also, just in case you were wondering, ‘stupider’ is not actually a word. Which just goes to show that you don’t have to be perfect to get what you need.
There are things in our lives that we are not ready for. That we’re not good at yet, that we might even flop at.
We need to do them anyway.
And sometimes when we look around, we realize that maybe the bar isn’t as high as we thought it is in our minds, that the level of polish, service and sophistication we hold ourselves to as a standard we can never meet, is not actually the standard out there in the world. It happens to me all the time with client-based work, and I’m learning to understand better what the bar actually is, so I can spend my time and my client’s resources more intelligently, and to fully own when I think the standards need to be higher, instead of falling victim to that persistent voice in my head.
Confidence is a verb, not a noun. You build it by doing it. Behind the wheel or behind the podium, or even behind your computer monitor.
Last weekend I went to a conference and found myself in small conversation–just me and three other men. I very quickly noticed that they were only making eye contact with each other–and even more frustratingly–one of them even had his body turned away from mine–effectively closing me out of the conversation.
I was so frustrated and angry. I wanted to rant and rave. I wanted to jump up and down like a child screaming, “But I’m an empowerment coach! I teach women how to hold power.”
“I have alpha-body language! I’m doing everything right!
You can’t do this to me!”
But there’s the rub. Women’s power is not just dependent on us doing our part to move past the internalized barriers that hold us back–it’s also dependent on the world we operate in and the unconscious bias that everyone carries.
These guys were not trying to be sexist–conversely, they are part of a community that was founded in part on gender parity. But they also live in a world in which a man’s opinion is worth more than a woman’s. We all unconscionably perform these assumptions–like the time I automatically complimented a female friend on a dish, and didn’t even think to compliment her male partner. (He had, in fact, actually been the chef.)
I was so pissed off last weekend that I walked off in a huff–something I’m not proud of. But in a situation like that, what do you do? Do you explicitly call someone out and say, “Can you please change your body language, it expresses your unconscious belief that I’m less worthwhile because I’m a chick?” Do you avoid these groupings all together (“If they don’t need us, we don’t need them!”) or is there another answer?
In truth, it’s complicated, and there are different answers for different situations.
It’s hard to rise at a company that structurally and intractably doesn’t value women, but most of the time, there are ways through.
And I’m on a mission to find those ways out.
The next day I ran into a wise-woman at the same conference. This sixty plus-year old woman fits the classic typology of sassy lady. She’s been leaning in her entire life–running a business and making big decisions for her family. She regularly gets mistaken for a secretary or aide at the industry conferences she goes to, even though she’s the big boss.
“I would have just said, ‘Excuse me, can you turn a little bit? I’m having a hard time seeing the other guy,'” she said when I told her about my experience. Brilliance!
Sometimes the simplest approach is the best, and sometimes we let ourselves get distracted, and a small moment can blow up into the overwhelming feeling that we’ll always have to work twice as hard as the guys to get anywhere, and the futility of it all can be demoralizing. But don’t let that happen. Stay the course because you will get there, and there are always chinks and cracks in the walls ahead of us.
For the past few weeks we’ve been talking about how to build yourself+ through building others.
I’ve been pushing against the conventional wisdom that for us women, moving forward in your professional path means pushing past others to get there.
Have you ever been at a party with that guy that can’t stop talking about himself?
We’ve all been there, our smiles plastered to our faces, while inside, we’re tracking, like predators that break in the conversation that means we can get out, get out!
There’s a thing I do that I call gut listening.
I do it in client meetings when I’m trying to understand what the client really wants and how that might be different from what they are saying. I do it with my Build Yourself+ coaching clients as I seek to understand the challenges they face and to compose personal challenge tasks that will move their goals forward.
There’s a thinking pattern that I’ve been seeing in the women I work with.
We all know about the comparison gremlins (she bought a house, I’m still renting, wow that woman owns her own company and she’s only 22? and ohmigosh what about all those babies–or grandbabies–on facebook?) Sometimes, when I see women struggle with the gulf between where they are and where they want to be, they do what I’ve come to call the work-life collapse attack meltdown.
Have you ever worked with someone whose personality turned you into a yesman? Whether they meant to or not, they came on so strong that you felt bowled over, your boundaries evaporating?