Have you ever been presented with a new corporate mission statement and thought–’that’s just a bunch of corporate speak.’? Amidst at ton of celebration, you thought ‘wow, you spent 3 months coming up with some abstract words?’, yet you can’t “find your voice” to share your thoughts? If so, keep reading!
When I work with women in design to come up with their own vision for navigating their careers, there’s–at first–a really special moment. An “ah-ha” moment when it’s clear that the future vision really resonates and feels like the perfect combination of ambitious yet fully grounded in who they are; and who they are becoming.
But that moment doesn’t always last.
Back in the office or back with your same old clients, you feel that old identity–the one you’re living now– creeping back in.
The same limitations exist. The reputation you’ve built, what people think of you, what you’ve been willing to put up with, closes over you. The vision we’ve crafted, the words we’ve chosen feel abstract and ungrounded.
So, I often give women a little assignment to use their vision daily. I encourage them to work it into conversation, use it to frame a talking point in a meeting, or even write a social media post related to it.
Now, this doesn’t mean interrupting an office meeting to proclaim,
“Excuse me everyone, but I just wanted to announce that I am a leading edge technical expert on how cities can increase biodiversity.”
Or calling up your past clients and saying,
“Did you know my specialty is kitchen renovations that help families linger at the table longer and build strong memories?”
You might even send a few clients a link to an article you found on trends of families eating dinner together. Coupled with your own thoughts on how this has been a big focus for you lately, you may share how you thought this would inspire them as well.
It means that you might pipe up at a meeting:
You do this every day, likely in under five minutes. It takes the vision and the messages we’ve crafted on paper and it breathes life into them.
It makes them real.
We do this for two reasons.
1. It Creates a New Reality for Others.
Have you ever heard of the concept “repeat recognition”? It’s an advertising concept and it’s the reason you hear the same annoying ad on Spotify over and over when you’re at the gym.
Many marketers believe that you need to hear the same message over and over (some say even up to seven times) before the message will stick.
And I believe that “repeat recognition” works on the interpersonal level too.
Derek Halpern, a marketing and psychology expert tells a story of a recent hire–he recounts how multiple people at his company said the same exact phrase about the candidate after he was hired. While it was a slightly post-zombie apocalypse-like experience, Halpern concluded that the candidate did a really good job crafting a very simple message and getting it out there.
Very often, the multi-passionate, complex women I work with have a big fear that picking a core vision will mean that they’re losing creative freedom or they’re putting themselves into a box. I get that fear, as a multi-passionate myself, but that fear is really a limiting belief.
First of all, it keeps you from choosing something for now that might be fluid enough to hold most of what you want, because your fear makes you keep all the doors open. You end up standing still instead of moving forward.
Second, you are allowed to be complex and multilayered without having to communicate the entirety of your complex self every chance you get.
You don’t have to be simple to have a simple message about what you stand for.
This little assignment lets you test what it feels like to experience that for a week. To help you recognize that you can still be your full complex self while having a more curated message.
2. It Creates a New Reality for You
The second–and much more important–reason I give this assignment is because speaking your new truth to others makes it more real for you.
There is a gap between who you are, and who you aspire to be–and are becoming.
And that gap can be hard to experience. It triggers your inner critic that tells you you’re not enough, who do you think you are to want this, to think you’re good enough, that this vision is just words on a page.
Your inner critic is afraid this won’t happen for you, and you’re going to be disappointed, so you should avoid that altogether by not trying at all.
But there is another side of us. In her book “Playing Big”, Tara Mohr calls it your “inner mentor”–that believes in it; that knows you have more to offer and a bigger contribution to make.
An impact that makes a difference.
We all want to be seen, and being seen helps us see ourselves.
When we speak our new vision to others, we make it more real. It ceases to exist just in our heads, on paper or in conversation with our empowerment coach; and it becomes real.
You test getting comfortable being public as you are ‘becoming’ who you are, rather than just after you’ve arrived.
You may not have the full expertise set that you believe you need or the full body of work yet to say that you ‘specialize in soulful kitchens that bring families together and make them linger longer,’ but waiting to be an expert before sharing knowledge is a pitfall women are prone to.
It’s a common issue I see in women I work with.
The truth is that expertise is relative.
I don’t have an advanced degree in gender studies or haven’t written a PhD on empowerment habits of the upwardly mobile, mission-driven woman in design. Nor have I been running clinical trials of multivariate empowerment habits, cross-sectored by input status (I made that up).
But I have read a lot of literature on these issues, and have–through trial and error–developed a methodology that works.
The women I work with don’t do these things, so to them, I am an expert to them. Enough of an expert to get them results.
They don’t wait to be picked, or told their time has come by someone else.
We tell creatives, ‘Find your voice,’ but the truth is, you don’t need to.
It’s not out there on some deserted island waiting to be found. It’s not lying abandoned where the other sock lives, waiting to be discovered and picked up by you.
You create it.
You get to choose what you want to stand for.
And you get to evolve it over time as you learn and grow from your commitment.
You get to choose to stand for something without buying into a narrative that says you’re losing your complexity.
It’s you who get to choose to claim your growing expertise before someone else has given you permission to claim it.
You don’t find your voice, you use it.
And that’s what makes it real.
Start using your voice today! Click here to get my six practical strategies on becoming an expert in your field before you feel like one.