Confession: Being a woman can SUCK sometimes. Royally suck. Like, “I want to flip my middle finger to the sky and yell curse words until I can’t breath anymore” suck. We not only have to deal with raging hormones once a month (seriously, why am I mad that the dishwasher isn’t loaded correctly?), but it’s also pretty damn expensive. Guys just have no idea how much bras, make-up, and getting your hair done costs (and if any fellas are reading this, let me tell you, it’s A LOT). But on top of all those semi-superficial reasons, some of us also have another battle we’re fighting that men cannot comprehend – and it’s highly more difficult to overcome.
Over the past few decades, we’ve made a giant leap in gaining equality in the job market – we have women starting their own businesses, running Fortune 500 companies, and hell, just simply setting up their own 401(k)s. However, as we’ve made gains in those areas, we’ve also lost in others. Working women are still being persecuted for not staying home with their children (sometimes by stay-at-home moms themselves), cooking and cleaning continue to be considered “womanly” chores (I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked to make a sandwich), and any type of emotion shown in the office is considered taboo. We’ve taken on additional responsibilities without giving up any others or changing the way we are perceived, and it’s creating an unbelievable amount of pressure and stress for our gender on a day-to-day basis.
In case you missed it (and if you have, seriously, read the news every once in a while), Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, wrote a book that has recently taken the nation by stormed called Lean In, and it addresses most of these issues. In the book, Sheryl pinpoints how we continually set ourselves up to sit in the back of the bus, and after reading it, I couldn’t help but share a piece of her message with you; therefore, I’ve included the top 4 pieces of inspiration I took from the book – 2 of which are below and 2 that I’ll include in my next blog (I got a little longwinded on some of these and didn’t want to wear you out). I hope her message impacts you as much as it did me.
1) WE LACK CONFIDENCE AND UNDERESTIMATE OURSELVES
“Despite being high achievers, even experts in their fields, women can’t seem to shake the sense that it is only a matter of time until they are found out for who they really are – imposters with limited skills or abilities.”
I’ll admit it – I’ve been in that boat. Back in high school, I was considered the resident “track star” for our county. I never lost a race until I reached regionals every year and medaled in 5 events at state throughout my 4 years. Yet, I can remember in an interview with the local newspaper my senior year, I stated that even though everyone thought I was great at running, I didn’t believe I was in comparison to the competition I knew was out there. Was I good for our small community? Sure. Statewide? Not so much. And at the time, I truly believed that. But you know what? I was just as good. In fact, I could have been fantastic. I still to this day think that if I had believed I had the immense talent that I did, believed that I had the ability to accomplish more than what I set for myself, I could have done exponentially better than I did. My goal was always to get to state, but it should have been to win it.
It’s this lack of confidence in ourselves that sets us back – as a whole, women continually underestimate themselves whereas men judge themselves as performing better than what they actually do. And all this is doing is allowing others to take advantage of the things that we deserve: job promotions, higher pay, better benefits. It’s a sad truth, but one that needs to be nipped in the bud now. How, you ask? Well, as much as I wish I had magic fairy dust to make it happen easily, I don’t. Thus, my advice to you is this: Fake it. Turn it into a daily ritual, and soon enough it will become a habit that is as natural to you as breathing. Ok, maybe not that natural. It may still take some conscious effort to exude confidence but will be worthwhile in the end. Plus, everyone says it’s a sexy trait to have, so if you aren’t convinced otherwise, do it for your attractiveness factor ;)
2) WE WANT TO BE LIKED MORE THAN WE WANT SUCCESS
“One of the first things he (Mark Zuckerberg) told me was that my desire to be liked by everyone would hold me back. He said that when you want to change things, you can’t please everyone. If you do please everyone, you aren’t making enough progress.”
I’d like to say this desire to be liked isn’t an innate quality in all of us women, but I personally have to admit that it holds true for me. I want to be liked, I need to be liked…even by people that I myself don’t even care for. I think in our own twisted way, we believe that having that likeability factor validates us – if people like us, it must mean we’re nice or cool or <fill in the blank>.
The downside to this is that we sacrifice other areas of our lives in order to gain that likeability factor. In Lean In, Sheryl refers to a study that found that while success and likeability are positively correlated for men, they are negatively correlated for women. As hard as that is to digest, it’s true – if a male boss tells you to have something on his desk by the end of the day, and you have to work until 7 that night to get it done, you may mumble and groan, but you’ll do it and be on your way. If a female boss does the same? Well, let’s just say the majority of employees will be calling her a word that starts with a “B” and rhymes with “witch.” Don’t believe me? I’ve seen it happen. We’re automatically labeled as being hard-nosed and cold whereas men are just doing business. So how do we combat this?
I’d like to say it is as easy as a snap of the fingers, but it’s going to take a generational attitude adjustment. For now, all we can do is fight the good fight – stop worrying about likeability and focus more on being respected. Call out any of your work peers who degrade a woman in authority. And most importantly, raise your little girls (and boys) to believe that we are all on an equal playing field and can chase whatever dreams we wish.
I know, when I read it I thought the lady was reading my mind, too. Stayed tuned for the next two lessons learned from the book in my next post.