“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?” –Marianne Williamson
How many times have you read this quote? I know I’ve read it dozens of times, and cringed every time. Why would I cringe? Why would we cringe when we read something so profoundly truthful?
Don’t do this
Maybe it’s because we don’t know how to own our own power. For example, have you ever participated in a conversation that goes like this: “Wow, Becky, great job on the workshop today! It was so powerful!” To which I respond like this: “Thanks, but I left out 2 whole sections of the presentation, and I forgot to ask for the surveys!”
Seriously? Seriously. What happened in that conversation? I received a compliment on work that I had done, work that someone appreciated enough to tell me, and I dismissed it. It was as if I didn’t hear the person say the presentation was powerful. I was so wrapped up in second-guessing myself and criticizing myself that I was disrespectful to the person who paid me the compliment! They told me the presentation was powerful and I didn’t even explore their feelings? Nope, I just jumped right into self-flagellation. Way to own my power!
How many times have you done the same thing? How many times has someone told you that you’ve done a good job and you thank them, then immediately move to the negative? More than once?
We own our mistakes instead of our wins
Why is it that we’re willing to own our screw-ups, but totally unwilling to own our wins? Sure, many people (women) are brought up to be self-effacing. But do we have to keep doing it? Do we have to keep pretending that we don’t really know what we’re doing when we actually know exactly what and why we’re doing what we’re doing?
By the way, doesn’t this keep the glass ceiling firmly in place? If we don’t own our successes, if we don’t embrace our power, we can’t picture ourselves in more powerful roles, so we won’t pursue more powerful roles. And we are stuck.
Here’s a another piece of not owning our power. I hear this every day from clients and I hear it every place I go to network. The second piece sounds something like this: “Wow, Pam, that was one of the best PowerPoint presentations I’ve ever seen!” And Pam responds like this: “Well, thanks. I didn’t really work that hard on it. One of my teammates gave me the idea.”
Do great work ==> Own It!
Are you kidding me? Pam is giving all of the credit for her amazing presentation to a teammate who only gave her the idea. As if that teammate had created the whole presentation. I’m all in favor of giving credit where credit is due, but please. When we do great work and someone compliments us on our work, we do not need to give the credit to someone else because somewhere in our conditioning we were told that people don’t brag.
People, it’s not bragging when someone compliments you on a job well-done! We get to say thank you and close our mouths. “Thank you, I’m glad you liked the presentation,” shows that we are proud of our work. We are proud of our work. When you dismiss or deflect a compliment on your work, you are telling the person providing the compliment that you’re not proud of your work. Even worse, you are telling yourself that you are not proud of your work. You are not owning your own best work!!
Stop the Madness!
We know this. We know that our self-talk becomes self-fulfilling prophecy. We know that the way we talk about ourselves to ourselves and to others, both at work and at home, determines how we think about ourselves. It determines how our lives play out. It determines what other people think about us.
When we routinely dismiss our best work as attributable to someone or something else, we are diminishing the effort it took us to create that work. Here’s another, perhaps controversial, example. When someone says to me that god (lowercase on purpose) made this happen for me, I cringe. Sure god, the universe, a higher power, whatever term you use to describe that which is bigger than all of us, presents us with opportunities.
We made it happen
However, we must take advantage of those opportunities for them to mean anything. It’s our free will, our willingness to be open to what’s out there for us that made that work successful. I’m all for thanking a higher power for putting us in a place where we have the opportunity to do great things; I also believe that we only honor that higher power when we also honor and claim our own part in our successes. I believe that we need to say both “Thank you for this opportunity!” and “I’m so proud of what I did with it!”
Note, I didn’t say “I’m so proud of the way it worked out.” Nope. That’s diminishing our part in our successes. Try saying it to yourself. Think of some work that you’ve been complimented on. Think about how you responded. Now, frame it up like this. “I’m so happy you enjoyed the presentation. I’m excited about the way it turned out.” How does it feel? Are you grinning?
Wallow in the power of ownership
Come on, I know you are! Feel that power, feel that tingle. Wallow around in it. Enjoy it. Make sure you repeat it the next time you receive a compliment. Feel your pride in your work.
Here’s another tip for owning your wins. This comes from my podcast co-host, Diana Bader. For several years Diana has kept a Win Jar. When she has a win, Diana writes it on a scrap of paper and puts it in the jar. When she’s having a down day, or feeling that things aren’t going right, she pulls out those wins and remembers what’s brought her to this place.
I have a win jar, too. Of course, I put in notes when I close business or fill a class. And, I also put things in it like a great call with a potential client, a great Next Chapter meeting, and big insights. I want to remember the good stuff. By writing down my wins, I own them in a different way. Somehow they become weightier and more significant.
should you choose to accept it: (1) When you receive a compliment about your work, accept it unconditionally. Enjoy it! Do not say anything that diminishes the compliment or your work. (2) Find an empty vessel (jar, vase, whatever). Decorate it with a bow, a label that says “WINS,” and anything else you’d want to use. I’ve included a photo of an example, for your convenience. As soon as you’ve put the label on the jar, identify a recent win, write it down on a scrap of paper, and put it in the jar. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Keep acknowledging the compliments. Keep writing down your wins. Own it. Feel your power. Own your power. It’s yours. Claim it.