Ladies! Gather round, lean in, listen up. We need to talk.
You need to stop.
Stop dismissing your achievements, talking yourself down, brushing off your success, and diminishing the results of your hard work as simply ‘good luck’.
STOP IT! It’s hurting you. It’s hurting all of us.
I know why you do it. Tall poppy syndrome is a toxic part of Australian culture. Tearing successful and ambitious people down is almost a national sport. God forbid if you go after what you want in life or dare to shine too brightly.
The consequence of living in a country where there’s not much worse than being seen as up yourself – particularly if you’re female – is that we shrink down in an attempt to make ourselves smaller. And guess what? It holds us back.
Why am I directing this article at women? Sure, some men do it too, but nowhere near to the extent of women.
For women, it goes back to gender stereotypes and expectations: Men can be ambitious, women should be modest. Men can own their successes; women should be humble. Men can take credit for their actions; women should acknowledge the contribution of others. Men can like themselves; women should self-loathe.
The problem is, many women conform with these expectations and in doing so, reduce their power and influence.
Women hide behind hashtags like #grateful, #blessed, and #lucky when the reality is more along the lines of #iworkedbloodyhardforthis, #mysuccessistheresultofhugesacrificeandeffort, and #improudofwhativeachieved.
Landed your dream job? Fabulous! But don’t tell me it’s because you’re lucky. I bet you put years of hard work, study, sacrifice, risk-taking, and self-improvement into making that happen. That’s not good luck – it’s good work. Go you!
Using passive words like grateful, blessed and lucky in these circumstances suggests you had no involvement in your success or the results you’ve achieved. It’s like saying good things magically happened to you by some stroke of amazing fortune, or perhaps by a wish granted by a Channing Tatum lookalike who rode in upon his magic rainbow unicorn and showered you with glittery pixy dust. Ridiculous right (albeit awesome)? My point exactly.
In her new book ‘Work Strife Balance’ Mamamia founder Mia Freedman refers to it as the ‘Gratitude Platitude’.
“The Gratitude Platitude does women no favours,” Freedman writes.
“It keeps us passive, reduces our power and obscures our wins.
“We must own our emotions and our achievements like men do. We must start using words like ecstatic and satisfied and proud and joyful because they’re the truth. We must show our work and be honest about how much of it is involved when we achieve things.”
I wholeheartedly agree. In fact, I almost stood and gave the book a standing ovation when I read that chapter.
Women need to own their success and achievements if they ever want to break through the glass ceiling. How do you expect to land a promotion if you credit other people for everything you’ve ever done? The reality is, you won’t. The job will be given to the person who was comfortable owning their achievements and talking about the work they’ve done.
No, it’s not about over-the-top bragging and big noting yourself, but dammit, you’re allowed to be proud. You’re allowed to acknowledge that your results and success are thanks to hard work, determination, and pure grit.
That’s not to say #gratitude #blessed and #lucky don’t have a place in life. Of course they do. In fact, being grateful for what you have has been identified as a key element to happiness. But save it for things that really are worth being grateful for – like the fact you don’t have a sick child; that you were born into a wealthy, prosperous country like Australia; or that you have access to education and healthcare – things you don’t have much control over. Those are the things to feel grateful, blessed and lucky about, not the fact that you worked hard and put in the effort to achieve success.
And finally, there’s something else we can all do if we want to see women’s self-talk change: Lift each other up. Celebrate women (and men!) who pursue their goals, achieve success, work hard, are ambitious, and own their wins. DON’T TEAR THEM DOWN! It’s only when we start cheering each other on that we will finally see those beautiful poppies grow and flourish.
Leah Mether is a communications specialist, trainer, and speaker, passionate about empowering people to step up and pursue their goals and dreams.
She works with organisations, businesses, community groups and individuals through her business Methmac Communications.
To find out more, go to www.methmac.com.au