One of the pieces of advice that I find myself giving during career conversations more often than any other is that you have to be willing to put yourself out there. Whether it's your face, your ideas or your business, when you're creating and innovating, it's not just a representation of your work that you put out, it's you. When people offer constructive criticism about what you've done, it can be a challenge, certainly, to put your ego aside and take the useful nuggets of wisdom from the conversation to improve. It can be harder still given that we're living in a society that loves nothing more than to tear people down to make themselves feel better. Just browse the comments section of YouTube - it's brutal. If you're going to be bold, and put something new out into the world, you have to make yourself ready for what you might encounter.
One piece of information that can be critical, particularly for women but also for men, is to understand Impostor Syndrome. This is an affliction that tends to affect highly educated, successful women more than most, that assigns responsibility for success to outside factors, and responsibility to failures to inner factors. It manifests in something that women often think in their deepest, darkest hearts, but fear to vocalize: "Somebody's going to figure out that I really don't know what I'm doing."
To give an example, I'll talk about a woman that I am pleased to know as a very competent, successful salesperson, and I heard through the grapevine that she hit a major milestone. I congratulated her on the big win, and she brushed it off. She didn't think it was that significant because the majority of those sales came from referrals, rather than being generated by her cold calls and external work.
I couldn't believe my ears - and I told her so! I'd never heard her peers talk that way. Once they hit that milestone they didn't qualify their success, they just celebrated! And the number didn't care how she got there, it just mattered that she made the number, but she couldn't make the connection that it was still up to her that those sales got made. This is Impostor Syndrome at work. We have to identify it to work on it, because if we don't, it will make it incredibly difficult to build on our successes. In portfolio careers as well as entrepreneurism, momentum is the name of the game, and if you can't recognize and capitalize on your own momentum, you'll be missing out on opportunity.
Another recommendation I make is to read a book called Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. It was recommended to me by more than one person who felt that it was a life changer, so finally I read it for myself, and I am so glad that I did. The most important exercise that I learned from that book is one that I perform nearly every day - is this person speaking with my best interest in mind? Does this person truly care about me and my future? I use this rubric as a lens through which I view criticism. The more visible of a person you are, and the more you create and put out, the more criticism you will receive. However, as my friend Forrest liked to say, "If you don't have at least a few haters, you're doing it wrong." You have to be able to distinguish between haters and people who care about you and who want to help you succeed. Indeed, a crucial part of achievement is being able to find people who you can trust to give you honest feedback about your work. Dr. Brown's book was an important add to my library. N.B. Don't forget to subscribe to this blog.- you could win the book for your own library! Check this post out for details.
I also learned how to turn the volume down on one of my biggest critics - myself. No one was better at telling me how terrible I was than myself. The picture I included on this post is from a talk I did just after my book came out at a local Rotary Club. I had not only released my book, but my other big release that year, my son Charlie, had just made his debut. So when I looked at that picture, I didn't see myself talking authoritatively about my field. I didn't see someone who confidently conveyed a topic to an audience who received the information really well. Do you know what I saw? My stomach. Nevermind that the photo represented a major accomplishment and what was, to that moment, a pinnacle of my career - all I could think about was how I looked in that dress.
If there was anyone in that audience, or anyone looking at that photo, who cared more about how my stomach looked than whether my book was well researched, or if my pacing was solid, or if I had a good reception at my talk, then that person isn't considering my best interest. That includes myself. I needed to think about the things in life that truly mattered, and at the end of the day, how my stomach looked post-baby wasn't going to make much of a difference for how much money I made, how smart I was or how many clients I book. It only mattered to people who saw me as something minimal, and I didn't want to be that person. And if you're being that person for yourself, stop that now!
I'd love to hear from you - what is your mountain to climb? What isn't serving you that you're going to leave behind? Tell me how you're going to get yourself ready for your big moments, and let's get out there and make them happen!