Thursday, April 13, 2017

When Humility Goes Too Far

This is me... sharing a story about myself. Something I have battled with throughout my lifetime.

I was raised to be kind, genuine, and humble. I don't boast about my accomplishments. I don't step into the spotlight. I often pass the credit on to others. None of those qualities really made me feel like I was missing anything, until one fateful day.

I have a new boss for my full-time job. I instantly respected him. I quickly connected with his line of thought. I genuinely feel he has the company and my best interest at heart in every decision he makes.Those are rare qualities for a manager... sad, but true.

For a full time gig, I'm a computer programmer. I code ColdFusion. I'm proficient in SQL, HTML, CSS, and I'm learning all about this responsive design internet world we live in. I'm getting pretty good at that, too. (It took everything in me not to rewrite the proficient, pretty good, etc. and remind myself it isn't ostentatious to admit you have skills that you've worked hard to achieve!)

I work in a predominantly male career field. I have fought for the past 12 years against the "boys club". I have quite often been dismissed or ignored by my peers and my female bosses. When you hear people talk about the gender gap, I have lived it. I do live it. I typically feel I have to fight to be taken seriously. I have to prove time and time again that I am good at what I do. Being second-guessed has simply become part of my routine. It isn't that I don't have the experience. It isn't that I don't have the knowledge. I don't even think it's that I don't have the respect of the people I work with.

Two weeks ago... my boss (remember, I really like him)... asked if he could give me a call after a conference call we had together. This happens a lot, so I thought nothing of it. What he told me was like running full force into a brick wall. It hit me so hard, that I have went back and thought on it multiple times. Of course, in his true fashion, it was phrased so eloquently and insightful... and that is why it made such a huge impact. He told me "The way you presented yourself today, it just lacked confidence. The phrases you used when talking about the issues that had come up and that you resolved or had made decisions on how to resolve just didn't sound like you were sure of yourself. You handled everything. Everything was resolved or you have a plan on how to take care of it. You know what you're doing. You get the job done. You just need to present yourself in a more confident manner." Of course, this is not verbatim, but the overall intent is there.

So... for the past 2 weeks... I have self-monitored myself. I have listened to how I speak about things I accomplish. There is a huge difference between being humble and self-deprecating. I now sit and wonder how many times I felt I was fighting the boys club and it was really a fight against myself. A fight that I was losing because I was too kind or too humble to take credit. I think back and remember how many times I allowed someone else to take the credit and they would say "I I I" when it was really "ME ME ME!" or at least "us us us".

If you are so humble you have crossed the line into not allowing others to give you a compliment and take credit when it is due... you are your own worst enemy. I'm preaching to myself here. We need to step up and say "Yes. I accomplished this and I worked hard for it." "I took care of it. It's resolved."

How does this fit on a Girl Scout blog? WE are leading the future women for our planet. We tell them to have courage, confidence, and character. We instill the values to be kind, helpful, and considerate. We need to make sure we are balancing the scale and tell them to not put themselves down. Don't downplay your contributions. Don't feel as though if you say "Thank you" to a compliment that you are boastful. We work hard every single day. We deserve credit for what we have done. We definitely don't deserve to allow ourselves to be shut down, overlooked, or discredited. This has nothing to do with gender, either. Shocked, I know. This has to do with personality and human character.
This week, I actually followed up with my boss and asked what he thought of my presentation on a call. I told him I was trying to sound more confident and not downplay my contributions. He remarked that he had made a mental note on the call that it did sound better and he was pleased that our discussion was taken to heart. I appreciate that he tok the time to point this out to me in a way that really did make me stop and think.

You can teach an old dog new tricks. (And no... I'm not "that" old).

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