Women wield greater influence today than at any other time in history. This year, Hillary Clinton became the first woman to lead a major political party’s presidential ticket. Her achievement — decades in the making — inspired other women to share their stories of breaking the glass ceiling. With so many strides made, you’d think women would be celebrating our successes from the rooftops.
Instead, we downplay our wins. We attribute our triumphs to luck, belittling the roles we’ve played in writing our own stories. Worse yet, we turn on one another. As the media scrutinizes everything from how we dress to how we parent, many women believe the only way to climb the ladder is to step on other sisters along the way.
Men don’t behave this way. They take credit for their accomplishments. Men don’t shy away from the spotlight; they welcome it. It’s time women did the same.
Claiming Our Power
Many of us suffer from imposter syndrome, believing we’ve somehow risen this high by mistake and that we’ll soon be discovered as frauds. Because society places so much pressure on women, we’re acutely aware of our shortcomings, regardless of how far we’ve come.
But here’s the secret to overcoming self-doubt: Amplifying your strengths diminishes your weaknesses. Your perspective shifts when you embrace your power, and you become even more capable as your confidence grows.
I was a classic introvert in high school — the nerdy wallflower who struggled to socialize. However, I was at the top of my class, and I knew I wanted to make a difference in the world. An early mentor suggested I join a Toastmasters group to overcome my shyness. I learned to think on my feet and communicate to large groups of people. That was a defining point in my career because I was finally able to express myself and showcase what I had to offer.
As women, we must recognize our strengths and build on those — not hold ourselves hostage to our weaknesses. Here’s how to develop the skills and confidence you need to light the world on fire:
1. Expose yourself to a range of professional experiences.
The best way to identify your strengths is to try an assortment of roles. Startups are fantastic environments for learning because the teams are small and everyone needs to wear multiple hats. You don’t get pigeonholed into a specific area.
When I worked in a startup, I rotated through several positions and worked with a variety of mentors. You don’t want to become a museum piece in a fast-changing environment, so seek companies that will allow you to explore all of your interests.
2. Expand your worldview.
I always tell my daughters to look for jobs that not only allow them to try out different roles, but also offer travel opportunities. Observing how people live and work in other countries will give you a new appreciation for working in the U.S. It also equips you to interact with colleagues from a variety of backgrounds. Soft skills are incredibly important in the globalized economy, and your influence will increase as you diversify your abilities.
3. Provide value outside of your job.
I believe that you get back what you give to others. Paying it forward expands your network and your perspective. Don’t get so hung up on life within the company that you forget about the people outside of it.
Every year, my kids and I buy turkeys and donate them to a food bank so those less fortunate can have a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. We’ve done this since the girls were young, when they’d break open their piggy banks to contribute to the purchase. Understanding other people’s struggles is crucial to being a good leader, so make sure you’re creating authentic value in your career and broader community.
4. Write your own story.
Being grateful creates a healthy, open-minded spirit. Appreciate your mentors, and look to them for guidance. It’s great to admire other people’s strengths, but don’t sit and covet what they have. If someone’s achieved something you’d like to do, set goals for yourself and go after them. Strength comes from self-reliance and perseverance.
As women, we tend to be introspective and compassionate, concerned about the people around us. Those are traits worth celebrating — but not to the point of self-sabotage. By owning our strengths and stepping into our power, we’re doing ourselves and the world a service.