Be Bold and Stand Up For Who You Are: Letter to younger self on what could help forge a better working world
Dear Younger Self,
I’ve been thinking about you lately. March 8 is here. International Women’s Day. Time to celebrate our social, economic, cultural and political achievements to this day. This year’s theme is “Be Bold For Change”. I couldn’t help but reflect on how knowing and acting on what I know now early on in my career could have accelerated our collective progress.
So I thought I’d share with you some realizations. Four insights that I believe could help forge a better working world, one that is more humane and inclusive. Essentially, they can all be boiled down to one simple yet powerful attitude. Be Bold and Stand Up for Who You Are.
One, Own your own crazy. You know well that a strong differentiated brand is one of the most valuable assets to stand out and win. Yet you’re judged on your appearance and behavior in such a way that only a very narrow range of possibilities are offered to you if you want to get ahead. Owning your own crazy is owning your own brand, from an aesthetic and personality standpoint, fueled by the confidence that your intelligence and capabilities bring.
Two, Never assume respect from others. It is something you renew and earn every time. Your title and years of experience are not guarantors of respect. Respect is a reward that you earn at every interaction. And injecting a little bit of humility in every connection and conversation goes a long way in building authenticity, trust and ultimately respect. Learning how to earn the right to talk about yourself is perhaps the best advice I could give you to win the respect of others.
Three, People are People. Recognize that we are people dealing with other people. This is a simple yet powerful realization to elevate your relationships with clients and teams. We are all human beings who experience common fears, joys, responsibilities and challenges. I would urge you to understand early on the human side in all of us. This is an empowering realization that has made me better at what I do, which is building relationships with clients and staff.
Four, You have the right to be here. Doubts about this truth continue to limit female advancement in business and to the most senior positions. Grant you, this is a tough one to internalize. To this day, I still sometimes have to remind myself in a boardroom, discussion, debate or presentation that I have every right to be in the room. Because I’ve built the credentials and the expertise to be there. I would tell you to enter every room with that certainty and yet be humble about it. Humble but confident about your talent and smarts. There’s a clear distinction between conceit and confidence. There is nothing wrong with being proud of your accomplishments and successes, especially when these add value to people. I can tell you from experience that when you are able to express those accomplishments in a thoughtful and authentic way, people want to hear more about them. Yes, you will face objectors who will want to shut you down and take your right to share your opinions and accomplishments. I urge you to stand up and claim your right to be here.
You’re quite amazing and smarter than you give yourself credit for. You may not believe it now but one day you will thank me.
Your Older Self