I tossed and turned on ideas to celebrate International Women’s Month – I thought of dozens of women and all the work they’ve done and how I could possibly feature them all… but then I remembered one story in particular that truly changed my outlook on ambition and how much power and influence we have on earning success.
In May, I was at my second day of my internship in a brand new city, all by myself. One of my teammates asked if I’d like to attend the Keyholder Speaker event for the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, featuring Geena Davis and Dr. Roxanne Gay. Free event to listen to inspiring women tell their stories of earning success? Sign me up.
There were several local women who told their stories of how they had contributed to their community. I searched high and low for their names and stories, but unfortunately they will be remaining a memory.
The focal point of the event was the authentic discussion between Geena Davis (Yes, Thelma) and Dr. Roxanne Gay.
Geena Davis transformed her acting career into an activist’s mission for women’s rights in media. She founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media after having her daughter and while watching cartoons with her, noticed a distinct character missing. Character meaning any inspiring women. She’s also invested countless resources into human trafficking victims and aiding in ending this horrendous crime.
Dr. Roxanne Gay is a novelist and author of “Bad Feminist”, which I immediately purchased as soon as I left the event. If you’ve ever felt like you’ve committed a sin against women so you can’t possibly be a good feminist, think again.
Inviting me to this event was literally like letting a kid into a candy store and giving them $20. It was one of the most inspiring events I have ever been to, and the fact that I had been living in the city for four whole days made it even that much better.
There was one moment, however, that not only gave me chills, but changed my mindset for the entire summer to follow, and resonates with me still to this day. I believe Geena had been talking about the number of women in media compared to men, and this reminded her of a time in college. She said she was sitting in one of her acting classes at the beginning of her collegiate career, and the professor told her whole class that they were heading down a difficult path, and that likely, only one of them would become successful. Davis then said she looked around the room and thought to herself “Oh, these poor kids”, because she knew that one was going to be her.
She knew that success was hers for the taking.
Women are frequently taught to be humble about their accomplishments or they’re likely going to be called that beloved b-word. There’s a huge difference between being arrogant and believing in you. You are allowed to believe in yourself.
I realized after this event that the entry way to the road of success begins with your mindset. Wanting to succeed is not enough; you have to allow yourself to succeed. Silencing your inner saboteur is just as important as all the work you put in.
Here's What Not Allowing Yourself Success Looks Like:
1. Doubting or downplaying your abilities to others
Women are very guilty of deflecting compliments, especially at work. Compliments can sometimes come infrequently, so why turn them away when they do come? Of course you don’t want to look conceited or full of yourself, but if you’ve done something so well that you’re getting praise for it – soak it in, say thank you, and keep moving.
2. Apologizing for anything and everything
Earning credibility as a woman can be difficult, so apologizing frequently can make you seem uncertain, and eventually once others catch on, you can end of taking the fall for their mishaps, because they know you’ll apologize regardless, so why not blame you? This doesn’t mean to cut out apologizing all together – if someone is angry or upset, it’s okay to console them and apologize that they’re feeling this way, here’s what I mean by that:
A good example: “I’m having a horrible week – my car broke down and now I think I’m getting sick!” “That’s awful, I’m sorry you’re going through all of that, let me know if you need any help with anything.”
A bad example: “I’m looking for the payroll person, is that you?” “Oh no, I’m sorry, they sit over there.”
Suppose you’re late for a meeting due to another meeting going over, instead of “I’m so sorry for being late, my other meeting ran over!”, you can instead say “Thank you all for waiting on me, I had to book a meeting prior to this and it ran over.”
3. Having little to no confidence in yourself
This goes hand in hand with #2, owning your work and your actions is a key part to success. Davis exemplified confidence in my earlier example, she looked around, saw dozens of other talented aspiring actors, but knew she could outperform them, and she wasn’t afraid to admit it.
If you don’t believe in yourself, why should others?
I’ve seen this frequently in interviews, especially while answering “What is your greatest strength?” (Which you can learn how to answer by clicking the link below!). Countless women start to answer this with “Uhm I’m not too sure… I’m really good at helping others and I’ll do anything for anyone”. Have confidence in what you’ve done yourself. You can only earn success by owning what you’re best at, and you need to be able to communicate your expertise to others confidently.
4. Running from the unknown
5. Assuming success only comes with luck
6. Pitying Yourself
7. Not putting in the work
8. Putting others down
9. Running away from feedback
10. Not setting goals for yourself or celebrating their completion
Just as Olympic archers are excellent at hitting their targets, successful women need the same aim and direction. If you’re working tirelessly but have no goals in mind, you’d look like one of these archers just spinning in circles, clearly wasting their talents.
By setting a goal that you know you can reach, you’re channeling your skills into your work in the most efficient way. Worse yet, not celebrating your victories decreases your morale to complete the next goal.