Such a Big Ego

This one is for all the people who feel like they have to shrink who they are, what they believe in, the way they show up in the world, so that others can be comfortable.

This one is for all of the humans who have been treated as "less than" because of their age, race, gender, creed, sexual orientation, political beliefs.

This one is for all the women who have walked into a room full of men for an important meeting expecting to be treated like an equal only to be patronized.

This one is for every battle, every wound, every injustice, every slander, we've had to face on the long journey towards equality.

Why Bigness Is Hard

Why is it so challenging to own my worth?  Why does it feel egomaniacal to put into the space that I have something substantial to offer?

When a woman takes up space, when a woman is ambitious, when a woman is successful, when a woman wants to climb higher, she is instantly demonized.  We are taught to be good little girls.  We are taught to sit still.  We are taught that our worth is in our beauty. We are taught that if we are not submissive, docile, laced-up, visions of perfection, then we are somehow less valuable.  

In a recent podcast interview on Longform, Hillary Clinton addresses the ways in which women are taught to be less.  She explains that she was most liked when she was Secretary of State for President Obama.  Anytime she attempted to rise to first in command, as opposed to serving under a man, she immediately was met with harsh criticism, allegations, and slander that no man had to deal with.   Regardless of your politics, it is impossible to deny that the way Clinton was treated during the Presidential Campaign in 2016 was worse than any male candidate.  I bring up Clinton as a very public example of what it is like to be a woman in 2017 who dreams bigger than the patriarchy allows. Like vines the wrapping themselves around the hearts and minds of young women, this archaic but normative way of perceiving woman prevents us from growing into the visionaries and leaders we were born to be. 

I look at women like my mother, who works in a male dominated industry (civil engineering).  I see how she, as an immigrant from a developing nation, has risen to the top of her field by working ten times harder than her male peers. I remember the late nights and early mornings she pulled.  I remember that on top of all of the work, the battle to shatter the glass ceiling, she still picked my sisters and I up from our babysitter and found time to come to the soccer games and concerts and school plays. I remember the significant shift when my mother started to own all of her accomplishments, not in a boastful or arrogant way, in a way that was filled with humility.

So why, even being raised my an incredibly strong and forward thinking woman, do I still have troubling owning my worth?

In the past few months, my idea of who I allow myself to be has been challenged consistently.  
Let those words sink in for a moment: “Who I ALLOW myself to be”.

Because of the incredibly limiting cultural norms, I bought into the belief that I will never be enough.  Even when sources outside of myself recognize all that I have done and continue to do, a part of me still believes that it is not enough. Paradoxically, it feels somehow as though my ego is running the show the moment I talk about my accomplishments. I've reduced the my own bigness and placed a hard stop on the ways in which I can expand. 

Women are taught to take up less space.  Women are taught to not be bold and take risks and push boundaries.  The women who have in the past are outliers, usually in some way made “other”.

This is where we need to begin. We need to relearn.  We need to retrain our brains to accept our bigness.  We need to start seeing other high achieving women as our greatest allies instead of enemies.  We need to band together and affirm that what we building, these lives that we are carving out, are worthy of our continued effort and community support.  We can navigate the uncomfortable space of owning our worth together.

Strategies for Owning Bigness 

  • When people compliment me, instead of making my achievement smaller, I say, "thank you" and unapologetically live in that moment.
  • Whenever I notice my mind starting to list off the reasons why I am not good enough, will never succeed, or do not deserve [insert XYZ here], I pause and ask myself if this is based in fact. I compare the list of things that I have done, experience I have, knowledge I gained and weigh it agains the qualifications.  If I come up short, then yes.  Perhaps I have further to go before I achieve that.  If I meet or exceed the expectations of the particular thing, then yes.  I do deserve this. 
  • I write down a list of things I know to be true about who I am, what I believe, what I work for, what I’ve achieved.  Most of the time, these come out in the form of affirmations.
  • I go through everything that I write and removed the apologetic tone. I make sure that I don’t apologize for taking up time or space, which is a different thing from being grateful for the opportunity/experience/correspondence.
  • I share my opinion without apologizing, while respecting the opinions of others.  
  • I physically roll my shoulders down and back and broaden through my heart instead of shrinking. 
  • I ask for help when I need it.  I delegate when I need to
  • I recognize the ways that I am endowed with privilege and act compassionately towards every person I come in contact with because I know what it means to feel powerless.
  • I continue to tackle my big dreams.  I dream bigger than before. I write it all down and remind myself of how far I’ve come and how much farther I can go.
  • I create a community of likeminded humans who believe in equality, compassion, and mutual support.

Find your tribe.  One moment, one breath, at a time, decide that you are WORTH your bigness. What are the ways in which you have made yourself smaller?  How are you going to choose differently? Keep growing. -K