Tuesday, July 16, 2013

We are what we speak

Observe the following comments made over the past week: 

"That was my duh moment."
"Sometimes my brain is really slow."
"I didn't do this alone. We did this together."
"I probably don't know what I'm talking about."

These were comments made by professional women in management
capacities. Each one has years of experience and is respected for her accomplishments, but somehow she subjects herself to harsh self-criticism. Sad to say, the words were uttered right after they displayed assertiveness or made a worthy contribution. There were men who complained, but never ones that attacked their intelligence  or efforts - only the tasks at hand. 

So what gives? Is this the way women try to convey humbleness or are they inadvertently apologizing for something? Maybe success. The comments were made in humor, and a few times I chuckled along, having made similar statements throughout my professional career. But after some reflection, I found the comments pretty humiliating and unnecessary.  We all joke around with friends and if we're comfortable enough,  even with colleagues, but imagine if a visitor is within earshot. Worse, imagine a clueless coworker repeating that statement in a visitor's presence. It does not look good. 

I'm no specialist, but psychologists have repeatedly stated that the way we speak of ourselves is internalized. Negative self-talk can eventually weigh an individual down and affect her self-respect, perception and performance. This may may not sound like new information to many, but after repeated exposure to this behavior it warrants a mention. We need to step back and seriously evaluate how we describe ourselves to others, because worse than potentially accepting that criticism as truth we risk having our peers believe it as well. So let's take a page from our male colleagues and address the problem and not the self-confidence. 

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