Is one of your new year’s resolutions to build yourself up at work? Here are five empowering steps you take to join the confidence club – your future self will thank you.
1. Stop apologising
Women often apologise for things that aren’t our fault; this diminishes our voices. Doesn’t the patriarchy give us enough of that already? Stop inadvertently undermining yourself! Make it your policy never to apologise (unless absolutely necessary).
Start by stripping apologetic language from your emails. Need help? Try the ‘Just Not Sorry’ chrome widget here.
2. Defend your IP
Have you ever said something in a meeting or conversation, only to have a man take your idea and claim it as his own? We call this ‘he-peating’ or ‘bro-priation’ – and we’re not having it.
Calling it out can be hard, but if you don’t do it you’re sending a signal that he can keep stealing your intellectual property. Try saying ‘that’s right – as I mentioned to Pete, my thinking behind this was…’ Then you can elaborate on the idea to show you were the one who birthed it.
Embarrassing for Pete, and rightly so.
3. Assert your voice
Being interrupted and/or spoken over by a man is known as ‘manterruption’. It can be patronising, humiliating and offensive but you don’t have to put up with it. Here’s what you can do if it happens to you in a work meeting. When manterrupted, simply state, “I’m speaking.” If they try to continue, repeat it; “I’m speaking.” This is a tactic used by Kamala Harris in a US presidential debate and it’s not rude or insubordinate to use this phrase.
It also helps to police the manterrupting of others. By practising bystander intervention, you can work up the courage for your own defence. This might mean politely cutting off the person who has just interrupted and asking them to let your female colleague finish.
4. Embrace failure
“Failure forces us to see things in a new light, and to look for ways to do things better,” says senior advertising professional and home.cook.love founder Alicent Wong. “Without failure, there’s no progress.”
Of course, making mistakes rarely feels good at the time. Says Senior Account Director Kylie Blatsis: “Mistakes happen and it’s ok. Senior people make mistakes more often than you’d think! Own it and don’t cover it up. You’ll always get caught out and it’s so much worse. Take responsibility for it and people will respect that and go easier on you. And get on the front foot early. Much easier to minimise the damage! Lastly, don’t labour on it. Learn and move on.”
Make failure your friend and watch your resilience, insight and success blossom.
5. Always show up as yourself
“Your difference is your superpower”, says Rare With Google founder Stefanie DiGianvincenzo.
“There is no one label or identifier that makes you rare. It might be an inherent diversity, like your gender, race, sexuality, ability or any number of aspects of yourself that impact the way you see the world. Or it might be something less obvious, like an acquired diversity – say you’ve lived abroad, experienced a big loss, or become a carer.
Ultimately, it’s a point of view or lived experience that you can bring to work that’s different to everybody else – but representative of a community that exists out there in the world.”
Put simply, your unique brand of talent and personality cannot be replicated. When you own it – that’s when you’ll feel good and produce your best work.
NB: It isn’t always easy to be yourself, especially if your workplace isn’t a safe space or you've had negative experiences in the past. If this is the case, consider looking for somewhere you can not only be accepted but thrive.