So it’s time to talk. Seriously.
I’ve been putting off writing about a pattern I’ve noticed because it’s not so fun. And, frankly, I try to make my posts a little fun. A bit of a provocative romp, if you will.
But this topic is important enough, and common enough, that it’s time to get down to it. Because chances are it pertains to you…or someone you know…or both.
So let’s get down to it, then, yes? (And just trust me when I say that the extra pictures and somewhat-clever quips will return next time.)
Allow me to set the stage with a recent example.
I was participating in a day-long seminar with a group of powerful leaders from around the country. At the start of the session we were each given one minute to introduce ourselves.
Now, I happened to know some things about the woman sitting next to me. She was the CEO of a large organization in another state. She had an amazing background.
And…here’s what she said:
- My name is so-and-so and I’m the CEO of this-and-this
- Please don’t ask me to do anything with numbers today, because I’m terrible at math
- And please don’t ask me to tell any stories today, because I’m not that creative
- My background is this-and-this and that-and-that
- So I’m actually not that interesting
- And that’s me. Thanks
A few chuckled at her little speech, but I sure didn’t. Because I had indeed learned a few things about her.
- I learned that she most likely hates talking about herself, and so she filled in the awkward void by defaulting to the safe zone of putting herself down
- I learned that her own self-respect and self-worth are not high priorities
- I learned that, despite a list of amazing successes, there’s likely an insecurity there, which made it feel like a safe bet to put herself down before someone else could do it for her
Wow, Deirdre…you might be thinking…that’s pretty harsh, don’t you think? I mean, you really don’t know her, after all…
You’re right, of course. But here’s the deal. Even if I’m wrong about all three of these assumptions…her decision to spend her one precious minute putting herself down sent these exact assumptions to everyone in the room.
Why is this such a big deal?
Because, if you are not going to treat yourself with the respect that you deserve, then why should anyone else?
After all, you are a you expert. You know your value. So others will look to you and how you treat yourself to determine what that value truly is. And they will follow suit.
Now, not all of us have this nasty little put-ourselves-down habit (and I will say, ladies, it seems we do it more often), but plenty of us do. And lots of us do it without even realizing it.
Think about it…
- Do you ever talk about your age? About being old?
- Do you ever talk about being weak? Ignorant? Not capable? Not skilled at something?
- Do you ever talk about being too big or too small? About clothes fitting funny or things about your body that don’t work right?
- Do you call yourself or something you did or said stupid/dumb/ridiculous?
- Do you talk about not having a certain kind of degree or education?
- Do you blow off compliments?
- Do you always, always give away the credit…even when you deserve some of it?
- Do you apologize when you have done absolutely nothing wrong?
Putting ourselves down can be a tempting habit. It makes us seem humble. It fills the dead air of conversation. It gets ahead of others who might put us down first.
It’s also a terrible way to treat ourselves. It hurts us as professionals. It hurts us as people.
And, by the way, it makes other people uncomfortable.
Now, let me pause here to say that it’s absolutely fine (and good, in fact) to acknowledge your mistakes and work on your challenges. It’s also not a bad thing to talk about your insecurities with a few trusted loved ones.
But that’s not what this post is about.
This post is about all of those times – perhaps daily – that you put yourself down in the midst of a conversation. This is about letting others know that you are fine being treated poorly, because you’re doing it yourself. This is about how the person inside of you might really hate hearing those put-downs, but who has also grown to believe them.
This is serious.
So pay attention to when you put yourself down and stop doing it. And get others to stop it, too.
Because it’s not funny. And, frankly, lots of other people who know how great you are, are probably getting pretty tired of trying to convince you otherwise. They might even stop.
Whew…how’s that for some serious stuff?!
Again, I promise we’ll go back to some provocative romping next time.
Just as long as you promise not to put yourself down in the meantime.
Now go do good…and do it well.