Special Note: This week’s post is by Guest SagaciDiva Dr. Julia Overton-Healy, who runs the Beth Robinson Judson Leadership Center at Alfred University, NY. Dr. Overton-Healy recounts a moment that made clear for her how often we bury the treasured achievements we experience in the everyday and offers a tool you can use to see the fierce fabulous in you!
“You’re not looking at me, are you?”
I asked, “What’s something you did recently that made you proud of yourself?” to a room full of smart, funny, compassionate young students, and heard…crickets. I waited. Calmly. Patiently. They were flummoxed. I wondered, “Why is it so hard for them?” Finally, one voice, from a Dean’s List/Student Senate member/Club President/Varsity athlete, said, “You’re not looking at me, are you?” I nodded and smiled. “Yes, I am.” She got red in the face and looked away. A 10-minute exercise took all class period to finally get some reactions. Now, it was my turn to be flummoxed.
I heard some unacceptable themes: No matter how much we achieve, we don’t believe our own success; We are unwilling to own, totally, our achievements and almost always give credit to others; Pride is arrogance; It’s easier to focus on our errors than on our wins. Now, would it surprise you to learn this class was made up entirely of women? When I tried this again, but with a group of young men, they boasted eagerly. Why the marked difference in willingness to call out their achievements?
I’m not a sociologist, but I am a woman, and began to delve into where this disconnect occurs for young women that doesn’t seem to happen to young men. Is it the NBE (not “blank” enough) message directed so pointedly at women? Not “thin” enough. Not “pretty” enough. Not “rich” enough. Blah, blah, blah. What reality do girls see in the mirror that is so different from what boys see? Are girls conditioned to see only in terms of what’s missing, the glass half empty, while boys see what’s there and how far they’ve come, the glass half full?
I asked these young women to try a simple tool, a tool my students now tell me works crazy-good. At least once a week, you are to look at yourself in a mirror, and name one thing you did recently that you’re proud of. Something you did, not something that happened to you, or was done for you. It can be big (quitting smoking) or it can be small (balancing your checkbook), so long as it came from your own power, authority and choice.
Next, think about it. Deeply. See it with detailed memory. Smile. Keep looking at yourself while you relive this glorious you-moment, and watch the look of pride reflect back at you. See yourself feeling good about your accomplishment. I urge you to try it.
I made this a required assignment for 10 days. They had to journal it, too, so even if they didn’t actually do the mirror thing, they at least had to picture it in their minds as they wrote about it. I was blown away. This was one of the most profound experiences I’ve had in my many years as a teacher/mentor/coach. Here’s what some wrote:
“I talked to my brother about how much I love him and want him to go into rehab.” “I changed my major to something I love and am excited about. ‘Career’ be damned, I want to be happy.” “I am sick of being sick. I got a personal trainer now. I walked 3 miles yesterday and ate no junk food.” “When I went home last weekend, I told my Mom about this. I made her try it. She loved it, too. Now, we text each other our ‘brags’ each night before bed.” “I realize how much I really, really LIKE myself. I am a cool chick. I have a lot to offer and I’m not giving it away to just anyone anymore.”
And from that first uber-achieving, question-avoiding student, “I stopped doing things just to build my resume. When I focused on what made me truly happy and proud, I got really clear about what matters to me. For the first time, I think ever in my life, I am consciously choosing first what’s right for me, and not what others expect of me.”
So, what can young girls take away from what young boys seem to do with ease? Become braggarts! Embrace the feeling of pride. If you’re looking for ways to build a truly authentic life, maybe creating your own “bragging” moments is one tool to do that. If you see yourself in this story (or see your daughter, sister, wife or friend), I hope you’ll take this exercise and make use of it.
And when you’re looking in the mirror at the wonderful, powerful, extraordinary you, realize that, yes, I am looking at you, the eyes of the world. See yourself as accomplished as we know you are, and you’re on your way to fierce fabulousness!
Twitter @JuliaHealy; LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/JuliaOvertonHealy; email at firstname.lastname@example.org.