“This has been incredible. How do you know all this stuff?”
I am comfortably sitting on the floor cross-legged at sunset with a glass of red wine in my hand. I am leading a strategic planning retreat for entrepreneurs and the team is feeling pleasantly tired from the focused work, and also fired up.
I laugh. I stare down at my glass. I was feeling comfortable, but now my overarching sensation is really wanting to squirm.
I don’t know how to handle this question. I hesitate and start to go with one of the 3 Ds: discount, distract, deflect…
My first instinct is to tell her she must be mistaken and to discount what I bring to the table. That I don’t really know anything. That what has transpired over the last few days is really no big deal.
Thankfully in a flash of self preserving insight it does occur to me that given this is MY JOB, not only would that be wildly incorrect (the weekend was super productive! and fun! there were Ahas and introspection and pivotal moments!), but it could possibly inspire them to question their investment in my services, which would be royally, royally, royally stupid on my part.
I manage to hold my tongue. So far…
I almost try to change the subject, distracting her from her curiosity with an, “Oh I’m not so sure about that! Tell me more about you…”
And then I think to shift the shine by deflecting any and all praise that is coming my way off to the group to enjoy collectively. As if my experience and skills weren’t catalysts, when I know they were.
Because as women, we do that all the time, don’t we? Pass our superpowers off as “nothing” or convenient accidents that the group should benefit from without attributing credit where it is due.
As though saying, “I am really good at this” is the most arrogant thing I could ever say. Even when it’s true. Even when it helps others. Even when people want it.
My goal is not to be arrogant. But my goal is no longer to be humble to the point of disappearing.
I take a deep breath. I decide all at once to take a gamble and try throwing away my usual discounting/distracting/deflecting crutches. I decide instead to gratefully gather her compliments up in my arms, hold them carefully and step into uncharted territory:
Boldly, I say ‘thank you,” answer her question, and I own her kind bouquets with the sincerest of appreciation.
I am not in my 20s. I am not in my 30s. I am in my 40s. I have worked with absolute powerhouses and people whose minds astounded me. I have hunkered down in meeting rooms with leading brands hashing out ideas and in conference rooms pitching next steps. I have been lead by bosses for whom I would do anything and alongside teams I have wanted everything for. I’ve started businesses and supported many more. I’ve been inspired, I’ve fell, deflated… and I’ve done it a few times because I’ve been working for awhile.
Going up and down and up again has given me some perspective. So has moving a few times. So has marriage and motherhood and family and illness and friendship… normal life stuff.
I have noticed since turning 40 that when referencing my age I have starting saying, “in my 40s” rather than what my actual, exact age is. I’ve been doing it because I’ve been trying to hide in the decade, as if the act of suggesting that maybe I am 49 lets me slide by as possibly being 40.
What an odd choice I’ve been making. I think I’m ready to just own it.
Own the compliments. Own what I have to offer. Own my age. Own the truth.
I am good at what I do.
I am insightful.
I am 43 years old.
I am worth it.
(okay, so that end part ended up sounding like a L’Oreal commercial but I am going with it because I AM worth it, damnit!!)
We all are… and that’s not me deflecting, it’s fact…
I am conducting an experiment: I have challenged myself to try something new each month in 2022. Here are my (self imposed) rules. Let me know if you have ideas on fun/ interesting/ novel things I could try in the comments.
Or join me, that would be even more lovely actually…