I’ve gone my whole life adding qualifiers when describing myself. I might be good at school, but I’m not as good at history. I have nice hair, but I’m overweight. I’m good at math, FOR A GIRL. You’ve accomplished a lot, for a working mom. The problem is I’m sick of qualifiers. I’m sick of feeling not quite good enough.
I have a lot of great qualities, without any qualifiers. This has been pointed out to me by someone who stole my heart, my daughter. I know I said I wouldn’t write much about my kids, but her words were so inspirational and it’s a big part of this thought process. This week, and a few times before, I have asked my daughter to make a choice of some kind. For example, what kind of ice cream would you like. She will respond by saying she wants whatever I would pick out, because she wants to grow up to be just like me, but a veterinarian.
In those sweet words from my daughter I have about an instant of “awwe” and quickly qualifiers enter my head. Why would she want to be like me? Sure I finished college, but I’m overweight. I might be descent at singing, but my marriage failed and I’m about to get divorced. I have so many flaws. I hope she does’t end up like me! And so on. I have to catch myself before I speak those words that are about to pour out of me because the last thing I want for my daughter is to grow up learning to criticize herself. So I take a beat. I count to 3 in my head and think of how to respond. I remember Kung Fu Panda 3, like any normal adult would.
My response goes something like this. That is soo sweet hunny and I love you so much. I wasn’t made your mommy to raise you to be like me, though. I was made your mommy to raise you to be you. So please tell me, what would YOU like.
It’s as simple as that. It’s amazing how much a simple flattery from my own child can instantly turn into an entire moment of self-criticism. I should be jumping for joy that my daughter thinks so highly of me that she wants to be like me when she grows up. Even now, as I write this I continue to doubt myself and why she would want that. It is so hard to think of my accomplishments, and how others might see me, when I dwell so much on my failures and shortcomings. I’m sick of these qualifiers.
I was in a workshop this week geared towards helping women gain confidence and take the risks that can help us grow and succeed. I’ve heard similar words before. That women tend to take a back seat because they doubt themselves. They don’t sound confident because they use too many qualifiers when they speak. The best way to make an impression is to network and get to know people. Use mentors and sponsorships to help you take yourself further in your career. The reality is these words have been spoken so many times but I’m still not sure I’ve ever really HEARD them or taken it personally.
I use qualifiers in my every day vocabulary. I tend to want to skip out on networking events in the hopes that my work will speak for itself. I constantly doubt myself and my abilities. Even after reading Lean In, I felt like I was an imposter when I accepted the role I’m currently in. Like somehow they’d all eventually figure me out. I didn’t apply for a job unless I qualified for 100% of the requirements. Thank God for the recruiter that called me about the job I’m in. I thank God she was diligent and emailed me and left me a voicemail. I never thought in a million years I was good enough. And here I sit 8 months in and I love it. I get to help people. I get to solve problems. I’m learning SAS programming and developing my technical skills. I am figuring out how to put my signature on my work. I am excited about what I do. Every single day. And to think because of the self doubt I had I wasn’t even going to respond to her. That would have been the real failure.
The reality is that we all learn from our “failures”. Mine have made me stronger. I am going to continue to get better and continue to learn from my failures.
I may not ever see myself as good enough, beautiful enough, or smart enough. I will, however, work on the qualifiers I use in my language. Maybe at some point I will be able to see myself through the eyes of my daughter and see why she thinks I’m so great. For now, I will say I’m good at math. I am learning to be an expert at my job. I have accomplished a lot. I’m hard working. I have great hair. I’m simply going to try to drop the qualifiers in my language and maybe someday my thoughts.
I really am good enough.