I was listening to a women's empowerment type podcast recently and the interviewee was talking about something she’d been trying to figure out when she said some of the words I most hate to hear crossing women's lips.
She said, “I’m not smart enough to know how that works.” Sure, she said it flippantly, and with a laugh, to downplay the trouble she was having with this thing, but she said it just the same.
It struck a nerve with me because I have heard women say some variable of that statement for years. And, let’s be real, I used to do it too.
I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve sat in where a woman said, “This is probably a stupid idea, but....” Only to see her get upset when the idea wasn’t received well.
Think about this for a minute. Why would anyone think your idea is good when you just told them it was stupid?
Please, I beg you, have more faith in yourself than that. If you don't believe your ideas and you in general are great why would anyone else!?
I found, for myself, that it came from a desire to prevent rejection. I somehow thought that setting up the fact that it maybe wasn’t a great idea would somehow soften the blow when no one liked it. But all I was doing was telling them it was a bad idea before the actual idea had even come out of my mouth.
And we do this everywhere from the boardroom to the bedroom.
This whole thing actually reminds me of something I learned when the book He’s Just Not That Into You came out in 2009. Do you remember that book? It was written by two Sex and the City writers after that episode where Carrie’s boyfriend tells Miranda the guy she went on a date with probably just wasn’t that into her, and Miranda felt liberated. Anyway, it was a huge phenomenon at the time. Check out the clip to refresh your memory!
No matter how you feel about the overall message of that book, let me share a tidbit that changed how I thought about the messages we send people—whether the relationship is romantic or not.
I remember seeing the authors on Oprah once and they said you might be sabotaging yourself in relationships by constantly telling your partner what they think about you is wrong. Bear with me here.
For example, when your date or partner tells you you’re sexy or beautiful and you say “no I’m not” or downplay it or brush it off in some way instead of just saying “thank you,” you’re basically telling them they're wrong to think you are sexy or beautiful.
And if you keep doing it over and over again, well, they’ll wind up believing you.
In essence, the message the authors were trying to send is that there is nothing more attractive than loving yourself. And when we don’t believe we’re sexy or beautiful and keep putting that message out there, eventually, other people will agree with us.
So, how do you flip the script?
The way I see it, if you want to stop telling people your ideas are stupid or accept a compliment without negating it there is one place to start. And that is with how you talk to yourself. I bet if you just took an hour or two and made a point to notice what conversations were happening in your head you’d be shocked.
When I was first starting to practice changing my inner dialogue I would catch myself saying crazy stuff in my head all the time.
And I mean ALL. THE. TIME.
And I only realized how bad it was making me feel when I really started listening and did something to change up the conversation.
I remember a day a few years ago I was late one morning getting ready for work and rushed out of the house getting to the subway just in time—only to realize I'd left my subway card AND my wallet at home. I immediately went off on myself in my head saying, "You're so stupid, how could you have forgotten everything at home! Now you're really going to be late."
I was literally on the verge of going into a self-hate spiral over something so trivial when I caught myself and changed the story. I wasn't stupid I just did a stupid thing, I told myself. And those are very different things.
You may not think it makes a difference how you think about it, but trust me it does. It’s kind of like the difference between feeling guilt or shame. We interpret guilt as I did something bad and shame as I am bad. Which one do you think is more destructive?
Moral of the story, when you’re beating up on yourself like that try to change your inner dialogue. A great trick I learned from Brené Brown is to think about how you’d talk to a friend in the same situation and do that. Because honestly, you’d never be friends with someone who was constantly telling you that you were stupid or an idiot for doing x, y, and z, so why do you think it's ok when you say it?
The only way to break the cycle is to talk to yourself with the same kindness and support you’d give to someone you love.
So, please stop. Please stop telling people you’re not smart or sexy or qualified. Please stop selling yourself short. Please stop judging yourself. Please keep a watchful eye on how you’re talking to yourself and about yourself. You are beautiful, brilliant, kind and generous (I know you are!), so please make it a priority to remind yourself of that every chance you get.