Social media is filled with inspirational quotes and messages from successful women who appear to really have their stuff together. At least that’s what’s filling up my feeds these days.
Much of it is benign. Some of it hits me right in the heart. And, some of it, I really wonder if the advice was practical or realistic enough to be used in the real world.
This was my thought when I came across this video on Thrive Global.
To summarize, the former Editor-in-Chief of Self magazine, Lucy Danziger, who was let go from the magazine in 2014, said when we leave a company – by choice or not – we should “know what your asset is, what your skillset is… know what you have to offer.” She then tells us to know our value and to go get that value.
It’s fantastic advice.
The trick, however, is you first have to know your value. This is never easy when we’re in transition. Change isn’t easy – for anyone. It’s stressful and emotional. All of which make it exceptionally easy to lose sight of the value we offer the world.
That was the case after my second return from maternity leave.
A lot of things had happened in the months before and during my mat leave, above being a mom for the second time (more about that here!). Plus, things at work had drastically changed during my time off and I was left with a new manager and a new job.
The weight of the changes and my fight to juggle all the balls being thrown at me at the same time left my self-esteem battered. I no longer believed in my capabilities, I devalued my previous experiences, I belittled my accomplishments, and I didn’t believe there was any reason for anyone to invest in me.
It took some time to get out of the hole I had dug for myself. And, a whole lot of work, giving a good number of things a try. Here are three of those strategies.
1. Remind yourself of the great things you’ve done.
Shortly after my second mat leave, I came to share a workspace with an incredible, wise human. One day, she pulled out a massive binder from the drawer. The mere fact that it was a binder was shocking, but it was what she did next that was downright brilliant!
As she flipped through the pages, she recounted the work she had done. Almost like looking through a photo album, she reminisced about the good work she had done, the challenges some projects presented and the incredible experiences each one brought.
I didn’t have a binder per se. But I had other work memorabilia – copies of presentations, and congratulatory emails from previous managers and mentors. There were photos from conferences and fun evenings out with colleagues. I also had my LinkedIn profile, and a rich gallery of Facebook and Insta memories.
I went through these and started to remember the work I had done, the experiences and people I worked with, as well as the challenges I had successfully overcome. The memories let me see that, yes, I had something worthy to bring to the table.
2. Ask a friend
Here’s an obvious one for you: we women are pretty damn hard on ourselves. We set an impossibly high bar for ourselves, yet we have an uncanny ability to see the incredible feats our friends and colleagues perform on the daily.
So, when we are struggling to assess the value we offer the world, ask a friend to share what they believe is your best quality. The more people you poll, the better. Not only will their feedback lift your spirits, it’s likely you’ll hear a few surprising tidbits that will reframe how you think and talk about yourself.
3. Take action
You can’t think yourself out of a funk. Especially when that funk is steeped in self-doubt, unworthiness or fear. The reality is the more time you spend “thinking,” the worse your situation gets.
You have to take action. Get out of your regular routine and do something that will force you to be brave, that will test your skills, push you to grow in a new direction or have you realize something you’ve known all along.
This could be as simple as having a conversation with someone new in your network. You could also volunteer your skills to support an organization.
Because I didn’t see my value after my second maternity leave, I thought I needed more training. I enrolled in an online course and after one session, I realize I was in the wrong place. More to the point, I realized I had been honing that particular skill for over a decade.
Sure I felt foolish for underestimating myself. But, had I not taken the action I would have continued to believe I didn’t have that particular skill. What’s worse, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to go after opportunities that leveraged those very specific capabilities.
Each of these steps will help you evaluate your skills and capabilities. They’ll also help you better understand who you are and what you want at this point in your life. You may realize you don’t enjoy certain parts of your job, or you’re no longer able to do the work you enjoy most.
Whatever you learn, use it to guide your next step. Use it when negotiating a salary raise, as you pitch for a new job or whatever it is you want to take your career and life.