Loved this post by Kate Harding on why women really need to stop “ah-shucksing” themselves into oblivion. (Thanks, T/S intern Chloe, for the tip!)
I’ve seen this my entire life. Women who are actually proud of what they do — whether breastfeeding twins and/or running a law firm and/or completing their first (or 25th) marathon or caring for an ill, aging parent — are trained from birth to pretend it’s nothing.
Because, more than likely, some other women who find the whole confidence thing a little too scary and threatening will get all chicken-necked and hiss, to her face, or more likely behind it: “Who does she think she is anyway?”
Women are just as nasty to one another as we are to ourselves. We’ve already got (sorry, good guys, we love you) too many male feet crushing our windpipes, whether at work or domestically or economically or politically to need a stiletto on top of it. But when we can’t say “Yup, I’m really good at X,” we do it to ourselves.
I did this last week.
I’d been telling a fellow board member (yes, I serve on two pretty busy volunteer boards, with four face to face meetings a year, monthly conference calls and many ad-hoc emails) how hard I’d worked, because I love it, on our apartment. I’ve studied interior design at a great school, The New York School of Interior Design and even got an A (yay!) in our notoriously tough color class. When a colleague said, admiringly: “Your apartment sounds beautiful,” I was stymied.
“Um. Yeah. Um. Probably.” Modesty forbade me from saying, yes, it is.
I won my National Magazine Award in 1998 but have never even framed the certificate, which is quite beautiful and done in calligraphy. It’s in a cupboard. Where would I put it in, in a one-bedroom apartment, that isn’t eye-rollingly obnoxious?
Some people think I’m arrogant as shit (and maybe I am) because I’m usually really proud of my accomplishments. My Dad, who’s won all sorts of amazing awards for his work (which he’s hidden in the basement or even given away), poked me recently: “You don’t lack for confidence, do you?”
This can also be a deeply culturally-ingrained behavior you carry with you for decades, even when you live somewhere like New York City and its mostly-wealthy suburbs where modesty is seen as some sort of mental disability. Canadians, bless ’em, are heavily socialized to be self-deprecating and reflexively shrug off all praise. That Nobel? Feh. See also: Japan (the tallest nail gets hammered down) and Sweden and Australia (the tall poppy gets its head cut off.)
I live in New York, work in a dying industry filled with thousands of sharp-elbowed, well-connected competitors, in a recession. Not the best time to hide your light (no matter if it’s 40-watt) under a bushel.
If still you’re denying your fabulousness (which does not mean Facebooking every bloody mouse-fart you or your children or dogs just completed!), stop right now.