When you hold yourself back, when you don’t assert the power of your position, share your information, offer your opinion, there is a price to be paid—and it is either paid in real time with negative consequences or paid down the line in a failure to really succeed.
Are You Holding Yourself Back?
If this sounds like you, you can begin by discovering how those toxic inner thoughts, what I call girly thoughts, are getting in the way of you doing the job you were hired to do. Yes, your girly thoughts can trip you up in many places in your life, but let’s begin by tackling one part of everyone’s job: speaking up at work. Whether you are working as a coder or as a surgeon, your thoughts about your work are important. But for many women finding their voice at work is not so easy.
I was recently at a meeting when the staff was asked to offer their opinions on a subject. It was interesting to note that all the men spoke first. Several women tried to speak during the time when the men “had the floor,” but here’s what would happen.
A woman would begin to speak; a man would interrupt, speaking just a little louder; the woman would smile slightly, put her head down, and appear to “wait her turn” as the man continued speaking.
In my last blog post, “For the New Year—Don’t Listen to Those Girly Thoughts . . . Speak UP at Work!” I cited an article by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant on the price women pay for using their voice at work. Yes, there are real consequences for speaking up at work, but there are also very real consequences for not speaking up, for not using your power, for not asserting your valuable professional opinions—and this is why women do not get as far as our male counterparts.
6 Ways Your Girly Thoughts Keep You Down at Work
Navigating the “Rules of the Office” includes knowing when to speak and how to offer your opinion. To find out if your girly thoughts are getting in your way, ask yourself if you are holding yourself back. Do you:
- wait for the right time to speak?
- make sure you are not interrupting others?
- prioritize politeness and preface your contributions by saying “Excuse me” or “I’m sorry, but . . .”?
- use your most non-threatening voice, a.k.a. a little girl voice?
- feel the need to smile as you speak?
- carefully rephrase your point to be nice when you make it?
How do you feel if someone repeats a point you made earlier as though the idea originated with him or her? Do you feel it is impolite to remind others that the idea is yours by saying something like, “Thank you for summarizing the point I made earlier”?
If your answer is yes to even one of these questions, you need to make some changes.
Stand in Your Power—Warning: You May Not Be Liked
For many women, speaking up at work means being seen as powerful, and that may mean you will not be liked or seen as nice. So let’s take a moment to look at these terms.
Nice means, for many women, being seen as compliant, understanding, forgiving, and subservient. Said this way, it doesn’t feel very good, does it? So why do so many of us want to be nice? Because our girly thoughts say that’s how we should be acting, that we have each been raised to be a “good girl and good girls are nice, all the time. No wonder we feel anxious when we push back at work.
As for being liked? Well, you may not be liked if you speak up, but then again you may be respected, listened to, thought of as a force—in short, you may be cultivating many of the qualities that will be important in your career.
This is your choice—choose to keep listening to those girly thoughts or advance in your career.
This Year, Train for Success
For maximum career success you need to train as you would to improve any skill. Begin with a plan for how you will:
- discover your voice
- use your voice
- tell yourself you will use your power and be successful
- use positive affirmations as I describe in The Girly Thoughts 10-Day Detox
Here’s one to get you started:
“The most important thing I wear is my confidence.”
And have some fun—just say NO to your girly thoughts that tell you “You can’t do that.”
Let me know how you have coached yourself to speak up at work. Share your tips and tricks for overcoming your own toxic self-talk.
For my next three blogs, we’ll switch from the office to your heart and focus on Valentine’s Day. Yes, your girly thoughts have a field day with this symbolic day! I’ll help you enjoy the day for what it is instead of letting it hold you hostage by creating anxiety and uncertainty and draining you of your power as you unwittingly give it over to another person.
You’ll find more ideas for getting rid of your negative self-talk in my book The Girly Thoughts 10-Day Detox Plan: The Resilient Woman’s Guide to Saying NO to Negative Self-Talk and YES to Personal Power
Patricia A. O'Gorman, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice. She is noted for her work on women, trauma, and substance abuse and for her warm, inspiring, and amusing presentations that make complex issues accessible and even fun. She has served as a consultant to organizations across the country in preventative and clinical strategic planning. Dr. O'Gorman is a cofounder of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, and she has held positions ranging from director of a rape crisis center to clinical director of a child welfare agency, and director of the division of prevention for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). She is a veteran of numerous television appearances, including Good Morning America, Today, and AM Sunday and is the author of eight books including: The Girly Thoughts 10 Day Detox Plan (2014), The Resilient Woman: Mastering the 7 Steps to Personal Power (2013), and Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting (2012) 12 Steps to Self-Parenting.