During a recent video shoot, an interviewer asked me, “What are the little inner voices in your head?”
I quickly started to respond, “I don’t have any inner little voic….”… then suddenly, a flood of voices from my past came rushing at me.
From my younger years I heard:
- “You can do whatever you want.”
- “Girls don’t play hockey.”
- “You aren’t as fast as the boys.”
- “Girls aren’t as good at math.”
- “You could study physics, but you are really great at English Literature. You could teach that.”
In the workplace I heard:
- “Congratulations on being top of your class. You’ll bring tremendous value to our team.”
- “Can you take the notes at this meeting?”
- “Could you get me a coffee?”
- “Bob, that is a great idea!” (after Bob repeated something I said earlier)
- “Who is taking care of your kids?”
In the boardroom I heard:
- “We are diverse and inclusive.”
- “Let’s go for beers.”
- “Let’s go golfing.”
- “Bob, what do you think about these numbers?”
- Or nothing at all – like when no one would make eye contact with me when I was eight months pregnant.
All these voices. Everyone’s got their own set. And they don’t come at you from just one person. They come from many people and places: colleagues, friends, teachers, strangers, news stories, television, music, social media. That is what makes them so hard to fight. They grind at you. Everywhere and always.
When I was very young, I believed I could do anything and be anything. My parents absolutely ignited that belief in me. And yet, I’ve still battled underlying self-doubt. The external voices and others’ actions can suffocate your internal beliefs very quickly.
But you must fight those voices.
In my previous blog post, I talked about defining your own version of success – not someone else’s – and reflecting deeply on what that means for you. An important part of this process is not letting others limit that definition and fully embracing your ability, your passion, your contribution. You can’t allow these other voices to put you in a box. You have to keep pushing back, to fight them. You will be better for it. We will all be better for it.
Even though there were constant voices seeping into my pores about why I should do one thing and not another, I thankfully also had supporters along the way. Those who helped me counter the voices. Those who helped me to say, “Yes. Yes, I can.”
You need the champions, the mentors, the parents, the partners, the friends, the spouse, anyone you can get – you need them all. It took someone else to tell me, “Don’t settle.” It took someone else to tell me, “Don’t self select out.” Can you believe someone else had to tell me these things? My biggest supporter and rock, my husband. I know not everyone has that person, so for sure that makes me lucky.
Of course, the next question becomes “how do I find champions”? My experience says you likely have champions in your life right now. What you need to do though is make sure you extract the energy, the confidence, the insights, and the reinforcement that they can provide. When you are with a colleague, a friend, a manager or others in your environment, be reflective and think about whether they are encouraging you and championing you, or not. How can you tell? Do you feel an increase in energy and confidence when you are with them? If so, they are already a form of champion. The next step is to lean into this circle. Think about what caused the increase in confidence, and how can you then recreate the atmosphere more deliberately either with this champion supporting you, or even if they are not in the room. When else do you feel greater confidence? Who is with you when you do? Be thoughtful about what you are experiencing and then bring that same game to the next meeting you attend. With any of these champions, be specific when you ask for feedback. Be observant in how they present themselves as well. And listen. That will help you find your voice.
And even now when I’m further in my career and have built my confidence, the voices of self-doubt still creep in sometimes: “Should I ask this question at the meeting? Surely everyone else must already know the answer. If I ask it, will others think it’s a stupid question? Maybe I didn’t do enough homework and it was covered previously….”
It’s okay to have these inner voices. Of course, you will have self-doubt from time to time. But you can’t, you must not, allow it to diminish you, to limit you or to play smaller than you are. Listen to the champions that are saying, “Yes, yes you can.”
How Vancity can help
I know so many women whose inner voice undercuts them on their financial knowledge. It is an area of self-doubt for sure – some of this is from women’s own lack of confidence, but much of it has been created over many years of hearing voices imply that they know less.
Part of what I strive for with my work at Vancity is the ability to empower everyone to take control of their financial future by providing personal planning advice regardless of how much money they have. We call this One-to-One, planning advice for everyone. Learn more.