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A few days back I showed a video of a recipe to my cook and asked him to prepare a dish that way. When we finished playing the video, my husband asked if he had followed the steps or wanted to see it again just to be clear. That’s when my cook replied ‘No, not necessary. I know how to make it. In fact, I have prepared it many times before.’
Well, I don’t know about my husband, but that statement struck to me. The thing is, my cook isn’t that great a cook. Let’s just say, he cooks as a way to earn his living but he’s not really a cook. People like myself employ him because of the paucity of time, choice and energy.
Now coming to the dish in question. Well, I can wager my books (yes, you know how precious they are to me) that he had never even heard of that recipe before seeing the video. The result actually did prove that quite comprehensively. But like always, he not only pretended that he knew how to make it but was good at it too.
Now, why do I mention this here?
Because I actually found it very fascinating. Well, if I could for a moment forget the horrible dinner from that night, that is.
The thing is, I have never ever seen him admit that he doesn’t know anything or even take the blame of a bad dish on himself. It is always something or someone else’s fault. And he is very casual while doing it. Maybe that is one of the reasons he still works at so many households in spite of not being a good cook.
This is the exact same behaviour I see in most men at work as well. I’m not saying they are bad at what they do but they never admit they don’t know something. Even if they have only heard about it in passing, they never so much as admit that. They always seem and claim to know everything. And if something goes wrong, they steer the conversation away from what they have done wrong so very skilfully. I have hardly ever seen them apologise for any mistakes or oversight. And apologise profusely? Hardly ever.
But when it comes to us women, it is not always the case. We are quick to take the responsibility for anything that might have gone wrong. We are adept at apologising profusely. Our thinking is what harm could an apology do. And that’s where we are wrong because in a workplace, it does affect perceptions of our competence even though it probably shouldn’t.
If we don’t know something or know very little about it, we hardly ever pretend that we do even though we might actually know more than the man standing next to us. In fact, sometimes we take ownership of mistakes by others too.
Well, while what we do might be the right thing to do, it still isn’t right when it comes to the workplace. Well, at least one which is male dominated.
But why the self-doubt and sabotage?
Louis P Frankel, in her book Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make that Sabotage Their Careers, says ‘We come to believe that our possibilities are limited, when in fact, they’re limited only because we allow them to be.’
Makes sense, doesn’t it? So many times we stop short of being what we were meant to be because of these self-doubts.
When we not only question our own abilities but exhibit that uncertainty verbally and through our body language, it does irreparable damage. We not only lose out on a possible life changing opportunity knocking at the door but often on more in the future too. Our opinions are ignored. We are bypassed for promotions, new assignments and projects. Not something you want happening to you.
The playing field isn't level for women and pulling ourselves down isn't the way to navigate… Click To Tweet
I don’t know why we are programmed this way. Louis P Frankel says it all stems from our intrinsic need to please everyone, be the quintessential nice girl. While I might not agree with everything she says in her book but she does make an excellent case with compelling points and some very pertinent observations.
Repeat after me - I'm better than I think I am. #Women Click To Tweet
As for why I do it. Well, probably because I don’t like the idea of not being completely honest with myself and others when I claim to know something that I don’t. And then there is the risk of sounding overconfident as well.
But over the years, I have realised that this isn’t how the workplace functions, at least not one which is male dominated. Of course, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be honest but we shouldn’t also be quick to pass on opportunities. The playing field isn’t level for women and pulling ourselves down isn’t the way to navigate towards the goal post.
Eleanor Roosevelt said you gain courage and confidence from doing the things you think you cannot do and I think we all need to remember this.
Chin up and face all the obstacles and prejudice head on. Take on new challenges while you are at it.
While honesty is still something that I hold dear, I’m coaching myself to not make light of my own abilities. In the quest of being humble, I shouldn’t end up hurting my prospects. I’m better than I think I am. I can do more that I can even imagine and that is only possible when I acknowledge myself.
You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think. – Louis P Frankel
As women, we already need to fight so many prejudices at work. Why make light of our fight by belittling ourselves or disregarding our abilities? We don’t need to know everything about something to actually know it. The truth is nobody knows everything. Women need to remember that and grab every promising opportunity they want to and not pass it off to someone else. Remember, we played nice for long but to no avail. It’s time we play by some new rules and beat them at their game. It’s time we give ourselves the credit we deserve.
What do you say?