"And you should smile more often," he said, leaning in. As if he was sharing with me the secret to my advancing in the organization. "You should just smile."
That was the feedback I received early on in my career. Impromptu words of wisdom from a well-meaning male colleague. It would seem as though that smiling would be the key to my success. My lack of smiling was clearly holding me back.
On one occasion when I was sitting, tapping away quietly at my keyboard. Someone came up to me and said "What's wrong? Is something wrong?"
No that was just my resting face. I was just concentrating on an email. I wasn't smiling.
Another time I was walking down the hallway. On a mission to make it to a meeting on time. "What's wrong? Is something wrong?"
No I was just wearing heels that are too high. I was developing a blister on my heels. I wasn't smiling.
And a third time. I was listening intently in a meeting. Taking notes and following along in the conversation. "What's wrong? Is something wrong?"
No I was just paying attention. And thinking about next steps for the project. I wasn't smiling.
Throughout the course of my career, I inevitably started to smile more. I was conditioned to smile more. I smile often. I smile to make people feel welcome. I smile to disarm people. I smile and even throw in a laugh to cut the tension in any given situation. I smile when given tough feedback. I smile when others are angry. I smile when I am angry, sometimes growling through my teeth. I smile often and smile plenty.
"You should smile more often. Just smile." But when is the last time we ever asked a man to smile more?
If a man doesn't smile, it's ok. We never question, never doubt. He's commanding, he has a presence and gravitas. He's a leader. He's a visionary. He's someone we can follow. He will lead us to where we need to go. Follow that man!
We don't smile? The narrative can quickly go in another direction.
Then we are cold. Lack empathy. Lack emotional intelligence. People just can't seem to connect with us. We make people uncomfortable. We appear aggressive, sometimes threatening. People wonder if we like them, if we approve of them, if we can lead teams. If people will follow us. If we can make an impact. We just don't have that warmth, that energy, that charisma- those intangible qualities that make that next great leader.
It would be so much simpler if we just smiled. So why don't we?
Because maybe like our friend Kim Kardashian we don't want wrinkles. Because we don't feel well that day. Because we have blisters on our feet from heels that are far too high. Because we are just intently listening, planning what action we have to take next. Because we are fed up with the comments, the jokes, the daily attack of micro-aggressions we as women face in our lives.
Because some of us just don't like to smile, because we don't have time to smile. We aren't here to make friends. We aren't here to smile and show off our happiness and make everyone else comfortable. We are here to make moves and make things happen just like our male colleagues. We are here to make as much of an impact as humanly possible.
So what does smiling have to do with anything?
Next time you are in a meeting. And someone questions why she doesn't smile enough. Why she's so aggressive. Why she's so calculating. Why she doesn't collaborate. Why she's difficult.
Ask yourself and the others in the room, would we use the same words to describe a male leader? And doubt his capabilities?
And for the record. I do love to smile. I have a great smile. I smile often. Because life is good.
But please don't ask me to smile. Unless we are taking a selfie. Unless we are out enjoying a glass of frose. Unless I am with my children, snapping a photo, and we all shout "Cheese!" Then I will smile on command.
- The Art of Unplugging: Just Put Down The Phone - Swaay ›
- The Secret To Saying No Without Pissing People Off - Swaay ›
- Arianna Huffington: "Don't Hire Brilliant Jerks" - Swaay ›
- Limitless: How to Start Your Own Successful Business at 21 - Swaay ›
- 30 Signs You're An Adult… Or In Denial About It - Swaay ›
Self-care is not selfish.
What do you believe you deserve? That's a pretty loaded question, isn't it? In more than twenty years working as a women's life coach, I've asked it thousands of times, and I've received countless answers. The majority of responses I've received have been disheartening, and they've revealed a startling truth. Women - even very successful, accomplished women - doubt their deservingness.
Deservingness is not to be confused with entitlement. Entitlement is about believing you have a right to something. Deservingness is about how much you believe you're worth.
When you doubt your deservingness, what you're really uncertain about is whether or not you measure up. Are you good enough? (YES.) You've made some pretty big mistakes. Do those bad blunders make you a bad person? (NO.) Are you a good enough person to deserve good things? (YES. YOU ARE.)
Many women carry around a secret shame that impacts their feelings of self-worth and deservingness.
Our stories are individual, but our core experiences are very much the same.
At some point in your life, someone told you there was something wrong with you. This is inevitable, of course, because there's something wrong with all of us, but it gets to dangerous and disempowering territory through repetition.
If even one person in your life tells you over and over again that there's something wrong with you, well, you can start to believe them. Being rejected or criticized hurts, and it has a cumulative effect. Imagine every criticism you've ever received is a tiny little pin that landed right in your heart. (Seriously bad visual, right? Wouldn't your heart look like a pincushion if that was the case?) Beyond hurting like hell, a heart full of pins holds you back and makes you play small. YOU ARE NOT SMALL. I want you to stop acting like you are.
In life, you always create the results you believe you deserve. If you don't believe you deserve good things, you won't let yourself have them.
You'll sabotage, procrastinate, and excuse the good right out of your life if you don't believe you deserve it. Happily, you can raise your sense of deservingness, and deepen your feelings of personal worth. I'm going to show you how today. It's time to start believing in you again.
Step 1 – Take good care of yourself.
On the face of it, you'd think this advice would be obvious and unimpeachable. Of course you have to take care of yourself. The problem with this truth is that there are whole communities of people who will try to convince you that prioritizing your needs makes you a selfish person. (And who wants to be seen as selfish?)
I've never encountered a woman who hadn't heard some version of this self-care-is-selfish-nonsense. The thing is, these messages are about control, and they come from people who are happy to keep you down and disempowered. (Which makes it easier for them to manipulate you.) Do not fall for this line of hooey.
Self-care is not selfish. Self-neglect is selfish.
Self-neglect tells you that you don't matter. It asks you to stuff your wants and repress your emotions. When you chronically neglect yourself, eventually, you turn into a repressed, angry, self-doubting zombie (or banshee depending on your anger level). Nothing about self-neglect is attractive. I want you to stop doing it. TODAY.
We need you in top form. There is purpose in your life. To make good on it, you need to connect with your SELF. The most fundamental way to begin that process is to take care of your physical body. When I'm working with a client, we practice four physical care basics. (I practice these guys too. Religiously.)
- SLEEP: You need seven to eight hours of sleep. Every night. No exceptions.
- HYDRATE: You need proper daily hydration. Water is energy.
- NOURISH: You need to eat food that nourishes. Not just food that fills your stomach.
- RELEASE YOUR STRESS: You need some way to unload your tension. Think working out, meditation, journaling, gardening, prayer, sitting in nature, cooking, or hot scented bathing. Let. It. Go. Girl. ☺
Notice I said, "you need." These are non-negotiable requirements. If you're tempted to argue against your ability to practice them, please pause. I've heard every excuse known to woman. And I don't buy a single one of them. We're in a no-excuses zone now. You don't get to argue against yourself and also be empowered. It doesn't work that way. You have to choose.
If you haven't taken care of yourself in a long time, this topic can feel totally overwhelming. I understand, and I want you to do it anyway. Remember, I'm your coach. A loving boot-in-the-butt will sometimes be required in our relationship. Consider this my velvet tipped toe, making contact with that booty of yours.
Take a deep breath and start tackling your care basics. You DO have time. You are NOT selfish, and there's no wrong way to do this except not to do it at all. Practice makes powerful. SO PRACTICE!
Okay, time to up the ante a little bit. This next step is harder.
Step 2 – Be someone you can count on.
You can't think your way into believing in your own worth, but you can act your way there. As it turns out, keeping the commitments you make to yourself increases your feelings of worth and deservingness, and strengthens your confidence too.
Think about it. You make countless commitments every day. The trouble bis that most of them are for other people. When you don't have a strong sense of your own worth, you agree to most incoming requests. Which means you're probably way overcommitted.
When your calendar is crowded, and something's got to give, you're the one who usually goes. Because it's easiest to break commitments to you, right?
Every time you break a commitment to yourself, what you're really doing is showing yourself, through your own inaction, that you don't matter. NO! Bailing on yourself is like giving your hopes and dreams a big middle finger. (Please stop doing it.)
It's time to start following through FOR YOU. Don't panic. I'm not suggesting you stop doing things for other people. As a woman, you're a natural-born nurturer. Of course, you're going to do it for other people. I just want you to add yourself to the list of people-you-do-for.
The best way to get a handle on showing up for yourself is to start paying attention to what's going on when you don't. What causes you to cross yourself off your own list? When you bring your triggers into your awareness, you'll notice a pattern, which will give you the power to make changes.
Take things one choice at a time. Whenever possible, choose to follow through for you. Every time you do, you remove one of those tiny little heart pins and strengthen your sense of worth and deservingness.
Now for the hardest part…
Step 3 – Stand up for yourself.
When you don't believe in your own deservingness, you become an earner. Meaning, you spend your time and energy earning love. This can show up in a lot of different ways. We'll talk about three of them here.
- You could be a PLEASER. You say yes when you mean no. You do a ton of favors. You're secretly annoyed the entire time you're doing them, but you keep doing them anyway.
- You might be a PERFORMER. You're the life of the party and an overachiever. You use material items and accolades like money, degrees, titles, and awards to prove your worth. (I used to be this girl.)
- It's possible you're a DOORMAT. This pattern is most damaging because it means you're allowing other people to treat you poorly. On the extreme end of the spectrum, this could look like allowing people to demean, degrade, or disrespect you. Even on the lesser end of things, it means you allow people to get away with passive-aggressive comments, or take advantage of you. On any end of the spectrum, doormat behavior is toxic.
It gets worse. When you live as an earner, you attract users. (That's just as bad as it sounds.) There are unfortunately people in the world that will live at your expense without giving it a second thought. If you're willing to give it, they'll take it, and even talk themselves into believing they deserve what they're taking. These kind of people like to keep you small, scared, and doubting your deservingness. (Then you do whatever they want. Whenever they want you to.)
YOU MUST STAND UP FOR YOURSELF.
Start by catching yourself in the act of playing the earner. What and who triggers the earner response in you? What are you afraid of? What are you trying to prove? If you feel drained or bad about yourself after you're with a specific person or in a certain place, you need to think twice about being with that person or in that place.
I know this is easier said than done. It's possible the people who make you feel bad are co-workers or family members. It's not like you can just stop seeing them, right? If you find yourself in this position, there is only one path. You need to speak up for yourself. Stat.
For help, you can check out three of my other blogs. They'll show you how to stop living like a pleaser, set some boundaries, and say no like you mean it. Will you be uncomfortable? Yep. You will. Can you handle it? Yes. You can. Be willing to be uncomfortable. Speak up. Stand up. Stop accepting less than you deserve.
Every time you speak up for yourself, you remove another pin from your heart, raise your sense of deservingness and you deepen your own sense of worth. You also show other women what it looks like to know your worth and live like you know it. Which encourages them to do it too. (THAT is female power.)
You are good, and you deserve good things. You deserve acceptance, belonging, and love. There's no mistake in you, my sister. YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH. Just as you are.
My mission is your empowerment. That's why I'm here. If you haven't already joined my community, please do it by entering your email (www.kimberlyfulcher.com). Until we meet again, know that life is happening for you.
You've Got This!
KimOriginally published at www.kimberlyfulcher.com