Let’s talk about how low self-esteem can harm your career.
We all have that one friend who is smart, hard-working, and competent but who never seems to reach their full potential. Whenever I see it, I think of my old friend, let’s call her Lucy.
Lucy was a photographer, and wherever Lucy went, she’d bring her camera with her. Even at house parties, she’d bring her DSLR and whip it out wherever she’d see something worth capturing. People would ask, “What magazine are you shooting for” and hoping to hear a name they recognized, but Lucy just replied, “No, one. It’s just for fun.”
So one night, this suited man at a party came up to her and asked to see her photos. When he’d seen them, he asked: “How much would you charge for a full day at Fashion Week?” and Lucy replied: “Oh, I’m not a pro. It’s just for fun.”
I overheard her and asked, “What’s wrong with you? He asked you to do something you’re great at, and you just turned him away! I thought you were looking for a job!”
Lucy looked sheepish and said: “But Jo, I’m not a pro. I can’t do real photoshoots and charge people for it.”
What was standing in Lucy’s way? She had the talent, the equipment, and the opportunity. But Lucy lacked self-esteem. She had a little voice whispering in her ear that she wasn’t good enough. So someone not nearly as talented as her got the job instead.
If you or anyone you know can relate to Lucy, read on.
Why do women suffer from low self-esteem?
A study from Cornell University has found that men tend to overestimate themselves – their abilities and performance, while women underestimate both. This is a gendered issue, largely due to factors such as socialization and being better at reading what others think about you. If you’re a woman, going into a male-dominated business can be daunting. It can also feel intimidating working with people older and a lot more experienced than you. However, there are, naturally, moments when men doubt themselves too. Most people will at some point hear that mean little voice in their head.
What can you do about it? Doubt the doubt
Low self-esteem is often a product of self-doubt. Given you have doubt anyway, why not doubt the doubt itself? If your brain tells you that you suck, you really must ask yourself if that’s really true. It may be true for some things, but certainly not for all. Your brain, lower self, or “ego”, will want you to believe such blanket statements. Don’t buy that hype.
So this is when you put your big girl boots on – and you fight. Getting assaulted by bad thoughts doesn’t mean you have to accept them. Rebuffs to them such as, “Oh yeah, says who?” or “There’s no more proof that I suck more than times when I rock – so there,” can really help you.
Do not engage in these negative conversations in your head. Shut dem down and move on. If you can’t – switch modes. Go for a run, work with your hands, cook a meal – do something else that requires concentration. Something else, other than thoughts that will impact your career negatively.
Just remember: You are more capable than you think. But you won’t know it until you shoot your shot!
Read more here: The Confidence Gap in Men and Women (Forbes)