When I was coming up with the title for this blog post, I have to admit that I wrote it out and changed it at least 10 times. I felt like the title needed an immediate caveat – something to call out that you can speak highly of yourself without being conceited. Or without coming off cocky. Or without looking like you’re full of yourself. Then I took a pause and checked myself. Why did I feel the need to do that?? Why is it so engrained in us that speaking highly about ourselves automatically means that we’re self-centered and vain?
Well, for many reasons, actually. We are taught from a young age that thinking or speaking too highly of ourselves isn’t really a positive trait. It’s rude and unflattering. It’s considered aggressive and harsh, especially for women. As author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said in her 2012 TEDxEuston speech, “we teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller.” Pop culture and media then reinforce these beliefs to drive the idea home. How many times have we seen the kind, self-deprecating, girl-next-door who never gives herself too much credit be the heroine of a show or movie? And the one who’s confident and sure of herself? Well, she’s usually the mean girl or the villain. She represents everything we’re told to avoid. This excellent HuffPost article by Justine Musk discusses this topic in more detail and is totally worth the additional read.
But does it have to be so black and white? Why can’t we teach our daughters, sisters and friends a happy medium and normalize that balance? How do we stop society from getting so triggered when a woman feels genuinely good about herself and vocalizes it? My goal is to break it down here and empower you to understand that it is okay to channel this trait, whilst remaining humble and grateful, too.
Why Speaking Highly of Yourself is Healthy
Let’s go back to the pop culture example. We are taught to avoid being the overconfident villain, right? She is mean, vengeful, and because of her big ego, ultimately loses in the end. Obviously no one wants that, so we avoid it fully and steer clear. As a result, we start to rely on external validation and praise in order to feel complete. We wait for other people to tell us we are smart, funny, pretty or capable in order to believe it. Which means we completely put the ball in their court to dictate who we are. How the f$&*k is that healthy?!
Someone recently shared a quote with me that said, “you can’t play to your strengths if you never admit to having any.” It legit blew my mind because it is so true. It is necessary for us to speak highly of ourselves, to give ourselves credit where credit is due, in order to know what we are good at and keep doing more of that. It is healthy for us to be our own cheerleaders, so that we can easily recognize the positive and focus on that.
This is healthy for us every day, but especially on the bad days!! The bad days are inevitable, and that’s when we we need to rely on our “positive supply” the most. It’s how you get out of those bad days and keep pushing forward. Yes, praise and encouragement from peers, family or colleagues can mean a lot, too, but external love cannot be your only source of validation. That’s an unreliable source that is totally out of your control. Your thoughts and words, however, are in your control, and THAT is what should be thoroughly developed.
How to Speak Highly of Yourself Without Sounding Like a Total Jerk
This is where things can get tricky. I personally feel that we as women are so scared to come off cocky or vain in social settings. How do you speak highly of yourself without sounding totally obnoxious?
For starters, always remain grateful.
Like, genuinely grateful. Gratitude goes a long way and is one of the most authentic methods of communication. When it’s real, it shines through and can never be mistaken as arrogance.
Example 1: You are a good cook and want to share a recipe of yours that you are proud of.
Option without gratitude: “I’m a great cook and really love this recipe. Try it for your next dinner party.”
Option with gratitude: “I really love cooking, and thanks to my grandmother’s lessons from a young age, am pretty great at it. Feel free to try this recipe if you’re looking for something new.”
Saying “I really love cooking” sounds genuine and heartfelt. Tipping your hat to your grandmother’s lessons doesn’t take anything away from you; instead it shows extra appreciation for your passion and its origin. It even personalizes your story more and opens the opportunity for more conversation. Win win!
Second, share your space, when appropriate.
This is not the same as shrinking yourself. Don’t ever shrink yourself for anyone. But if and when the setting is right, you can speak highly of yourself and allow room for others to do so too! That makes it feel more inclusive and pleasant for whoever you’re interacting with.
Example: You’re at a networking event with coworkers and a supervisor in another department asks you both about your day-to-day tasks.
Option without sharing your space: “I handle marketing strategy for the team. I do really well with seeing the big picture.”
Option with sharing the space: “I handle marketing strategy for the team. I have several years of experience with such tasks and truly enjoy it. How about you, (insert name of colleague)? You were just telling me the other day about a project you enjoyed leading, right?”
Lift yourself up and whenever possible, lift others up with you. It is a genuine sign of confidence.
Finally, add context to your pride or self-praise.
This ties back to a point we covered in the first tip. Personalizing your story or journey is a sign of sincerity and adds humility to whatever you are saying. This does not mean you have to over-explain yourself or be self-deprecating. But if appropriate, add a little more context as to why you feel proud or how you got to where you are today.
Example: You launched a business during quarantine and already have a handful of clients.
Option with no context: “I created my own website from scratch and launched my own business. I’m really proud of myself and knew I could do whatever I put my mind to.”
Option with context: “I launched my own business over quarantine and created my own website from scratch. I lost my job because of COVID, but knew I could pivot and pursue something that interests me even more and become my own boss.”
There is no shame in speaking highly of yourself and there are ways to do it right. Make a list of the qualities you admire about yourself. Then make another list of things you are good at. Start verbalizing these things to yourself and when appropriate, to others. Give yourself that pat on the back.
The more you do it for yourself, the less you’ll rely on others to do it for you. You’ll also care less if others agree with you or not. Because I promise you, even with the tips I mentioned here, there is always going to be someone who thinks you sound cocky or vain, no matter what you say or do. You could be doing everything right and they’ll still have a problem. Guess what, though? That is their own issue and has nothing to do with you.
Working with a Confidence Coach dives much deeper into each of these points and allows the necessary space to practice speaking highly of yourself and developing real self-love. To learn more about my 1:1 coaching sessions, go to my Services page! If you’re interested in working with me, please apply here and I will respond to you within 24 hours with more information and next steps. Talk to you soon!