I grew up with an ambitious mom. She worked a full-time government job that she was very passionate about, climbing her way up the ranks. At home, I was told that when I grew up, I could be and do anything I wanted.
On the playground and later at the mall, though, I often saw and heard a different story. I learned that my skin was too brown, my hair was not blonde enough, that freckles were ugly and that it was important to be pretty, smart, fashionable and funny. As I flipped through teen magazines, I took quizzes that rated me: “How Attractive Are You To Men?” and “What Does Your Face Shape Say About You?”
I always knew the “right” answers. And I knew I didn’t measure up.
As women, it’s nearly impossible to have grown up in these times with a firm sense of self-worth. We often learn that our value in the world is based on our looks, our demeanor and the confidence we exude (whether it’s genuine or not).
Substantive efforts are being made to emphasize intelligence as another critical measurement, leading to increased messaging to girls that it’s more important to be smart than pretty. But all of this emphasis on looking good and being good — even doing good — as a measure of our value and our worth can nevertheless be deeply damaging.
As a women’s leadership coach, I hear it all the time. Even ambitious women often fear that they’re not smart enough, skinny enough, tall enough, outgoing enough. They’re not nice enough, funny enough, pretty enough, successful enough...Too tall, too outspoken, too fat, too skinny, too masculine, too nice, too talkative, too shy, too ambitious.
Many of us overeat, overspend and overwork because we feel like something is missing or broken within our lives or within ourselves. Many of my clients are desperately trying to soothe themselves and prove themselves. We might secretly compare ourselves to other women, constantly judging whether we’re “better” or “worse” than them. Divide and conquer? In many ways, it’s happening.
It’s time to step out of this divisive mentality — the underlying belief that our worth is somehow based on what we do or how we look. It’s time that we upgrade our sense of sense of worth and embrace that we are valuable and worthy.
We to need to commit to embracing our innate worth. Here’s where we can start.