Maybe it’s my new shoes—the new orthopedics that aren’t terribly hideous, but not exactly my first choice if I were attempting to be trendy–or maybe it’s just the fact that I have one on each foot today, for the first time in 6 months. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s the first week of our fiscal year at work, so life feels shiny and new. Or maybe it’s the slight chill in the air, finally, the sudden turn of the leaves and the changing of the seasons–the beginning of a new holiday season that sets my soul into a different motion. Regardless, today turned into a bit of a goal setting day, and while it should have been all business, it feels more personal than anything.
Today is the end of the disclaimers.
I was sitting in a meeting today on the anatomy of performance and development goals and I realized how much I consistently undermine myself. When people congratulate me on recent performance or any success in the last year, I always say things like, “Well… I just got lucky,” or “I’m really dumber than a box of rocks. I’m just a country kid from the farm with absolutely no pop culture awareness.” I’ve actually come to believe this, because I knew nothing about sales or food when I signed on to do street sales for a food company; but I figured the one thing I know how to do is work really hard. So I figure if I just work really hard, and just outwork everyone else, then I will be successful. I’ve come to place where I don’t give myself credit for anything except for working hard–and I even undermine myself on working hard some days.
Today someone posed the question about whether or not working hard was enough to be recognized. The leader of our group quickly jumped in to say, “No, none of us think that–we all know it takes more than that to be recognized.” And yet in my head I’m thinking, “yeah that’s kind of been my entire motto for the last year and a half.” I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t have enough product knowledge, and I have no sales experience; and a lot of that’s because I keep undermining myself so I start to believe it, but because I don’t know what I think I need to know, I just work really hard and I feel like I’ve convinced myself that as long as I work harder than everyone else I’ll be successful. The problem is that getting up at 4am to meet trucks and coding until 9pm might be working harder, but it’s certainly not working smarter. I’ve always felt like I wasn’t smart enough to work smarter, so I’d just work harder and that would be enough. And while I think that to some degree it’s working, I don’t want to work this hard; it’s not sustainable and it doesn’t make sense. I know that if I just had the confidence to learn what I need to learn and feel empowered to stop cutting myself down, I could actually still be successful and find a work life balance in the meantime. I make jokes about that fact that I move to the guest room at 3am so that the early calls won’t wake Nicholas up, and constantly say, “I’m so glad he hasn’t left me this last year!” I know it’s not funny–it’s ridiculous, and I’m lucky to have a man who supports me through a position that has taken away from our comfortable norm of “Sunday Funday,” dinners without cell phones, and normal wake up routines together.
I don’t want to feel like I have to give disclaimers anymore. I want to be able to just say, “thank you, I did work really hard, but I’m trying to work smarter.” When someone asks me what I want to do with the company, I want to be able to give an answer, without filling my response with disclaimers about how I don’t know enough yet. I may not have enough knowledge and confidence yet, but I can at least begin with cutting the disclaimers, because “I’m not sure yet” or even silence is better and more productive that my consistent disclaimers.
The truth is that every day scares me and I’m outside my comfort zone in almost everything that I’m doing. But I also know that nothing good comes from self doubt and pushing myself to be more and do more is at the core of how I was raised. So this is the end of the disclaimers—and while the right kind of confidence doesn’t come over night, I can at least begin with taking an extra breath before a disclaimer, biting my tongue, and if I can’t think of anything else to say, I’ll keep quiet. Now there’s a goal for the record books. 🙂