It always amazes me when I’m around women who are all that and then some, but they have a hard time talking about their gifts. Sometimes it’s the women I meet through my travels as a non-profit educator, who are well educated with years of experience. Other times it’s bloggers or online marketers, creative beyond belief with magical language skills. In every case of Overly Modest Woman Syndrome (OMWS) that I observe, it’s never someone with limited abilities. It’s never the woman who is talking loud but has no idea what she’s talking about. It’s just about always the most brilliant woman in the room who suffers from OMWS.
You’ve observed the symptoms. Maybe you’ve even had them yourself: qualifying your ideas with backstory, being passive aggressive, always volunteering for the “administrative” role in meetings, apologizing for simply being you. Oh, the symptoms are bad, y’all.
The problem with Overly Modest Woman Syndrome is that it’s not just about the Overly Modest Woman. It’s about the little girl who is observing her mother being timid and asking a question when she really should be making a statement. It’s about the sons who grow up thinking that women should be helpless and apologetic. It’s about society who never gets to fully feel the impact of the gifts that the Overly Modest Woman possesses.
How can you help end Overly Modest Woman Syndrome? Here are a few tips:
- When you have an idea, don’t qualify it before you share it. You don’t need to sell folks on a new idea when you are first introducing it, especially in a brainstorm. You have to teach your team to trust that you know what you’re talking about. If they need you to elaborate, they will ask.
- Unless you’re the secretary, don’t be the secretary. You don’t always have to take minutes in the meeting. Let Tom or Bob do it. If they can talk, they can type. You need to save your energy for getting your point across.
- If someone comes up with an idea that you know won’t work, say it. Suggest revisions or offer a different solution, but whatever you do, don’t tiptoe around it, tentatively, trying not to hurt feelings. You waste precious time when you do that, especially if you’re going to have to come back and solve the problem anyway when the bad idea doesn’t work.
- STOP APOLOGIZING! I know women who say, “I’m sorry” before they say anything. You aren’t sorry, you’re fabulous, and if you weren’t, you wouldn’t be in your position.
- Uplift, and allow yourself to be uplifted, by other women. Latch on to other intelligent, hardworking women that have got it going on, and pledge to have each other’s backs. Don’t gossip against other strong women and try to pull them down. Admit when you feel jealous (don’t worry, it’s natural), then shake it off, and celebrate victories with your co-strong woman.
- Keep track of your accomplishments…and your blessings. Make a list, carry it with you, mount it on a board, laminate it, whatever. Just make sure you are truly aware of what you have to offer to others.
- BELIEVE THAT YOU ARE FABULOUS. If you don’t, who will?