The other day I was on the phone to a friend. She was trying to decide whether to put herself out there and go after something she wanted. But she wasn’t confident about it, because she wasn’t convinced she deserved the thing she wanted. She was so unsure about her deservedness that over the course of the few weeks we’d talked about it, she’d evolved from wanting it absolutely, to not being sure she wanted it at all.
I wasn’t quite sure what to say. She was fully equipped to take on the responsibility, and she’d be bloody good at it. So I gave her the pep talk.
“Just do it. You’re only not doing it because you’re afraid people will think you don’t deserve it, or you’re not good enough, or something else stupid like that.”
There was silence at the other end.
“Put on your Lady Man Pants* and suck it up.”
“You know if you were a man we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Because you’d have already gone for it, and no one would have thought you were out of line, because you’re not. You’re perfectly within the bounds of reality.”
I guess I had this response because the conversation had come not long after one with a male friend who was also putting himself out there. His attitude was pretty much the opposite. He was so confident that things he wanted would come to him, just because he was smart and good and experienced. Which is nice to see, but not something I ever really see in my female friends.
There’s research that backs this up, it’s not just my adorable mates being self depreciating and boastful in turn. Why is there a gender pay gap? There are lots of reasons, but a key one is that women don’t ask for raises as often as men. They don’t ask for as much money when they start a new job, and when they estimate their worth they continually estimate it as less than a man with the same qualifications and experience would.
Women don’t back themselves. I have had so many of those conversations like the one above, and I have tried time and time again to convince my female friends to do the things they want to do, but are afraid they’re not good enough to do.
I often find myself in the shower giving myself a similar talking to. “You can do this, you are good enough for this. Stop doubting yourself.” It never sinks in. (I don’t know what it is about the shower, I just know it is basically the best place to contemplate the serious issues.)
A few years ago a friend and I were having lunch and his phone kept ringing. It was someone who wanted to offer him a job that he wasn’t that enthused about. In between bites of his sandwich he told me he was going to ask for a ludicrously (well it seemed that way when we were 25) high salary or he would turn the job down. Two weeks later he’d taken the job.
I remember thinking at the time that I’d never have the guts to ask for that much money. I’d never have the confidence to say; “hey, I’m worth that”. I admired my friend and his career flourished because of his gumption.
It was International Women’s Day on Friday, which always makes me think about the wonderful women I am lucky enough to know. And I want to speak directly to them.
You’re amazing. You’re smart and kind and talented and funny. You’re brave and principled and gutsy. You give me so much, and you do it without me having to ask, without complaint and with love and generosity. None of you are anything less than incredible. You deserve all the things. All. Of. Them. And you should all start taking your own advice, the advice that you give me when I’m on a self-doubt spree. You are smart, and strong and you know your limitations, so reach for them, and push past them, and don’t expect that people will think you’re an impostor, just because you sometimes feel like you are. They won’t. They’re all too worried about their own shit to worry about yours.
And if it doesn’t work out, or it wasn’t the right thing, then I’ll fix you a drink and we can figure out what to do next. That’s what life is right? It’s confidence and skill and guts, all together. And what you do and how you do it is largely determined by the amount of support you have and the confidence you employ.
So go get all the things. Because we deserve it as much as men do.
*I am sure you have no idea what Lady Man Pants are, but basically they are the imaginary pants a woman would don before marching in and asking for a raise, or applying for a promotion or whatever thing they want that they wrongly feel they don’t deserve. I recommend trying them on, you’ll like it. I promise.