Tell me three amazing things about yourself right now. GO! No seriously, tell me three things. Express them with confidence, not as you shrug your shoulders and twirl your hair and proclaim uncomfortably “ummmmm, I don’t know.” It’s tricky isn’t it? Now imagine there is a room full of people all listening to you.
It sounds silly. Certainly strong, educated, college women can proudly own their strengths, right? Not quite.
Year after year, as I work with young women across the country, I am reminded of the ever-present cultural message that teaches females you should be NICE and MODEST. We aren’t talking 1950’s poodle skirts and pearls nice, but the 2014 modern version of nice. And unfortunately, this version still insists that too much confidence and self-assurance is inconsistent with being nice.
Unintentionally, girls and young women teach themselves, and each other, that confidence is unappealing and even threatening. Our desire to be supportive often means we dim down our light to make others more comfortable. This practice shows up in a myriad of ways. Lets explore one.
We’ve all been there. Our friend exclaims, “I look disgusting today and I feel like crap.” We then assuage her critical lens by matching this with a self put-down of our own. “No, you look great! I look like I haven’t slept in weeks!” This practice seems harmless at first glance, but over time, the message that we should dim down our greatness becomes second nature.
It’s essential that we understand that this dim down game is not inevitable. The college years provide young women with the opportunity to surround themselves with other amazing, strong and intelligent females. And when we are aware and intentional, we can begin creating spaces and practices that encourage each other to claim the best of ourselves. Instead of dimming down, we can begin the practice of turning up the lights.
Get comfortable talking up your strengths. Allow yourself to accept a compliment. Ask your friend to tell you something amazing about herself to help cancel out the put down. When we decide as a community of women that being self-deprecating isn’t synonymous with being NICE, we can begin to practice claiming our strengths. We can begin to cultivate a space where young women learn to embrace the confidence that they need to succeed in life. Now I will ask you again. Tell me three amazing things about yourself. GO!
Dr. Erin Foley teaches students how to build a STRONG LIFE. She delivers messages aimed at helping students go after their opportunities with strength, confidence and an eye toward what’s possible.
Visit campuspeak.com/foley to learn more about her programs on character development, Fraternity and Sorority Life, wellness and women’s issues and empowerment.