Lately, I’ve noticed a(n unfortunate) tendency for some of the most badass women—the strongest ones at CrossFit or the fastest or most experienced ones on the bike—to play a game of downplaying their achievements. They ask “Who, little old me?” when someone tells them that they’re great or assure people that really it wasn’t such a great job or that someone or something outside them was the reason for their success.
This makes me sad.
I know I’ve returned a compliment with the kind of downplaying I’m talking about. But this is an issue I’m working on. Ever since I had the experience of a friend telling me she was going to be “slow” and then proceeding to be much faster than me in a running situation, I’ve tried to watch how I talk about my own performances or abilities—whether I think they’re good or bad. I’m sure that my friend was innocently trying to appear humble—not to make me feel bad—but it certainly made me think about times when I’ve maybe done the same thing to other people.
I know some people who can’t just take a compliment are after reassurance and want to be told a little bit more how great they are. That’s fine. I want to talk about the times where it’s more about not being able to own up to how great we are.
My fellow blogger and cycling friend Sam and I had little bit of a chat about this issue as we watched a club race together last week. Our coach (a man) worked with two ladies to do really well in the race together. It was a men’s race. The gal who won absolutely impresses me with her talent and dedication, but I can remember the first time I met her being met with the kind of downplaying that I’m getting at. Sam pointed me towards “Self-Deprecation and the Female Cyclist,” which is certainly worth a read if you feel like you hold yourself back or downplay your athletic accomplishments and want a reminder to stop that right now.
Maybe for some of us, this comes down to perfectionism—or that ever-looming sense that we aren’t good enough coming back again. We focus so much on what we aren’t or on where we fall short that it’s hard for us to appreciate the things that are really worth celebrating in ourselves. You just ran a great race? Yeah, but it wasn’t as fast as my PB. You just did your first CrossFit competition? Yeah, but it wasn’t Rx.
But it was still badass.
It was still worth being proud of.
It was definitely worth celebrating.
While you’re at it, stop adding the word “just” to things. You didn’t “just” do a 10km when someone else did a marathon. You didn’t “just” go to the gym twice this week when you meant to go four times. Those things count for something.
I’m torn on whether or not I think celebrating our abilities is unquestionably the best way to build our confidence. I certainly don’t think that our only source of empowerment should come from our abilities. But I do know that pretending that these things don’t make us feel good or don’t contribute to our sense of self-esteem would mean we’d miss out on a whole lot of potential. Maybe the answer is that we can’t base all of our self-worth and confidence on what we’re capable of (so that when we aren’t so capable, we don’t suck), but this kind of appreciation can be a valuable part of what fills up our confidence buckets.
Anyways, I don’t think that it’s fair to expect anyone—man or woman—to be confident all the time. But it’s my hope that we can think about the way that brushing off compliments or trying to convince people that we’re really not all that good is a habit worth getting out of.
What do you think?
What have you done lately that’s worth being proud of?
Where do you downplay your accomplishments, and what’s up with that?