There is a prevalent notion in society that when women stand up for themselves, ask for what they want, talk about their accomplishments appropriately or refuse to settle for less they are being arrogant. And as a result they're told to “stay humble”.
Somehow society has come to equate humility to mean voicelessness, powerlessness and a lack of self-advocacy. And I use the word equate as opposed to confused.
Because to confuse is to be ignorant of something or to do something unwittingly. To be confused carries the connotation that you're unaware of something. But to equate is a conscious decision to assign meaning.
As a means to uphold patriarchy and keep women small, society has somehow equated speaking up to mean haughtiness and pride and as a way to keep us in our lane, women who exhibit confident traits are told to "stay humble".
To that, I call BS.
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According to Merriam Webster's dictionary: humility is freedom from pride or arrogance: the quality or state of being humble.
So, how did freedom from pride and arrogance translate to "you shouldn't advocate for yourself", "you shouldn't dream big and aim high"or use your voice?
This kind of message creates a hesitancy in women's desire to put themselves forward. As a result of this message, when women follow the call to "stay humble" we lose out on opportunities to advance our careers, increase our earning power or speak up about issues that affect us. Ultimately, we lose out on the ability to improve our lives. This message therefore maintains the status quo of gender inequality in all its facets.
Interestingly, the call to stay humble is not often shelled out to men. Society views traits such as driven, assertive and outspoken to be masculine as a result when women act contrary to our socialization to stay passive, nice, accommodating; we're seen as proud and arrogant and therefore face a backlash.
A research study on women and self-promotion found that women were uncomfortable self-promoting primarily due to backlash avoidance. Self promotion is your ability to positively talk about your accomplishments and characteristics. Self promotion is necessary for career advancement and securing educational opportunities.
Backlash avoidance is to avoid taking an action due to fear of social repercussions, even if it's in your own interest.
So even though women would benefit from self promotion they are uncomfortable to do so because it goes against society's expectation to “stay humble”.
So what’s my response to society's interpretation of humility, I say heck no!
Women have a right to be heard, to pursue big dreams, to aim high and to use our voice in whatever way it benefits us. Women should be able to negotiate for higher salaries, asked to be put forward for the board position without fearing a backlash.
So I say to you women reading this, keep speaking up about the issues that affect you, keep asking for what you want, be proud of your accomplishment and share it appropriately, don’t stay in boxes or lanes that your community, friends or society have confined you to. Don’t be afraid to dream big and go after your dreams.
Don’t be afraid to bring your authentic brilliant capabilities to all you do. Some people may say you’re too much, but that’s ok. They are just too small or you’re not for them.
And if anyone feels you’re being arrogant by being confident, driven or assertive. Then it’s ok for them not to be in your circle anymore. You’re perfectly fine not to give them your attention.
I don’t argue that to be kind and considerate of others is important and it’s something we should aim for. But that’s not what people mean when they say “stay humble”. They are saying, be quiet and stay in your place and to that I say heck no!
If you’re a man reading this, please share this with the women in your life.
Time for some self assessment ladies.
Have you bought into the message to "stay humble”? If you have, I hope this post has raised your awareness to see how society’s interpretation of humility holds women back. My hope is that you’ll consciously begin to choose how you show up in the world without being afraid of backlash.
The more women refuse to buy into this message to “stay humble” and choose instead to go for what they want, the more we’ll see women advance in every area.
Do you have goals and dreams you want to achieve? By becoming the best version of yourself and achieving the success you desire, together we can change the narrative of women. Coaching can help. Book your no-fee discovery call to find out how. You have everything to gain
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