Strength in the face of Judgement

Picture this. You walk into a boardroom. You are one of the first few people to arrive. You grab a seat. Where do you sit?boardroom

As more people arrive, one by one they take up their positions. Look around that room. Men and women take their seats. What do you notice?

I was inspired by Sheryl Sandberg’s TED Talk again today (thank you to my facebook friend, Lori Collerman, who reposted it). Before I say anything, I’ll be very clear. I’m not interested in the “us versus them” war between men and women. What I AM interested in, is people who recognize the challenges they personally face and grow into the best versions of themselves to overcome those challenges. THAT is what today’s article is about … and really, this entire blog and upcoming book.

“Sit at the table”… It’s very uncomfortable at first. Both men and women size you up. When you are the first to arrive, others will take up their seat based on how they perceive you … and then they’ll continue to size up whether you belong in the seat you took. When you are one of the last to arrive, so you can slide into whatever seat is available, you face a sea of eyes that quickly take you in and rate your value in the room.

It’s unconscious. It’s instinctive. It’s life.

Is it right? Is it fair? That doesn’t matter. What matters is how you continue to show up in everything you say and do from that moment forward.

Do you shrink in your chair, cross your legs, fold your hands together or grip your notebook and pen for security? Do you breathe … seriously! Check your pulse! If you are all folded up and small, you are not breathing properly. The deeper you breathe, the more equipped your brain will be to handle the room ahead. You are self-sabotaging!

Look at the men. They sit down, expand in their chairs, breathe and survey the room as if to say “Yeah, this is my spot.” Then they look for a chance to make a comment that shows they are not nervous; they belong there.

Women who do this might be met with shock from men and glares from women, because it’s not natural. I’m not saying you should imitate men. I’m saying you shouldn’t instinctively shrink.

The same goes for the stage. Here’s how I see women shrink on stage. Even Sheryl did a bit of this in her speech:

  • use weak, apologetic language
  • keep arms unnaturally close to the body
  • do a “cutsie” walk to tell others “I’m not intimidating. I am cute! You should love me!”
  • non-committal body language that says “You don’t have to agree with what I’m saying. It’s just a suggestion. Please don’t hate me! I’m really a good person!”

I could carry on, but you get the idea. When you shrink, you say to the world “My opinions don’t matter.”

Here’s my challenge to you:

  1. Examine your opinions. Know why you have them and be clear about your motivations behind them.
  2. Value yourself, not as a woman who wants to influence others, but as a human being who wants to make life and/or work better for others.
  3. Be honest. Do not put on a persona. Do not pretend your opinions don’t matter. Do not sacrifice truth for likeability. Others may not agree with you, but if everyone agreed all the time, no one would be leading.

This post was a little long … I have so much more I could say. I look forward to your comments! Please share this article! Let’s talk!

One Reply to “Strength in the face of Judgement”

  1. I gave the most important presentation of my life thus far this past Monday. There were about 15 people in the room and I was one of the middlish people who came in. I didn’t gauge long enough where I should have sat. I will next time. Next month I have an even bigger presentation and will make sure to be aware of it.
    Funny that it’s mentioned here Carol, but I am a BIG fan of the Power Pose (check out the power pose TED Talk for more about body language and how it actually affects our physiology!!!!).
    When I was sitting at the table, I tried to take up as much room as possible without looking like a slob, but I was doing it for the physiological reasons- there’s another level to this I see and it’s very important. Kick ass article my friend.