You are some of the mouthiest broads on the internet and I say that with both love and admiration. Being mouthy means not taking any shit. Being mouthy means standing up for yourself. Being mouthy means standing up for what’s right. Being mouthy means not getting pushed aside. Being mouthy is awesome. But it can be hard as lobster shells sometimes to be mouthy in professional settings.
Recently, I was applying for more funding, because well, that is the life of the academic. I always look to get feedback from my colleagues because it is remarkable how much better an application sounds after it’s been through a lab meeting or several rounds of reviewers. Most of my reviews were good, but one thing people consistently pointed to was my modesty in describing my accomplishment to date. And my modesty was not a good thing.
I know that I am not alone. That’s why I am writing this, actually. I always felt like I was a brassy bi”¦ah you know the rest. But it turns out that somehow, somewhere along the way, I’ve fallen into that insidious trap of modesty. That is subtle sexism at work, my friends. We are told over and over again to be modest, and when the time comes to brag on ourselves in huge neon fonts (P.S. I am not actually advocating for the use of huge neon fonts in academic writing), we generally have trouble doing it.
Now, of course, many women are assertive and can speak to their accomplishments without any of that bothersome modesty when need be. And that is awesome. If you have any pointers on how to do that, leave them in the comments! And get yourself a celebratory coffee. And, of course, new research is out showing that even the women who ask for promotions do not get them, so there are some questions as to how useful all of this is. But no one is going to get awarded huge sums of money for modesty, so here are some tips on how to shed that modesty when necessary.
1 ““ Get someone else to tell you what you do well. I know, it seems like the dreaded fishing for compliments, but it’s not. You’re not asking to get your ego blown to ridiculous proportions–you’re looking for the good things you do that you don’t even recognize. An outsider’s perspective can be a really good thing.
2 ““ Write after you feel great about something. Does running make you feel invincible? Did you just give an excellent, unexpected lecture on the Spanish Inquisition? Did you write a particularly clever introduction for your next paper? Take the time to surf the high and write some positive self-reflection.
3 ““ Pep talk yourself. This is the silliest one, I know! I feel like such a gigantic jerk-face sitting around saying “AA, you are doing some cool stuff! Tell them why it makes you excited! It will make them excited! And then the dollars will come rolling in!” but it actually (weirdly) works. When I make a point to recognize what makes my work so cool, it’s easier for me to give my contribution it’s due because at that point, it feels not like I am singing my praises, but the praises of the work.
Now, I’ve used grants as the example, but this is relevant to all sorts of applications. So come on, write it out, and give yourself the pat on your back you so richly deserve.
Do you have any advice? Share in the comments!