Grandma Essie was a grand dame. She spoke her mind with that special mix of fierce candor and flirty charm that Southern women seem to have mastered. She was never without lipstick – even when mowing her lawn, which she did weekly well into her eighties. When asked for the secret to her vitality, she always repeated the same mantra: take care of your body, take care of your mind, and if you don’t love yourself, no one else will love you.
Recently I was speaking to a group of attorneys and realized that Grandma Essie’s edicts aren’t just personal survival strategies, they provide a blueprint for supercharging women’s professional lives as well. When introducing themselves, several male attorneys described themselves as “experts” in various fields of law or enthusiastically explained, “if there’s a case on this subject, I’ve tried it.”
The women lawyers, on the other hand, gave mostly rote recitals of their website bios. One woman offered, “I’m a securities lawyer,” rather than explaining that she leads her firm’s corporate practice. Why hadn’t she shared that completely relevant and incredibly impressive detail?
I must admit, like that practice group leader and many women I know, I am sometimes guilty of understating my achievements to avoid the appearance of bragging. Have you made the same mistake? Grandma Essie would not approve. If we don’t love ourselves professionally – by acknowledging and celebrating our hard work and accomplishments – we may deny ourselves the opportunities and rewards we deserve.
So, I’ve updated my New Year’s resolution list with a pledge to love myself by being straightforward about my expertise (and calling it that!). Every talent is a blessing. Rather than being overly modest, my goal is to tell others about how I can help them in a way that honors those blessings. I invite you to do the same.
2011 Texas Conference for Women speaker Precious Williams Owodunni is a trusted advisor to business and law firm leaders. A former private equity investor and investment banker with Goldman, Sachs & Co., she heads Mountaintop Consulting, a boutique management consulting firm that provides strategic and financial advisory services and innovative business development training.