Dare to shine

#career gender differences personal development the law of jante Oct 25, 2022

Many people find it difficult to talk about themselves and their own strengths, abilities and achievements. Why is it like that?

I recently heard a TED Talk with Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, where she argued that women are not getting top positions because of the wrong mindset. Men in top positions like to recognize success as their own achievement; they regard themselves simply as skilled, therefore they are successful.

Women, on the other hand, often see their own success as the result of something outside of themselves, such as a good team or lucky circumstances. And if they are to first acknowledge the success as their own, they say it is due to effort and hard work. They rarely say outright that they are capable.

Now I don't think this only applies to women, nor do I think that women should become like men, but there are some important points here that I think we should reflect on, regardless of gender.

I often meet talented women, and men, who fail to own or recognize their own progress. They find it uncomfortable to talk about themselves, and even more challenging to talk about their own success.

Pride and Prejudice

I can understand that people don't like to sit at dinner parties and brag about their own achievements - here in the north we see humility as a virtue - but when I ask them in a confidential conversation and ask them to answer completely sincerely, and even then they can't recognize they're own worth - then something is wrong.

The people I talk to may have both long and solid education and good grades, but they don't attach any value to it. They say, "It's nothing special, and besides, it's been so long ago."

They may have climbed to the top without much education with the help of solid experience and good references. But they say: "I've just been lucky, I've had good people around me."

They may have been multi-tasking to the extreme and juggling huge responsibilities both at home and at work, but instead of value everything they managed to do under these circumstances, they feel inadequate. They say: “I had no choice, no one else did it. I forced myself through it.”

The famous Law of Jante

Why is it like that? Is it the good old law of Jante lurking in the background? (The Law of Jante has been assumed to explain the egalitarian nature of the Nordic coundtries.)

  • You should not think you are anything
  • Don't think you're smarter than us
  • You should not imagine that you are better than us
  • Don't think you know more than us
  • Don't think anyone cares about you
  • Don't think you can teach us anything

It is hinted that this law is particularly for women, and there may be something in that. Women in particular seem afraid to praise themselves or to take up too much space. And that is perhaps not so strange.

Sheryl Sandberg claims that society likes successful men with self-confidence, but that the same qualities are considered unattractive in women - we don't like women like that. We reprimand them if they are too bold or try to come forward.

And we want to be liked. We do not want to make others uncomfortable. We want to be humble and kind. That's why we hold back. We hide our strengths - from others and even from ourselves.

Sunshine thieves

But then I want to ask you: Who decided that it should be like that? Who does this mindset affect? And do you really want to agree that it is attractive for some to shine, while for others it is not?

I love these words from Marianne Williamson:

"You playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

I believe in this: You can be humble and proud at the same time. You can be proud of yourself and others at the same time. You can shine - and with that inspire others and shine together with you.

To succeed doesn't have to mean putting others down. Pride is not arrogance. It is not wrong to recognize one's own strengths.

Filmmaker Lena Dunham calls them "sunshine stealers" - those who try to steal your creative power and joy. Don't let anyone steal your "sunshine".  And most of all: don't be your own "sunshine thief".

The people I meet have a lot to be proud of. You have a lot to be proud of. What you have achieved in life shows stamina, cleverness and empowerment.

Don't let it go to waste.

One thing I can tell you: if you yourself underestimate your own achievements, experiences and values, the chances are high that those around you - including employers - will too.

So here are 3 tips for you:

Come to terms with old mindsets that is holding you back? The first step towards daring to shine is to become aware of old behavior patterns and that your subconscious may be controlling you more than you like to believe.

Start writing a book about what you are proud of in yourself and what you have achieved. When you see your own achievements in black and white, it's easier to believe in them.

Start the day by looking in the mirror – look yourself deep in your eyes and say out load to yourself: “I'm proud of you. I love you, You are wonderful".

Change starts small, and change starts with ourselves.

These small tasks can help train your empowerment muscle - the muscle that helps you look positively at yourself and what you have achieved in life and in your career. Which helps you step forward. That helps you shine.