For many the bragging female carries extremely negative connotations. It is common to hear that another female is 'too full of herself' or thinks she is 'all that'. Women are notorious for rolling their eyes at those women who seem too uppity or unabashedly positive about themselves. There is an important distinction between talking about ones strengths and accomplishments and full throttle arrogance. For many women however, the threshold for expressing superiority is too low and they shy away, entirely, from letting others know their strengths.
In fact research shows that even when asked to talk about their strengths, women are more likely to endorse or promote other women than themselves. This has far reaching impact and, at least in part, plays into why women earn less money than men, are less inclined to negotiate for higher-ranking positions and increased pay, are more likely to struggle with low self-esteem and generally less comfortable selling themselves for potential opportunities.
Whether it is a raise, a new job position, or a particular romantic relationship, here are five ways to become more comfortable publicly supporting yourself so you have a better shot at getting what you really want:
1. Align Your Feelings, Thoughts and Actions. When our thoughts feelings and actions do not match, we become uncomfortable -- in psychology this is referred to as cognitive dissonance. So if you are acting in ways that you do not think are appropriate for a woman, you will experience social anxiety and physical discomfort (i.e. sweaty palms, increased heart rate). Perhaps you gear yourself up and force yourself to talk about your strengths with a group of others but, unless you believe this is okay to do, you may appear socially awkward while doing so. Challenge female stereotypes that have you believe something is wrong with a woman speaking confidently about herself. To reduce this kind of social anxiety, work to believe that it is not only appropriate but also meaningful to talk about your strengths and accomplishments. Remind yourself that you are not doing anything wrong; it is a stereotype (not a truth) that you are trying to conform to.
2. Don't Police Other Women. Women can be brutal when it comes to their impressions of other women who are seemingly at ease talking about their strengths and accomplishments. Sadly, there is often gossip and petty ridicule behind the backs of those more confident females. In fact, research shows that women, more so than men, view other women who self-promote as "less competent, less socially attractive and less hirable than self promoting men." And when research participants were asked to pick a partner for a competitive challenge, women by and large chose self-promoting men over self-promoting women -- men on the other hand, were equally likely to choose self-promoting men and women. In general, women who confidently express their value are more likely to get what they want because everyone remembers them later as someone who believed they could do the job. Embrace the female brag, both in yourself but more importantly when you hear other women speaking about their strengths. Remind yourself that we are all connected and the more women embrace the brag in one another the more celebrated it becomes.
3. Break The Female Modesty Rule. Through early girlhood experiences, girls are regularly exposed to the disappointing truth that women who do not behave in ways that are consistent with 'femininity' are not as well liked as those who do. For example, research shows that women who express anger are seen as less competent than women who adhere to female gender norms and express sadness instead of anger. And women who are assertive are seen as 'know-it-alls' or 'bossy.' Women tend to downplay their accomplishments and to, at least publicly, put out a judicious opinion of themselves to maintain public approval. Many women fear they will be cast out or unaccepted if they do not conform to this implicit girl code. Comporting oneself according to gender stereotypes does not translate into true acceptance, feeling deeply known does. Focus more on getting what you want, less on what others think of you and you will accomplish more.
4. When Self-Promoting, Blame Gender Stereotypes (Not Yourself!) For Your Discomfort. If you feel awkward sharing your strengths or accomplishments, remember you are just going against the grain of the 'female modesty norm,' that's why it feels weird...but really it's okay. In fact research shows that women who openly express their strengths and abilities actually perform better and have increased motivation for the task at hand.
5. Keep On Bragging. There is unharnessed power in the female brag as it can dramatically impact your ability to reach your full potential. Although you may feel some awkward pangs of self-doubt, the more you do it the more comfortable you will become with taking the credit you fully deserve.
For more follow me on twitter @DrJillWeber, like me on Facebook or visit drjillweber.com. Dr. Jill Weber is a clinical psychologist in Washington, DC and author of Having Sex, Wanting Intimacy -- Why Women Settle for One-Sided Relationships.