Women: Stop Overlooking Your Brilliance, See It

Many smart women leaders overlook their brilliance: their unique combination of being, thinking, and doing that enable them to successfully navigate their professional and personal lives. There are good reasons both practical and profound for learning to notice yours. There is a simple, effective strategy that can help.

But first, here are common patterns that stop women from noticing their brilliance:

  1. You are so good at what you do, you don't notice.
  2. You are in the habit of giving credit to others.
  3. You compare yourself unfavorably to others' success.

1. You Are so Good at What You Do, You Don't Notice.

Woman can mistakenly assume what they do, and how they do it, is commonplace. In Made to Stick, the Heath brothers cite a phenomenon from behavioral economists Colin Camerer, George Loewenstein and Martin Weber, called the Curse of Knowledge. The curse is that once we know something, we find it hard to imagine that others don't know it.

Women, uncurse yourselves! Not everyone can do what you do with the elegance, power or creativity with which you do it. Fine tune your noticer.

2. You Are in the Habit of Giving Credit to Others

Women excel at advocating for and giving credit to others. It is harder for most women to advocate on their own behalf.

When you are in touch with your brilliance, advocating for yourself is easier. It adds to your executive presence, and increases your sense of well-being. You feel and know the difference. Others notice too and without you ever saying a word. You can matter-of-factly take your due credit when it is given. Better still, you can claim it without feeling like you are shouting. This is a must-have ability in competitive environments.

3. You Compare Yourself Unfavorably to Others' Success

If you tend to compare yourself unfavorably to others' success, you are likely comparing an end result or snapshot in time like a title, a promotion or a media appearance, to your process. No one's process is a straight line or beautiful.

As you develop your ability to notice your brilliance, you will discover what enables you to engage in sustained effort over time, how you learn and grow. These are attributes of what Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, calls a growth mindset. A growth mindset can transform your life. You won't get "caught" as easily on others' success. The outcomes you are focused on will be balanced with an appreciation of the effort to get there.

To See Your Brilliance, You Have Got to Notice It

To see your brilliance, you have got to notice it. You can improve your ability by taking a daily or weekly inventory. Where were you brilliant today? It might be navigating a challenge where you did not succeed, but lived to tell the tale! A woman in the midst of transitioning from program operations back to program design, wrote that she is "alternating between being inspired and terrified at my choices. I keep moving forward either way..." This is a beautiful example of her personal brilliance, inspired or terrified, she keeps moving forward.

Find a Trusted Partner and Practice for a Month

For best results, find a trusted partner to practice with for a month. Choose one thing you did, small or large, that reflects your brilliance however you choose to define it. Briefly describe the situation, the challenges, and how you worked through them. Naming the challenges, whether your own thoughts or emotions, external circumstances or both, is important.

Your partner should listen appreciatively without evaluation. Switch roles and give the other person a turn. Watch your energy rise and your ability to notice improve. If you lead a team, incorporate this exercise into your weekly or monthly meetings. Ask team members to share where they noticed they excelled as a team.

When your best friend excels, you tell him or her. Be your own best friend and notice where you excel too.

You Deserve to Notice

Here's what I know: Leading our professional and personal lives takes courage. You deserve to notice your brilliance however you uniquely define it. You will achieve your goals more quickly, and help others achieve theirs too. Better still, you will enjoy the journey more. Do it for you. Do it to increase your impact on the world.