“As a woman of color it is absolutely vital that I show up in full command of my self-worth and value.” ~Janine Rudder
We’ve all heard the phrase “walk in like you own the place,” at some point or another. Typically, it’s with a negative connotation and refers to someone’s over-inflated ego or self-aggrandizing behavior. Usually, the phrase user is implying that someone could behave more modestly or adopt a more unassuming approach in a given situation.
I’m starting to think differently about this phrase. What if we were to think of it as walk in like you belong in this place? This shift in meaning is so critical because humility and deference, while important, can inadvertently be read as timidity and insecurity. Even worse would be to walk in like you’re asking for a favor.
I define desperate energy as needy. It’s the vibe you emit when you want something you don’t have. In desperation, you’re at a deficit; what you have to offer isn’t quite valuable enough. There’s a pitiful quality to it. Shame is also at the core.
Many of us minimize our talents and skills or undervalue their true worth. We also underestimate the opportunities available to us because of those gifts. This deficit thinking can leave you feeling as though you are ‘lucky’ that company hired you, or that you secured that contract, or even that someone married you. Oftentimes, you either haven’t explored, or for some other reason don’t believe that there are countless possibilities accessible to you because of your expertise.
On page 22 of her book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, Valerie Young asserts that “People take jobs far below their abilities, or aspirations, or otherwise fail to rise to more mentally challenging and financially rewarding opportunities. Still others abandon long-cherished dreams” because of a persistent belief in their lack of intelligence, skills, or competence; otherwise known as Imposter Syndrome.
The feeling that you are undeserving, inferior, or not enough is often what fuels desperate energy. Although we are all, as humans, susceptible to it, some of us are more vulnerable than others.
Traditionally Oppressed People are Acutely Prone
Young also contends that traditionally marginalized groups are more prone to these pervasive, self-effacing thoughts. As a woman of color it is absolutely vital that I show up in full command of my self-worth and value. For me, meekness could confirm an assumed lack of ability some may already have about me or communicate self-doubt and uncertainty. Either way, questions are raised about my capabilities or belief in myself, which doesn’t inspire confidence in what I can contribute. In other words, those of us in groups that are discriminated against have an even bigger stake in knowing our worth and acting accordingly.
“If you have difficulty seeing yourself as competent and qualified, it may be because at times society has had a hard time seeing you that way too.” Young, p. 7
Let me be clear that I’m not advocating for excessive hubris, arrogance, or elevating one’s importance over another’s. However, I am an unapologetic proponent of knowing your capabilities, what they are worth in the marketplace, and advocating for positions, compensation, and opportunities for which you are well qualified.
When You Walk in Like You Belong, Possibilities Open Up
I’ve been a certified Pilates instructor for about seven years. I’ve consistently taught at studios throughout the D.C. metro area during that time. I recently accepted an opportunity to teach at a gym in my neighborhood because of the convenient location, flexible schedule, and community atmosphere.
I knew the gym was in urgent need of an instructor qualified to teach both mat and equipment classes, as certified Pilates instructors are consistently in high demand in this area. However, when I asked about the compensation during a meeting with the manager, I was quoted a price below market rate. The explanation was that boutique studios pay instructors more than gyms. Since the schedule was flexible and the location desirable, I rationalized it by telling myself that I was being compensated in other, non-monetary ways.
Shortly after accepting the position I realized that there were many other differences between the ways that boutique studios and gyms operate. The most significant being tracking clients and documenting classes. As the months went on, I found myself becoming agitated about the level of paperwork and emails I received and sent related to managing client accounts. I signed on to teach outstanding Pilates classes; not complete unnecessary paperwork!
When the manger called a meeting with me to discuss the new client management system I decided to address some of my concerns. I had determined beforehand that I was willing to leave the gym depending on the outcome of the discussion. Foremost on my mind were the standards I had set for myself in preparation for the discussion:
1. I am a highly-skilled Pilates instructor with seven years of experience and excellent client reviews.
2. XXX is my rate and I will respectfully decline anything less.
3. I have signed a contract to teach Pilates and if there is no way to reduce / eliminate the paperwork, then the gym and I are not a great fit.
My tone and demeanor were gracious and respectful as I laid out my terms. By the end of the conversation, I had the increase in compensation I desired, and significantly reduced paperwork! The manager even uttered the words “We will do whatever it takes to keep you.” I floated out of her office feeling proud, valued, and great at what I do. Had I suddenly become a better Pilates instructor while in her office? Of course not; but I went in knowing the quality of my skill set, it’s value to the market, and what I was willing and not willing to accept. The desperate energy I may have exuded had I not done the work beforehand was replaced by an aura of confidence and self-awareness, which made all the difference.
Janine Rudder is a coach and Co-Owner at Manifestara LLC - https://manifestara.com/