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The power of reflection

I was talking to my friend Ben this morning, about how much I love my job. And I realized—there's a certain moment in the creative process that is the most important to me.

It's that moment that happens after I ask "tell me about you" and "tell me about what you're good at, what people love about you, what your challenges are" and "tell me your favorite parts of your personality and job".

It's that moment after I drink it all in.

It's the moment after I tell them what I heard. What they told me. My people—my friends, colleagues, coworkers, clients, fellow businesswomen and entrepreneurs—are incredibly complex, talented contributors to our culture and time. They're accomplished, they're appreciated, they're needed.

I can see all that amazing, all that power, bravery, accomplishment and potential. And I can share it back with them.

It's a gift, to be able to offer people a reflective view of their own success.

So often, at that moment, we'll both tear up. Because we as women are accustomed to standing in shadow. We are trained by our culture to lean into bashfulness. Looking for our "areas of opportunity" is habit, and comparison is rife in the business world. And even my most confident client will often ask "is that really me?" or challenge "I can't claim that—I'm just ____". But remember my wonderful women: I'm just reflecting back what you told me. I can just see it more clearly, because I'm on the outside.

I wish I could offer some sort of ROI for the work I do in this space. It would look something like "women who have a strong, accurate view of their abilities are 95% more likely to be happy in their work" or "4500 jobs are a year are secured with a complimentary sense of self" or "persons who embrace their skills without apology are promoted 10 times out of 10". But I can't offer that.

Here's what I can say for sure:

Women who have a strong, accurate view of their abilities stand up straighter and have more pride in the work that they do. This makes them more credible and marketable.

A complimentary sense of self is contagious—women who see their value convey that to others, meaning prospects, clients, coworkers and colleagues will also view them in a complimentary light.

Persons who embrace their skills without apology are able to close deals more often, because their audience knows exactly how they will be benefit from working with that person.

It's almost impossible to get a reflective view without help. I do this for a living, and I'll be the first to say: I often see myself through a cloudy lens of the ever-trendy #impostersyndrome. When I need to see myself clearly I definitely ask for help. Because selfies in the office bathroom will only get a gal so far. My peeps will always remind me of my accomplishments and value. And yours will too. There's a few way to do request reminders without feeling like a doofus.

My favorite thing to suggest to folks is to put that vulnerability on the shelf and simply ask. Ask a few trusted colleagues, friends, or previous bosses to tell you what they appreciate most about you.

Feel edgy asking for kudos? Use one of these:

Hey [name], I'm polishing up my LinkedIn for 2023, would you write me a sentence or two about why you like working with me?

Hiya [name], I'm doing a career-building exercise with a branding expert, and they've asked me to poll a few friends about what makes me great to work with. Can you send me a few bullets?

Hello [name], I'm updating my resume...can you help me with something? I know I'm good at [thing one], [thing two] and [thing three], but what do you see as my best professional qualities?

If you're really feeling spicy, ask a circle of trusted advisors (a mixed bag of friends, coworkers and family works well for this) to come over and have a workshop with you. Ask them to share with you what your gifts are...and even where they think you could shine brighter than you are right now. They'll riff off each other and it will be the most helpful feedback session you've ever gotten (also potentially the most raw and terrifying but don't worry—I believe in you, and they do too. That's why they're there.

I hope that some day we cease to be surprised by how incredible other people think we are. That we start to see it for ourselves, without prompting. But that day isn't here so let's just continue to lift each other up. Ask for help. And remember: there's nothing more clear than a reflective view.

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