Last week I was asked to speak at the Digital Growth 2020 virtual conference on how to ‘stop selling yourself short’. As a passionate advocate of women having the confidence to promote themselves professionally and personally, I know how important it is for us to get our voices heard.
One such amazing woman is Lucy Hall, who founded Digital Women during the first lockdown. This new community has much in common with Funny Women, even though when I first created this business in 2002 social media was non-existent.
Here’s a summary of my presentation which contains some useful tips and tricks that I’ve picked up along the way.
Now that we all have access to amazing online tools and can communicate on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok and Twitch, my concern is that we’re not talking to each other in person anymore. When we fully re-emerge into the ‘real world’ again, will we be able to cope?
For example, do you switch off the video for online meetings or do you style it out? Aren’t you selling yourself short by not being seen on the screen? Does it matter that you haven’t washed your hair or you’ve spilt soup on your shirt?!
It’s clear to me that we’re playing with a new kind of fire here in this brave new virtual world. There’s a great big elephant in the Zoom and I’d like to address this.
Many of us are suffering an advanced form of imposter syndrome and we’re in danger of losing the plot. The longer this goes on too, the more we’ll be inclined to sell ourselves short – so many of my friends are taking ‘social media breaks’ because the pressure and the inclination to compare yourself with others has become too great.
On the one hand virtual reality means that we can be anybody we want, and we can create a great big online myth about ourselves. On the other, we have to deal with the extra pressure of being seen ‘living our best lives’ in the online goldfish bowl.
I have just about learnt to live with my ‘resting Zoom face’, which is unnervingly close to ‘resting bitch face’ so I make a point of smiling more than is sometimes necessary. On the plus side, all the excess smiling is generating useful happy hormones, and it’s good to use a bit of humour generally.
I love how some of the fantastic influencers and ‘comedimums’ like Daisy May Cooper and Sophie McCartney (aka Tired and Tested, winner of our Best Web Series in the 2020 Funny Women Awards) are subverting their own reality by portraying their lives so hilariously on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.
My generation didn’t have to juggle parenthood with their social media profiles, but even if you’re not an influencer, there’s an extra layer of stress now to be something more than we actually are in real life. Unless you really want to do this, and it’s actually fun, don’t feel pressured into doing something that feels uncomfortable or alien.
I am as susceptible as the next person to the pressure of looking good and performing well on screen, particularly as this is our only window on the world currently. However, I know how important online tools and skills are to operate in today’s world and if it wasn’t for social media, my business and many others would not have survived the last 10 months.
Assuming that we have to continue viewing it through the small screen for a few more months I want some of our normal human values and frailties to have their place. I’m taking old school analogue as my template here.
For example, when I meet people ‘face to face’ I want to know who they are, what are their passions, what have they done, what do they do? This may sound like basic stuff but it’s the first thing I ask when I coach people to perform comedy or speak in public. We all want to know more about you, and if you sell yourself short, how can you expect anybody to be interested in you, your script or your business.
In return we should all give the gift which keeps on giving, which is to listen.
You never know what contacts, skills and ideas people have and, yes, listening in on endless Zoom meetings can be hard work but every now and then you will meet somebody who enlightens or entertains you and you might even get some work out of it!
Self-deprecation is something many of us could get a degree in and it saddens me that this is a predominantly female trait. You know how it goes: ‘What this old thing?’, ‘Yes, a fiver from Primark!’ not ‘Yes, I’ve had this for 20 years and it still fits’ or ‘Exclusive designer item’ – we are over-apologetic about everything from the way we look and dress, to missing a deadline.
Those people who succeed and make a good practice of not selling themselves short, know how to style it out and are good at saying ‘thank you’ – learning how to enjoy a compliment is a definite step in the right direction of towards self-appreciation!
Only be apologetic when it really matters and not to deflect a compliment. I was once told by a colleague never to apologise as it makes you appear weak and defenceless, like you’ve got something to hide.
I take a different view of this as sometimes a heartfelt apology is the only way to move forward and shows strength, not weakness. Admitting when you’re wrong, really wrong, is brave, humble and means you can, hopefully, move on from a genuine mistake or disagreement.
The best people to be with really know their worth and have the innate ability to turn a crisis into a triumph, be humble when they need and draw you into their circle of energy with their passion and enthusiasm.
I have a simple exercise to help you discover your own circle of energy.
Start by asking yourself ‘what am I worth?’ Firstly, answer personally in terms of your health, welfare, family and more. Then in relation to people in your professional life through business, place of work, communities and networks. You will quickly see how interconnected your personal and professional worth are.
This exercise will help you to value yourself and create your personal circle of energy. You can’t expect anybody else to befriend, employ or collaborate with you if you don’t value yourself.
In terms of self-worth, I frequently make the simplest mistake of comparing myself to others. On the ‘bad’ days everybody is younger, cleverer, more attractive over Zoom and getting better social media exposure than me. Then I consider what I’m worth – to my family, colleagues, friends, community and networks. Without my self-worth there would be no Funny Women and I wouldn’t be writing this article.
Sometimes I write a list. Instead of that huge ‘to do’ list, write a list of all the good things that have happened to you over the last few days or in your life. Or even a list of all the nice things people have done for you or said to you.
This is also an opportunity to be kind to yourself. For example, I spend a lot of time beating myself up about the book I haven’t yet written but I’ve learnt to rationalise this, particularly this year, by listing all the things that I actually have done.
Top of my list is keeping Funny Women going. We are all part of a bigger community that empowers other women to do what they do best. Some of us have turned adversity into a positive, business-building experience and discovered that where there’s a will there’s indeed a way, even in a global pandemic.
Ultimately, we all have strengths, skills and talents and it’s how we promote and celebrate them that defines success or failure. I know that every failure I’ve had has been a building brick in defining my success. Plus, the pandemic has given me the opportunity to reframe what that really looks like and I’ve really surprised myself. I am as insecure as the next person but I’m not selling myself short any more. And neither should you.
Want to face your elephant in the Zoom? Join me for the first virtual version of my Stand Up to Stand Out comedy workshop on Wednesday 9th December from 6.00 to 8.00pm, all the details are here. If you are struggling financially and this workshop would really help you, we are offering a few bursary places – drop a note at firstname.lastname@example.org explaining your circumstances.