Don't Dilute Yourself!
What are your worst habits and how do they impact you?
I am sure you have a list you can recite from snoring to eating unhealthy food to giving up way too soon on the exercise plan. But there is one habit that is way more impacting than any of these. It is the habit of diluting yourself. What does that habit look like? Putting yourself down, apologising for what you are about to say, telling others what you fail at as part of every conversation, downplaying praise, the list goes on but the damage is far reaching.
This was the subject of the TEDx Talk that I was privileged to give at the end of 2021 and it currently has over 22k views. With hundreds of likes and a flood of private messages thanking me for the insight, I know my talk resonates with so many people.
In this blog my intention is not to transcribe the talk, much better to listen to it yourself and 'feel the room' (link at the bottom of this blog)
Instead I wanted to explore a few of the ideas in greater depth. For the purposes of my model, I am focusing on the low risk, low level disparaging put downs that we neatly embroider into our conversation. Making sure we let people know that our comment 'is probably wrong' or 'it may not be very interesting' before we share it. Recognising our lack of skill or finesse before anyone else dare to point it out. Not knowing what to do with a compliment other than reject it, disprove it or give credit for any success elsewhere.
Surely this isn't harmful though is it? We all want to be humble not arrogant? NOPE! That isn't it at all. Recognising our value, our social worth, or efforts, our success our resilience, in my opinion, is a fundamental building block for our positive mental health and wellbeing. We search for motivational quotes to set us on our way for a positive day and then discredit any part we may have on making the day great !
I work as a consultant and thrive on motivating people to recognise their worth, work hard to continue to develop, and celebrate with gratitude their successes. I am, without apology, an emotionally intelligent leader with kindness as my driving value and a humanistic approach to leadership as my unique selling point. As a scientist, I am fascinated with data and look for patterns by default. As an ex Secondary Headteacher I see the value in life long learning, strong work ethics and the importance of well directed praise to lift people into their best working realm. The reason I share this is that I witness the burden of diluting yourself with so many people that I work alongside.
If you received a nomination for being great in your craft, why would you immediately think it was junk mail?
If you are invited to an unscheduled meeting, why would you either worry that you were in trouble or that they needed 'numbers'?
If someone tells you that you look good, why do you question how awful you must usually appear?
Before you contribute to a conversation, why do you give the preamble that says "I know you may not agree but...." or " It sounds stupid I know but ...."
These are all subtle ways that you dilute yourself everyday and over a week, a month, a year, a lifetime it frames your self worth and mental attitude into a space from which it is hard to break free. I believe that a consequence to that can then be an evidence based low mood when things take a downward turn. Once this is your vantage point, motivational quotes and wellness journals can pass you by like tumbleweed.
Interestingly, diluting yourself is not unique to 'half empty' character dispositions. I see it everywhere! The most confident and buoyant can still apologise for being in a room and can downplay an achievement. In the talk, one of the easiest takeaways is to say 'Thank you' when someone gives you praise .... just a smile and a thank you; no excuses, justifications, put downs, shifting of worth ... just thank you. Give it a go and see how it feels. I have laughed out loud when I have watched somebody try because they then gave a huge explanation of why they did it and explained what they would usually have said !
We don't need to feel rock bottom before we find ways to motivate ourselves. We all want to do well in all aspects of our lives so it is vital to give yourself permission to lift your chin. Position yourself with confidence because you can! Habits are hard to break and even more so when you don't realise you are doing it. We have listened throughout our life time to feedback, criticism, praise, some of it valid and some of it less so. Our internal script however is ours to own. Sometimes the script is silent in our head and sometimes it is dialogue but try to catch yourself before you put yourself down.
Many of us are also role models for others, either as parents or leaders or colleagues. It is important that this behaviour isn't learnt as a norm. When I help staff with application forms or curriculum vitae, feeling embarrassed to articulate strengths is a real problem for so many people. When I am coaching or mentoring, I always asked for seven adjectives to describe themselves and even that is a push too far for some. Listing without emotion, areas of expertises or development, explaining why you would add value to a team, stating why you are worth investing in; these are all tough if you are used to playing yourself down by default.
My daughter shared with me yesterday that she had read something that really resonated with her. It was a suggestion that for 2022 you don't need to make new year resolutions, it is alright to just 'be'. The article acknowledged that times were tough and uncertain and so maybe constant self improvement was a bridge too far this year. I was energised by how relieved she was to be given permission to live her year without more goals, exams, promotions and social gain. I think this idea dovetails very easily with not diluting yourself. Maybe we need to give ourselves a pause to recognise who we are, what we can do and practice believing that that is worth something. As we strive to be less anxious, have a better work life balance, sleep well, remove stress, how about let's try being ourselves. We are great at being ourselves and we don't need to excuse or apologise for it.
You are more than enough. You have permission to 'be'. Don't dilute yourself in front of others. Change your internal script. Recognise your worth in the daily things you do. Don't compare yourself to a previous you. Be enough for you.
Here is a youtube link to the talk or you can find it on www.ted.com/talks/adele_deasy_don_t_dilute_yourself_adele_deasy