Connecting with self

We must make connecting with our self and how we see our self image a priority if we want to make authentic connections to those around us.

For me this has meant being an advocate – that I had a voice to speak up when others felt they could not. Over the years my career has mostly focused on child development, and women’s issues. Most of the time I work almost entirely with women. Early in my career, I generally found – whether in a setting where my colleagues were predominantly women or not – was that as soon as I was around a table of mostly men, I felt I needed to justify my existence at that table.

Gender and age inequity

When I started my career, I was younger than most of my colleagues. I graduated a year younger than most, then qualified for a 3 year degree (due to taking honours level courses in high school). And I looked even younger than I actually was.

Not only was I one of the few women in the room at decision-making levels, but I was also seen as being too young to have anything valuable to contribute to conversations.

Being heard

Before I started qualifying myself at meetings, I was often dismissed. My opinions, or even simple statements of observations, were often ignored.

What did this look like for me? It looked like, not being called on to share insights while others with less experience and/or less relevant education were heard. Being interrupted or spoken over while sharing was a common occurrence. And it meant my input was not taken into consideration and decisions were made without my agreement.

Making connections with those around me was a struggle until I, connecting better with my self image, defined my self for others.

connecting with self to be heard

Connecting my self image for those around me

Once I became fully aware of what was happening, I began to contribute to meetings by first starting with a little synapsis of my experience and education. That background gave me the justification to speak – in many cases – as the authority on the topic. My counterparts who were men, rarely justified their opinions. Yet they were almost always given the time, attention, and respect of the rest of the men at the table.

This isn’t always the same experience for me today. There certainly has been progress for women in some settings, but not all.

connecting with self image in meetings

Appear capable and confident

As a result of these experiences, I approach meetings and presentations with the appearance of confidence. Trying not to let any opportunity to be heard pass me by. By connecting with my self image it became easier to speak up. It’s not always well receive. I’m sure I’ve made a few enemies along the way.

I was recently told after a meeting with decision-makers that my bluntness was appreciated. Was that actually a compliment? I responded that I am always direct. But I realize that sometimes my directness has likely been my downfall. It’s important to me to be a voice for those who feel they do not have one.

Inaction supports the status quo

Losing a few allies along the way is still better to me than the alternative. I have always believed that inaction, or not choosing a side, really means supporting status quo. Women with less power and privilege than myself continue to be discriminated against, and victimized. I cannot sit by without making my voice heard. I only hope that I help provide a platform for them to be heard too.

Acting as a catalyst for change and an advocate for others is how I connect with my authentic self, even if it can be uncomfortable. Are there places that you find it difficult to be yourself? How do you think things would change for you if that was different? Would connecting with your self and portraying an image that is more authentic change anything for you? What’s one step you can make in that direction?

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