Embracing Yes and Saying No to Fear
There has been a theme present in my life in the last few years: saying yes. For a long time, I put myself in a box: a career box, a mom box, a female box. You name it, I had a box for it.
When I had young kids, the dialogue in my head went a lot like this: “I am a mom and that is enough for me. I know I used to have a great career, but this is my life now and I love it and my career is over.” For a few years, that was my mindset. I stayed home with my kids, and I did love it. I filled the time with a lot of different things, and I don’t regret that at all, but I will admit that I shut off part of myself during that time. I stopped believing that I could make an impact in the working world.
Now, I found opportunities to make an impact in others’ lives through volunteering or growing friendships and helping neighbors, but as far as actually earning an income and growing myself intellectually, I became a bit stalled. Several years ago, I decided to jump back into the workforce, which, despite my nerves, was easier than I thought—although I had some limitations. My internal dialogue during that time was a bit like this: “I like to work, but I know my growth is limited because I’m a mom”; “I was out of the workforce for a few years and didn’t really grow myself so even though I used to be talented, I’m not anymore”; and “I am so lucky to have this job—I’ve really got to prove myself so people take me seriously.”
I limited my potential and even my dreams. I put myself in a box.
As I started to gain confidence in my work, my internal dialogue went like this, “I like to work and I think I’m good at it, but I don’t do it for the money. I’m just so lucky to have a job and enjoy what I do.” I didn’t know why it was so hard for me to say, “I like to work, I am good at it, I also love being a mom, I also deserve to get paid fairly for the work I do, and it is within my reality to earn a promotion.”
I struggled with feeling inadequate. Finally, I became so irritated with myself that I decided to make some mental shifts. A couple years ago, I made the decision to start saying yes when I felt an opportunity arise or felt the nudge to do something. I had let fear and a feeling of inadequacy hold me back for too long. The craziest thing was that once I made the commitment to start saying yes to things, I actually started seeing more opportunities unfold in front of me.
It took me a while to grow in confidence and own that I was good at my work. Even after consistently landing good work, I still put myself in a box. For example, I believed promotions were out of the question for me because I was trying to balance work and home, and I just didn’t believe I could do both well. Eventually, I ended up being the Director of Human Resources at a local company. It was a huge opportunity for me and a dream role; while the emotions I probably should have felt were excitement and confidence, I was filled with self-doubt.
Can you believe it actually took me two months to say yes to the promotion? I finally said yes—and thank goodness I did, because it was a pivotal point in my career. One interesting thing that happened in this process was that I came face-to-face with a discomfort that I have spent most of my adult life avoiding: claiming my value in the workplace with the salary talk.
I am not a timid person, but when it comes to money, I tend to shy away from asking for anything for fear of creating discomfort. When I was offered the director role, it was obviously a huge opportunity for me and my career growth. My boss came to me and offered me the role with a hefty increase in salary. However, I knew what the role was worth and had already decided that part of my new yes mantra meant that it was time to step up and be confident in my own skills and abilities—and that included not underselling myself.
When I received the offer, I said with a shaky voice, “My entire career, I have never asked for anything. A raise, stock, a signing bonus. I have always told myself that I am so lucky to have my jobs and have always been grateful for the opportunities. I finally decided to switch my thinking and tell myself that this company is also lucky to have me. This is a good offer, but it isn’t market value, and I’m only asking to be paid fairly. Taking less would be a disservice not only to myself but to the other women in this company. If you say no, I will stay and help you find my replacement, but this is a deal breaker for me.”
Let me just say, I was so scared during that conversation. My heart was pounding, and I was thinking, Am I really prepared to leave my job over this? I mean, I was drawing a line in the sand. But guess what happened? My boss also became tearful, and she said, “I am so proud of you, I wish I had the courage to have that conversation during my career. You are right, and I will make it happen.”
That conversation could have gone either way, but somehow, I knew in my heart that I had to be bold. That day, I learned a couple important lessons: First, to ask for what I want because I just might get it; and second, to have courage and confidence in my talents and abilities.
It never pays to undersell yourself! Literally. Say yes, and stop waiting for the perfect time or the time when you’ll be perfectly prepared or the best. You don’t have to be the best to add value—just be willing to try. Now, your yes might look different from other people’s yes. Your yes might be a yes to rest, a yes to a new job, a yes to cooking dinner, a yes to workouts, a yes to a promotion, or a yes to asking for a raise. Sometimes, your yes might even go against what some people in your life want you to do—and you should still do it.
Just be willing to say yes when you feel the nudge to reach for something that is greater than what you feel like you are capable of today. Don’t wait until you’re not scared to do the thing you want to do. Fear is a powerful thing that can only hold us back if we let it.