I don’t have a poker face. My facial expressions tend to give away what I’m thinking and feeling, and my rainbow of emotions tend to flow as tears.
I cry. It’s known among friends and family that I can be “sensitive” (the truth is I am an empath) and my tears have flowed at work, in public, and alone while driving a car or being moved by nature.
I cried on International Women’s Day this year, and although it’s not out of the norm for me to express my emotions, this wave took me completely by surprise.
Why the tears?
I hit an edge. I went beyond my comfort zone, and it brought to the surface a self-limiting belief I have yet to release fully.
So, what caused this wave of self-doubt?
Well, not the company specifically, but rather what I experienced while I was there.
I had the honor of being the keynote speaker for Amazon's International Women’s Day event in Boston. I leveraged the theme #balanceforbetter, and I spoke to the women in engineering organization on confident self-advocacy in the workplace.
If you’ve worked with me or attended any of my in person or online events you know Own Your Worth work to be engaging and deep - clients and attendees are open, vulnerable, and honest when it comes to sharing their truth and challenges at work. I create a safe space that allows stories and connection to flow.
At Amazon, I used the same approach and encouraged folks to speak up and share what it is that holds them back from self-advocating at work.
I asked the group to share their truth in front of their peers and even in front of a few managers. It took several awkward moments of silence but a few brave women willingly shared.
One woman who worked primarily with male counterparts shared that her anger and frustration at work comes out as tears when she is yelled at in meetings, when she is talked over time and time again, and when she holds back from speaking up and sharing her ideas, opinions, and knowledge.
She found it really hard to self-advocate without being emotional - and that held her back.
I related so deeply to her story.
I experienced the same feelings and frustrations throughout my career. My work tears came out when I negotiated my first few job offers and promotions, or when I tried to fight for what I knew was the right way to move forward, and I felt unheard.
For most of my career, every time I needed to speak up on behalf of myself I was hit with self-doubt, fear, and anxiety and the tears poured out of me.
Why? Because I didn’t know how to prepare for those tough conversations. I didn’t understand the power of my self-limiting beliefs and the fears they associated with speaking up.
I didn’t understand that because I sensed potential negative consequences for self-advocating, I would, of course, be hit with a wall of uncomfortable emotions that would try to prevent me from taking the very action I needed to take.
Self-limiting beliefs exist to try to keep us safe.
They sense “danger” and act accordingly. Without awareness of our own defense mechanisms, we become frustrated with our emotions, blame them, and shame ourselves for feeling what we feel.
This is why it’s scarier for you to speak up for yourself and easier for you to advocate on behalf of others.
And that’s exactly why I talked about confident self-advocacy at Amazon on International Women’s Day.
Although I’ve learned to be a confident leader and have become more comfortable self-advocating, negotiating and asking for what I want, there are still situations that push my limits. I still have my own glass ceilings to break.
The magnitude of the honor I felt to be speaking on IWD hit me right before I got up to give my talk. As soon as I finished, I was overcome with so many beautiful and complicated emotions.
It was uncomfortable for me to hold the space and ask people, in front of their co-workers, to speak the truth. But I know the struggle of being a woman in tech and I understand the power and necessity of women self-advocating at work because our careers truly depend on it.
My tears that day were a combination of pure gratitude and downright fear.
So, what rose to the surface for me?
It was my self-limiting belief: “Who am I’?
“Who am I to speak at Amazon on International Women’s Day?”
“Who am I to speak about my journey and expertise when so many “others” have more/better/bigger experience?”
Can you relate? Do you have a voice in your head that lashes out when you’ve allowed yourself to step into your power and be vulnerable?
When this happens, I encourage you to acknowledge your feelings, ask them why there are here, and smother yourself in self-love.
It’s a daily practice and self-commitment to honor and accept yourself and your feelings, but allowing space for how you feel, vs. pushing it away, truly allows you to take action in spite of the fear.
Taking action in spite of your fears, alongside your emotions, is what it takes to break glass ceilings, make a change, show up for yourself, your fellow allies, and your future generations.
Breaking glass ceilings and owning your worth requires you to speak the truth. It requires you to get comfortable being uncomfortable. It requires you to have your emotions and not label them as good, bad, strong or weak. They are emotions, and they too shall pass.
Trust that your ability to self-advocate creates a ripple effect around you. Trust that if you jump, you will fly. Trust that if you fail, you will learn.
Give yourself permission to ask for what you want and cry because it’s better than not asking at all. You know that if you don’t “ask” (self-advocate), the answer is likely to be “no” and resentment is sure to follow.
In honor of all of the women who came before me, I am celebrating the opportunities and privileges I am afforded today.
In honor of the women who will come after me, I am fighting for what I believe is right. I am paving a path for self-acceptance where you can release your self-limiting beliefs, cry when you need to, and go on owning your worth.
Are you ready to break through your next glass ceiling? If so, the opportunity to change your life awaits and it's totally cry-worthy.