One of the most admired first ladies in history, and a leader in her own right, Eleanor Roosevelt, once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” The mindset behind this extremely powerful statement has stood as a beacon for women who continue to push forward to spread advancement, even when those who push back obstruct the path.
The quote proposes that, if you feel uncertain about yourself, a slighting remark can easily make you feel inferior. On the other hand, if you feel confident, you can just as easily laugh it off. In the end, it is your perception of yourself, not other people’s perception of you that motivates your actions.
Young women do not always envision themselves as leaders, at least not consistently. Men, on the other hand, often overvalue their strengths, or brandish themselves as having more ability than they actually do – which is not always a bad thing when you are ascending in your career and you can successfully ‘fake it till you make it.’
For women, however, this self-perception dictates what happens next. I attended a conference where I heard that “a woman’s confidence in her ability to make partner erodes after only 1 year in the profession.” This is a startling concept, and one that can only be changed by reinforcing the mindset that a woman’s confidence grows from within, not compromised by what is happening around her. So where does it start?
I believe it starts with good role models. Women leaders owe it to the rest of our kind to always be the best role models – to believe themselves to be the Eleanor Roosevelts of the world, and leaders in their own right. The reason that Eleanor Roosevelt has left such a deep imprint in history is not because she was married to a president, but because she transformed the role of the First Lady by being one of the most active first ladies in history, and working for political, racial, and social justice, even after President Roosevelt’s death.
The way to inspire young women to continue to view themselves with confidence, and to envision themselves as leaders, is to be a living example of confident leaders – to push the needle of perception that demonstrates how growth in confidence leads to actions that grow opportunities.
Remember, it does not matter what happens around you, it matters what happens within you – that also means that when you see other women around you succeed, it does not mean that they took success away from you. You have your own path to establish based on your own abilities. Support them, and when your success comes, they will support you.
It may not always be easy to live boldly as a beacon for future women leaders, but as Eleanor Roosevelt also said, “It is today that we must create the world of the future.”