As a mental health coach, I have an incredibly diverse client roster. It is what helps me grow and evolve as a human being. But let’s all make it known that as a white cis female I will always have a lot to learn outside of my own identities, background, upbringing, and familiarity.
I’m going to share a story about a past client, let’s call her Taylor. When we began coaching together, Taylor was unaware of the microaggressions in her workplace that she shared in our session together. She also hadn’t found a way to name them or call them out.
But why would she feel that she could speak up in the first place?
Taylor is an Asian woman with immigrant parents, having a lot to prove her entire life. Taylor had worked for a couple of years for this company. When Taylor and her Asian female co-worker were in the same room, their boss will call Taylor by her co-workers name. Let’s call her co-worker Katie. We took a deep dive into why Taylor hadn't spoken up and why it’s important to do so if and when it happened again. After one impactful coaching session of Taylor’s vulnerability and courage, we were able to shift deep rooted belief around feeling unworthy and minimizing those feelings around this issue.
Taylor came to our next session with a reply to her boss, in the likely instance that he called her the wrong name again. She would say, “My name is Taylor, not Katie. We’ve been working together for a while now, I’m surprised that you don’t remember my name.” It took all of me for my jaw not to drop after hearing her. I couldn’t have imagined a better reply.
I am here to guide her on a path of actualizing her worth and full potential. When we align with our authenticity and values, our voice is our most powerful tool.
I couldn’t speak Taylor’s truth, only she could. We can advocate for others, but there is something that hits different when we amplify our voices pertaining to what we personally go through.
We learn to use one of the main tools that nobody can take away from us– our voice. We may misplace it time and again. But we have the capacity to find out where we left it and begin again. When Taylor began to understand the magnitude of her experience, she began to find her voice again.
Below are a few ideas to think about when advocating for yourself as a woman in the workplace.
1) Challenge inner thoughts.
It’s important to realize that everyone is qualified and capable — once they put their mind to it — to achieve what they are seeking. That includes yourself, but that also includes others. Rather than accepting self-worth obstacles, challenge the thoughts that surface.
Realize that the other people in the room are no more deserving of recognition and success than you are. We have to want something enough and allow that desire to override the fear of potential pitfalls. We have a choice of how to perceive our situation.
Approach thoughts that lack self-worth with curiosity and compassion.
Ask yourself, “What proof do I have about this internal thought? Is there another way that I could reframe it or think about it?”
2) Intervene early by removing the 3 P’s.
This societal norm around women needing to be polite, polished or poised needs to go. Remove the three Ps and replace those with assertive communication, self-worth and an inner knowing (self-belief) that whatever you feel you want to contribute is not only worthy of being expressed, but is important for the evolution of the conversation.
Try to not resist expressing an intuitive or gut instinct. Instead, raise the volume on the topics and insights that come from inside of you. Only you have the power to express them and the gifts were given to you for that exact reason.
3) Assume everything is negotiable.
My father taught me to negotiate absolutely everything. Let’s assume for a moment that we have the ability to challenge any course of action that is presented to us. This means that we should not instantaneously accept what is presented to us. Bring yourself and ideas into the conversation and see how it shifts.
My dad also taught me that it’s 100% non-negotiable if you don’t speak up, but if you choose to speak up, there is a 50/50 chance of negotiation.
4) Take risks.
I like to see failure as a learning opportunity. Working in an industry where 100 'nos’ were sometimes followed by one ‘yes’, the idea of discouragement did not cross my mind.
You will either win or learn and with learning, there is room for growth and most importantly, recovery. Taking risks is physically easy, but mentally one of the most challenging skills. That is why working on unblocking those paths that would ordinarily tell us to stay safe, can open up avenues that we need to explore further.
All success was led by failures and all women leaders acknowledged that the failures were key for their success.
Lastly, show visibility. With your work, passions, but especially with yourself. No matter the type of work we do, it’s crucial to show up exactly as we are in order for our gifts to be properly delivered.
Afterall, the way we present ourselves is how others will base their decision on how they will treat us. As women, let’s position ourselves as equally capable, worthy, intelligent as any other person in the room.
Macy Cassera is a mental health coach, ambassador and freelance blog writer. She has prior experience as a model in New York City for fashion, commercial and parts modeling. Macy combines these passions with mental health awareness to underpin our sense of self and strive for a world of inclusivity and equitable representation. To get in touch with Macy, please send her an email or send a message through her official website or Instagram.