Do you ever underplay or understate your real value?
Do you shy away from praise and recognition and say things like, “it was nothing”, or “It’s just my job”?
Discounting is a common behavior, but one that is more common in women than men.
With confidence and presence being key predictors of success in life and work, discounting is costing you money and your well being.
So why do we discount?
Usually because somebody or something (parents, siblings, school, friends, boss, media) has done a number on our self-esteem. Self-esteem literally means self-value and if you fail to value your ‘self’ nobody else will.
When Coaching or teaching Executive Presence, I often come across cases of discounting, but the good news is that this can be turned around by applying self-leadership strategies.
Humility isn’t what you think it is
Often discounting is driven by the desire to appear or be ‘humble’. The problem is that the classic definition of humility, “the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance”, just sets us up for failure. A more positive, self-leadership, definition is in two parts:
- Having an accurate, neither over nor underestimated view of your own abilities
- Being able to accept other people’s perspectives as equally valid as your own
The first part of the definition is based on strength – what are you good at? If you are good at something, there’s no need to apologize, or brag, just state the facts. Knowing who you are and what you can do, are foundational to self-leadership because with this self-awareness we can value what we do (self-esteem) and build confidence.
The second part of humility is the antidote to narcissism and bigotry. It allows us to speak up authentically stating our own views and allowing others to express theirs.
Discounting and Gender
There is a clear gender bias when it comes to discounting. Women are more likely than men to be perfectionists and so measure themselves against an imagined standard that may not even be realistic. In addition, women tend to exhibit ‘attribution bias’, which is to say that if things go wrong they attribute the blame to themselves, and if things go right they attribute the results to good fortune or other people’s efforts.
Men tend to be more pragmatic, “near enough is good enough”, and so value their efforts more highly. Men are also more prone to self-delusion.
With less discounting, men are more likely to ask for a raise or a promotion, regardless of whether they meet the standard. Because men tend to be more competitive these trappings of success are important to them.
Women are usually more collaborative and with the ‘confidence gap’ created by discounting they will be reticent to ask for advancement, expecting it to be awarded on merit.
How to STOP discounting
1. Accept that you are valuable
Who you are is valuable regardless of what you do, or have done; what you have or your station in life. Separating our human being from our human doing is the key to self-esteem. Nobody has the right to judge you as a human being, you passed that test the moment you were born (they even gave you a certificate).
2. Appreciate your strengths
Self-leaders get clear about what they are good at and those areas that need development. You have a unique collection of talent and abilities and it’s time to take stock of these and be able to state them as facts.
3. Acknowledge the past and move on
Everyone has said something or done something that they have later regretted but this does not decrease their value as a person, the past does not equal the future and we all contain within us the power of choice – the choice to value ourselves and to choose new thoughts, new feelings, new speech and new behaviors.
4. Authentically Speak up
Communicate your needs, wants, values and beliefs in way that encourages others to share theirs. By speaking up this way people will respect you, even if they don’t agree with you.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”
Marianne Williamson tells the truth in this inspiring poem, which finishes with the line,
“As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others”
So to be a leader, of self, or of others you must stop discounting so as liberate others to their full potential.