Hang in there, rock star.
Recently I caught up with a long-time client, a successful CEO, and per usual, we spoke about our families.
I’m always glad to hear about his daughter – a 20-something, Ivy-educated, bright star, hard worker and terrific writer. A connector of dots, she always filled the room with creative ideas when she interned for me one summer long before she accepted a coveted position at an illustrious investment bank. Moving on to work at other creative agencies, she’s had an exciting, if sometimes a little bumpy, ride typical of those first post-college years.
“She’s a rock star,” I tell him.
“The problem is she doesn’t believe she’s a rock star,” he tells me.
While the comment catches me off guard and the words hang heavy, they don’t totally surprise me either. Most women don’t think they’re rock stars. Many women – too many – internalize a temporary struggle, letting it diminish their self-worth.
To the many rock star millennial women out there, know this: Your professional career is a journey, not a sprint. And losing your footing is part of that journey. No one should expect every day to be hearts and flowers. You’ll be sadly disappointed if you do. You have to put your work in. However, if you’re generally not doing well in a position, relationship, situation, for whatever reason, it may not be the right position, relationship or situation. I’m not saying cut and run right away, but don’t let the wrong situation kick your personal confidence to the curb either. Don’t internalize a situation to mean you are less than the person you are.
Stick with it. And by it, I mean you. You have so much joy – and some bologna – ahead of you. Some of this will have something to do with you. Much of it will have nothing to do with you. You may not even fully understand that statement until 20 years from now. That’s OK. For now, know that as a human being, you are hard-wired to survive and thrive. That is a fact. You will make some great choices. You’ll make some terrible choices. You need both, to learn. We all do.
You may see a lot of women who seem to “have it all,” “know it all,” “be it all.” These are dumb statements. I don’t know why women feel the need to validate our choices and ourselves constantly – perhaps because we are under constant scrutiny. But don’t think for a minute that anyone who hasn’t experienced some measure of success hasn’t experienced an equal measure, or twice the amount, of heartache and struggle as well. Anyone worth her salt – anyone who has actually taken a risk – has failed.
It’s true you may receive opportunities because you’re a woman; you may be turned away from opportunities for that same reason. Hold your head high on both occasions and do your best. Make sure above all else your intelligence, your creativity and curiosity are the most interesting things about you. Travel a lot. By yourself if you can. Learn who you are without the chatter or clatter of others. Earn your place at the table. Stay positive. It won’t solve all your problems, but it gives you a realistic shot.
Do what good leaders do: find authentic, great people who tell you the truth and surround yourself with them. Yes, a good day is something you may want to post all over social media. But also realize that a no good, terrible, rotten day – one you’d never share on social media – could in fact turn out to be one of your most worthwhile. Don’t discount it. For it’s the no good, terrible, rotten day that gave you pause. That made you think. That made you learn. It was that day that you decided to write your own story.
And we need your story.
Above all, keep your head up. Stay the course. Show up. Especially when you get the tough knock. The good news, despite all the anger and chaos in the world today – and there sure seems to be a lot of it – we’re actually moving in the right direction as a society in lots of areas.
Social justice and equality have increased dramatically from where we were even 10 years ago. Certainly the dialogue around equality has exploded dramatically even over the past year. This is good news for all of us.
You just have to find the right situation. Stay the course. Don’t internalize the tough knocks. Learn the lessons and go forward. Believe in yourself. Put your phone down. Quiet the noise. Write your own story. You can figure it out. You got this.
Hang in there, rock star.
Patty McDonough Kennedy is an entrepreneur, communication consultant and speaker. She has lived and worked in the US, Europe and Africa and helps C-level executives, emerging and global organizations improve awareness, engagement and sales. A TEDx speaker, she’s been profiled in Entrepreneur, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org