Last week I was invited to speak at an event focused on Women in Business.
I brought a friend who owns her own business, focused on strategic communications and public relations strategy. Along with running a successful business, she has raised three children and recently finished an Ironman. And yet when I sent her the invitation, titled Powerful Women, she immediately replied that it was kind of me to include her, but these women were probably the real powerful women and she was just Jill Smith the small business owner. In other words, she wasn’t as smart and as capable, as connected and as powerful as everyone else. Funny this. It seems to be a default position for many very accomplished women. That vague but quite powerful feeling that we are not as smart, not as driven, not as connected as the woman sitting next to us. I have certainly felt this way many times in my life. I live with a smart and accomplished man and I can’t actually imagine him saying the same thing. Sometimes, when I am really pissed off at his level of confidence, I call him arrogant. Mostly though, I recognize what a huge asset his confidence and recognition of his own talents have been, in building his business.
And so, the words that I shared last week with a room of 85 dynamic women, was, own your own power. I told this to my lovely god daughter Kira, who was in the room, and halfway through her first week on her dream job at a Vancouver PR agency. Own your power. Know how good you are, and step up and be confident that you have something to contribute. I will draw a parallel from sport. In 1990, I began working with one of the world’s greatest coaches, Mike Spracklen. At the time I began working with Mike, I was ranked 8th in the world in the single rowing sculls. Mike and I headed to San Diego to a World Cup Regatta. In my heat I was going to be racing the East German, who was ranked 2nd in the world and the West German who was ranked 3rd. Mike asked me to try to stay with the leaders, “what do you have to lose,“ he advised, “just hang on as long as you can.” That seemed like a terrible race strategy, but wide eyed at his reputation and winning record, I gave it a go. After 500m I was right in the pack, after 1000m I was hanging on to the leaders, at the finish I was a very close third. It was a moment when I got a glimpse at what was possible. Working with Mike, not only did I make marked gains in technique and fitness, I learned to own the athlete that I was. I was good enough to be a world leader.
I was physically ready to win, before I was mentally ready to win. This has been true of many aspects of my life, but in the last few years, I have begun to own my power. What a difference this has made. It doesn’t mean I think I am better than others, or that I feel invisible, it is really a gentle but strong confidence in who I am and what I have to contribute. In fact, this shift in owning my own power, has translated directly into my willingness and my capability to empower others. By letting my own light shine, as Marianne Williamson said, “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” When we own our talents and abilities we bring them to our jobs, to our families and to our communities. We share what we know, and we develop a capacity to help others who are at different stages of their development. Own your power. ....Silken