I have always considered myself lucky because of the many gifts I’ve received in life: a loving husband, a loving family, great friends (not many, but true ones). A healthy body and a healthy mind. The home I live in, nice vacations I can afford, doing the work I love. For all of this, I am truly grateful. And the more grateful I am, the more I feel spoiled by the universe.
However, I have decided to stay in my truth and say what I think, with no apologies. I’ve stopped pretending this was all about “luck.” I am now brave enough to step outside my fake humbleness and start celebrating myself and my achievements.
You see, most of us have been conditioned to feel the need to “improve” ourselves continuously, and focus on our flaws and perceived limitations while taking our strengths for granted. Although we are all learning from our experiences and mistakes, we also need to know our gifts and talents that make us truly special and unique. Knowing who we are, detaching ourselves from the toxic habit of comparing ourselves to others and celebrating our uniqueness. Sounds beautiful, doesn’t it? Why is it easier said than done for so many people? What makes it so hard to accept our own brilliance?
Let’s be honest: Women generally have a bigger problem seeing their worth compared to men. Men tend to attribute their achievements to their skills and capabilities. Women tend to connect their successes to other people who helped them to be where they are, or to pure “luck.” No wonder women don’t get the same paycheck as men for doing similar work. It starts with how we perceive ourselves and our level of self-worth.
I spent many years of my life thinking I wasn’t good enough. Perfection, as it turned out, was my worst enemy. I considered myself pretty but not beautiful, somewhat smart but not truly intelligent. In other words, I thought of myself as “average,” not outstanding.
I can look back in time and see myself at age 10. I believed I was stupid just because my brain couldn’t work out physics and math. I was good with literature, arts and foreign languages, but that wasn’t a sign of brilliance in the Eastern European culture in which I grew up.
I didn’t grow up in a society that celebrated individuality, so I’ve never seen myself as “some kind of special.” My parents encouraged me in school but always hinted at a “need for improvement,” which was their way to motivate me to achieve more. I grew up with the fear of getting bad grades because if I did, that would be another reason for me to feel ashamed and unworthy.
My parents did the best they could at the time, the society did the best it knew at the time. So I am not blaming, but instead I’m looking for hidden and limiting beliefs that worked against me.
Twelve years ago, I was working for a big multinational company in my home country, Romania. I started as a travel assistant, making flight and hotel bookings for my colleagues. One day, a manager in the company asked if I wanted to join his team and start doing “real business.” At that time, I was holding a university diploma in literature and foreign languages, so I knew nothing about logistics and supply chain. But I decided to take the opportunity and give it a try. I learned everything from scratch and, I’m telling you, it wasn’t easy. Four years later, I was offered a job at the company headquarters in Sweden. Eight years later, within the same corporation, I was leading a business team in Shanghai. I was successful and my results were great. My family was proud; my friends were admiring me. I loved my status and my business card.
But let me tell you this secret: I sometimes felt like a fraud. So lucky to be chosen and on board! Out of so many other candidates, they wanted me! Imagine, me! Too good to be true! Pure luck! That’s how my inner talk sounded at that time, and here’s what I know to be true today: It wasn’t luck; it was all me.
I was the one who spent many nights and long weekends learning a new job from scratch. I was hard-working, committed, curious and ambitious. I was the one who successfully passed many job interviews and competence assessments. I was the one who always wanted to grow, develop, and see different parts of the world and work abroad.
As a child, “abroad” was a mystery to me. I grew up under Ceausescu’s system when traveling outside Romania was restricted. My mother was dreaming to see me leave my small town and get a good job in Bucharest. I wanted more for myself because I knew my past had nothing to do with my future. Because I knew I could make it, despite my circumstances, in full integrity and without compromise.
Today, I know that no one employed me because they liked my smile. I was offering a set of capabilities, skills and talents, and by that, I was adding value to my employers. It wasn’t about me being lucky to get those nice jobs abroad; it was always a win-win solution with mutual benefits.
Yes, I deserved it. Yes, I worked hard. I am saying it out loud now because I got sick and tired of hiding behind my “luck” as if being proud of myself was something shameful.
If anything in here sounds familiar and you also tend to take your achievements for granted, here’s my longing for you: I want you to know that you are a magnificent human being and it is OK to be who you are. Become aware of your strengths and talents and learn how to build on them in your private life and career. Stop feeling ashamed for your achievements. Do not get scared by your greatness. Instead, embrace it with dignity and joy. And always remember that sometimes in life, you need to acknowledge there’s been a lot of hard work behind your “luck.”
Related: 7 Life Truths I Wish I Knew Sooner