“I’m so impressed with myself,” says Oprah Winfrey.
If you’re anywhere near as vain as we are, you’ve no doubt googled yourself on countless occasions – and been treated to a plethora of old MySpace photos in the process.
Oprah Winfrey, though, had an entirely different experience when she typed her name into the search engine for the first time recently.
Addressing the moment during an interview with Vogue, Winfrey explained: “I googled myself the other day for the first time. And I was like, I am so impressed with myself.”
Smiling as she recounted some of the facts she learned during her Google session, Winfrey continued: “This is what I didn’t know [about myself] – that I was the first African-American self-made billionaire. Did not know that.”
Winfrey also didn’t know she had “donated more to charity in the 20th century than any other African-American.”
Proudly owning her achievement, Winfrey quipped: “I said, this is really good!”
All of the above facts are true: Winfrey was not being sarcastic. She was simply taking credit where credit is due – so why is this such a key moment?
Well, over the last few years, research has found that, for women, there’s nothing quite as terrible as being seen as cocky or too confident. And it seems as if our reasoning for this is rooted in some logic, despite being horribly depressing: women who are assertive or forceful (aka intent on pursuing their dreams and achieving their goals) are perceived as 35% less competent than non-assertive women, according to a 2015 VitalSmarts study.
And one Stanford University paper, which compared employees with certain masculine traits – like being “aggressive, assertive, and confident” – with feminine traits such as “acting like a lady”, found that a woman can’t step outside of her traditional role without making waves, or experiencing a backlash.
“To be successful, you must be assertive and confident, but if you are aggressive as a woman you are sometimes punished for behaving in ways that are contrary to the feminine stereotype,” the researchers theorised.
However, when it comes to careers, it’s essential that women learn to shout about our strengths and successes. That we take credit for our own achievements. That we toot our own horns, sing our own praises, and lift ourselves up wherever and whenever we can.
Much like Oprah, we need to acknowledge that we deserve our place at the table. And we need to stop batting away genuine compliments, because the more we politely insist that “it’s nothing, really”, the more we diminish our own self worth.
Of course, this is all trickier than it sounds – especially when it’s so ingrained in our natures to be humble. So, to help us all on our journey to self-confidence, we’ve started Big Yourself Up, a regular column exploring ways in which women can boost their self-confidence, get better at self-promotion and resist being side-lined in the workplace. You’re welcome.