In the Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes discusses how saying “yes” to opportunities transformed her life. She explains that “[l]osing yourself does not happen all at once.” Rather it happens one no at a time.
Women are often encouraged to say no to prioritizing their wellbeing and to say yes to commitments that render them invisible. She poignantly writes:
I don’t think it ever occurred to me before how much and how often women are praised for displaying traits that basically render them invisible. When I really think about it I realize the culprit is the language generally used to praise women. Especially mothers.
“She scarified everything for her children…She never thought of herself… She gave up everything for us… She stood in the shadows, she was the wind beneath our wings.”
Greeting card companies are built on that idea…
But [should mothers be praised] for cultivating a sense of invisibility, martyrdom and tirelessly working unnoticed and unsung?… Praising women for standing in the shadows?
Going unnoticed, going unsung, standing in the shadows also applies to women in business. Instead of being encouraged to lean in to the spotlight, women often face social sanctions for displaying loud opinions, speaking about their accomplishments, showing ambition, and taking on leadership roles.
Shonda includes a story about how she attended an event to celebrate powerful women. Most women downplayed themselves. She forced herself to own her accomplishments and state them. She asks, “how can it be boastful to state a fact?”
I agree. Women should not feel ashamed for talking about themselves, making their ideas heard, and reaching for their goals. By saying yes to each opportunity, women can step away from the shadows and lean in to their careers.