The theme of proving myself to the world has been a consistent companion throughout my life. On the professional front, I started working as a banker 15 years ago, a career that aligned with my academic studies, a career that felt like it gave me the financial stability and an acceptable career as an Asian-Australian. I learnt very quickly that the higher level positions were dominated by men, and they encompassed qualities such as meeting sales targets, being louder, exerting a sense of authority and decisiveness. Meetings did not include a lot of sensitivity to emotions and expressions other than holding bold masculine traits. As a 23 year old woman, I realised that other women were at my level, entry level, assistant managers and I came to the conclusion that I needed to behave, dress and talk like ‘one of the boys’. I swapped my dresses for pant suits (albeit white), I joined my colleagues at the pub after work (I have an alcohol intolerance and don’t enjoy being in a pub) and even watched football on TV, so that I had something to talk about the next day at work. To build rapport. To prove that I too, can be successful as a banker. That I’m worthy of a promotion.
Fast forward 15 years, and I have learnt that doing all of the above doesn’t place me in the position where I was perceived as their equal. Or worthy of the promotion. In doing so, I realise that I have been hiding a big part of me that makes me unique. It prevented me from showing my strengths that would have helped me in showing myself to the world. To see the world from a different viewpoint. I have long since donated my suits and I can’t tell you the difference between rugby league and union at a glance. I order an organic wine if available, or a G&T, otherwise it’s a glass of water. I have grown to sit back into myself and being more of me in my interactions.
“Much to learn, you still have” ~ Yoda
Recently, on the personal front, I met a man with whom I felt there was an initial spark. This man embodies a number of qualities I am looking for – open, intelligence, kind-hearted, well-spoken with a side of cheekiness. I felt incredibly comfortable sharing the space during our first encounter and I was keen to explore. In my limited view, I felt I had to prove myself to him that I am his equal. So when I met him the second time, I ended up falling outside of myself by talking non-stop about me, my past and my aspirations. And I forgot a fundamental skill. To actively listen. To be curious. To be open. I was solely interested in showing and proving that I am an interesting human being.
A big forehead-smacking-Homer-Simpson-DOH! moment…
How did these experiences feel, the energy of trying to prove myself? It felt exhausting. I felt a part of me that kept trying to reach outside of me to connect. To show that I’m worthy. Worthy of a promotion. Worthy of being considered a love interest.
Worthy of an existence? Maybe.
I see this in different ways within the Asian-Australian women community. I recently talked with a few highly intelligent and successful women who have also tried to fit-in throughout their lives and careers. Through putting on a stronger Australian accent, through putting on a loud persona in order to be seen and heard. To do the super-woman pose in the bathroom before big meetings (you know the one!).
I am done with hiding. I have been hiding my true self through amplifying parts of me that I’m confident of displaying. I want to show up all of me to the world. Beauty spots and all.
I would love for Asian-Australian women in their 20s & 30s to know that they are worthy – that there is nothing to prove. To embrace and stand in their truth and voice. It takes time, patience, self-compassion and courage. If you are ready to jump into your worthiness, reach out to me, and I will share how I can support you.
Otherwise, who do we need to prove ourselves to?
Image by Jean Sum