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Here's 5 Major Keys For Confidently Sharing Your Achievements

I wondered how many times we have both underestimated, undervalued and underrated our achievements. Just two weeks later, I went to a...

Workin' Girl

My friend Jessica is three years younger than me and as much as she watched me maneuver my way out of Tennessee to New York City, I, too, kept tabs on her trajectory to success in Chicago.

So on New Year's Eve we met up to laugh, cry and candidly share our wins with one another. During our dinner she revealed to me that she met up with some of her former high school classmates who made her feel bad for successfully "making it out" of Tennessee and having a fruitful career. She admitted to downplaying her experiences so that her former classmates would feel comfortable around her instead of the usual intimidation and jealously. It was disheartening to me that she felt the need to dim her light to spare someone else's feelings, and I wondered how many times we have both underestimated, undervalued and underrated our achievements.

Just two weeks later, I went to a networking event where I circled the room trying to connect with other professionals. As I began to introduce myself to some of the attendees, my friend, Stephanie interrupted one of my conversations and started to continue telling this person all of the small achievements that I've had in my career thus far. It was amazing that she could introduce me better than I could speak for myself. Afterwards, Stephanie pulled me to the side and asked me why I downplayed my achievements. Maybe I didn't think it was relevant, maybe I didn't think it was important, but I didn't know why I decided not to share my wins with this stranger.

I learned two important things from those encounters:

  1. First, I needed go back to the drawing board and rework the contents of my elevator pitch.
  2. Secondly, I needed to work on being bold and unafraid to let my achievements shine.

If I could master those two things, I could achieve the goals that I set for myself this year.

According toThe Atlantic,

"Men overestimate their abilities and performance, and women underestimate both, even though there's no difference in the quality of their performance."

Whether it's a promotion, negotiating salary, dating or even being able to confidently share our success with friends, women downplay their achievements in many ways. Communications professional and ex-Hill staffer Safiya Jafari Simmons was stunned when she came across the stats about the confidence gap between men and women. She decided to do something about the way women project their confidence in and out of the boardroom by founding Leap Executives Strategies.

I recently attended her Leap Luncheon in Brooklyn where she shared some major keys for confidently sharing your achievements in order to win:

Own Who You Are

Women are so often judged, labeled and categorized that it can feel very overwhelming and intimidating to imagine being completely and authentically ourselves when the consequences of such boldness are unknown. We must contend with so many different opinions of what is proper that we often prioritize the comfort of others over that of ourselves to "keep the peace" or to benefit the greater good. So we shrink; we make ourselves, our personalities and our skills smaller so as to be less infringing on others, less intimidating to others and to not rock the boat. From my purple Mohawk, to my colorful clothing and my unashamed devotion to Christ, I'm prayerfully and loudly leading a charge to encourage women -- especially women of color -- to own themselves, validate their own goals and chart their own course. We only live this one life. I'm not wasting mine building someone else's dream or watching others shutter their own.

Don't Shrink Or Diminish Your Achievements

Each of us is created to do something that no other person on this planet can do. Yes, there may be one million women in the arena you want to get into, but no one else will perceive, process or attack the problem the way you will.

My boldness is anchored in my faith and in the Word of God that says that He didn't give us a spirit of timidity. So I glorify my Creator when I share with others what I've been able to accomplish because of Him. I want to encourage as many women as possible to get that truth as well: it doesn't benefit anyone when we shrink or diminish our successes. It negatively impacts the lives of those attached to us, those watching us and those we're helping to groom. If fear holds you back from being bold, then do it to the glory of the One who created and purposed you. How can we influence a new generation of entrepreneurs, CEOs, thought leaders and game changers if we don't own our successes, accomplishments and advancements? How do we show to those coming up behind us what power they have if we don't model it for them? I want women of all ages and stations to see me -- loud, purple hair, bright clothes and joyfully declaring what I will and won't accept in my life and career -- and know that they can do and have the same and more.

Balance Humility With Confidence

It's imperative that we do two things in all of those scenarios. First, we enter the scenarios with a mission to hear and truly listen. Second, that we enter the scenarios strategically, knowing that we're a value-add and that we deserve good things. In networking situations, many women avoid strategically approaching and interacting with established, successful or celebrity folks because they don't want to be categorized as pushy, or they don't know what to say. Most often, if we'd make the first move - just approach, introduce ourselves and extend our hand for a handshake - what follows will flow naturally. We must get better with strategically growing our networks.

If we want to climb the ladder in the industry we're in, or jump into a new arena or land a new client, think about the people who are farther along than we are in the area and then set to the business of making them a part of our network. In interviewing and negotiating, we have to balance humility with confidence. Yes, we want potential employers to think we're a good catch, but we also have to have the mindset that we're evaluating whether a potential employer is good enough for us. Is that company good enough for your skill set? Will they complement your interests and talents and boundaries? Will they stretch you and develop you in the areas you need and want? Interviewing is a two-way street and negotiating is not giving away your skill set.

Perfect Your Elevator Pitch

Elevator pitches must be a few things: clear, compelling, concise and pithy. You literally have seconds to introduce yourself, explain what you're doing, and tell your audience why they should care. Talk confidently about who you are, what you're talented at, and how that/those talents could benefit your audience. I worked with an amazing coach, Suezette Robotham at Go Higher and Hire LLC, to craft mine because the language is so specific. I'm a huge fan of soliciting help with these types of things - résumés, cover letters, and LinkedIn pages as well - because first impressions are priceless!

Be Mindful Of Your Audience

I always tell the women at my Leap Luncheons and who I interact with in general to be discerning about with whom they discuss their ideas, wins and plans. Not everyone knows how to support us when we win, especially when our victories don't look like what everyone else is doing. Things like starting a new business, pursuing a second career or starting over in a new industry can look very scary to people for whom that is not their purpose. Very often it isn't that they aren't happy for us, but their fear -- founded in their desire that we succeed and their love for us -- ends up looking like disdain or even envy or judgement. Be thoughtful about who you share that information with and show grace to friends and family who don't respond in the way you expected.

Sometimes it isn't that they aren't happy for you, it's that they love you so much that they don't know how to show anything but concern.

Featured image by Getty Images

You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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