Little girl covering her face

Stop Covering!

By Anj Handa

Covering…that got your attention, didn’t it?! I’m not proposing that you start to wear less (unless you want to, of course). In this case, I’m referring to the term that sociologist Erving Goffman originally came up with.

Covering is where people downplay parts of their identity. It’s the woman who, in the workplace, rarely talks about being a mum; or the woman who dresses completely differently to the way she would in other environments (think: rigid trouser suits v. smart, feminine dresses).

It can also be where you stifle the innate parts of your personality, which, when harnessed, could be a real asset to the workplace – your intuition, your ability to connect and collaborate, your way of befriending people, irrespective of their job role.

A personal example…

Around ten years ago, I was encouraged by my then boss to go for a Deputy Chief Exec role, but with a proviso…she suggested that I needed more gravitas. Huh?

A dictionary definition of gravitas: seriousness, or solemnity of manner. Click To Tweet

The synonyms of gravitas are seriousness, solemnity, gravity, loftiness, grandeur, sobriety.

If you look up the opposites (antonyms – see, I know serious words) these are: cheerful, sunny, animated, agreeable, uplifting, friendly or welcoming – all words that have been used to describe my personality over the years.

I now look back, with a mixture of sadness and snorts of laughter, that my former self did try the whole gravitas thing. I slowed down my speech and spoke an octave lower. Admittedly, this only lasted a short time. Who was I kidding?! And did I really want to sound like Sean Connery in a frock?

 The irony was that my role (and the role I was applying for) was about engaging people. This is something I’m really, really good at, online and offline. This statement might sound not sound humble if you don’t know me but building trusted relationships is what comes most naturally to me. If something comes naturally to us, we need to do more of it!

Self-esteem v Confidence

There’s a difference between inner esteem and outward displays of confidence. I’ve always been outwardly confident, but like many of my peers, I suffered from imposter syndrome. Even as an experienced Board member, I’d sometimes inwardly feel like the little twelve year old girl that way playing at being grown up.

I know I wasn’t alone. These are two of the reasons why there is ‘bleed’ of female talent at mid to senior level. Women either suck it up or think ‘sod that’ and leave to set up their own businesses, as I did. In the last fortnight alone, I’ve worked with six other women who’ve done the same as I have – but self-employment isn’t for everyone.

My mission is to help women speak up, not cover up. If you want to stop covering and express more of your inner self, there are various ways we can work together – 121 coaching, my residentials or by booking me to lead a group workshop in your workplace. Get in touch for a no-obligation chat about the options.

Inspiring Women Changemakers is a dynamic movement of people working to make the world a fairer, safer place for women. We give changemakers the communication skills, platform and connections to amplify change.

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