To set the scene: a ballroom full of women here to learn & be inspired, and on the stage is Martha. Martha! She’s friendly, she’s funny, she’s enthusiastic, she’s wearing fabulous orange pants.
And she delivered on the inspiration. The moment that made me want to stand and applaud was her reaction to this not-too-veiled snark during the Q&A.
Hey Martha, you are so good at so many things. Tell us something you’re terrible at.
Well, I guess I’m terrible at things I haven’t tried yet.
She didn’t apologize. She didn’t giggle. She was handed an incredibly strong cue to put herself down, and she very politely declined to take it.
This resonated with me because I struggle with taking credit for work I’ve done. I can know perfectly well that I’ve done a great job, but I still have to fight the instinct to respond to a compliment with, “Oh, it was nothing.” And I have that instinct even though I know that by saying that I’m putting myself down. I know that I’m diminishing the value of my work in order to make the other person feel better, and that by doing that I’m diminishing my own value.
What made me crazy about that question is that if Martha Stewart were Matthew Stewart, nobody would ask him to apologize for being driven and successful. He would be admired for it, and so should she. In fact, I admire her more because I know she had to learn how to turn off those voices telling us to take that step back; telling us that making other people comfortable is more important than going out there, taking charge, and creating something amazing.
So Martha, you keep on being awesome. I will make it my homework to replace that put-down voice in my head with a new voice, one that keeps reminding me to NEVER apologize for being awesome. And the next time I get a compliment, I’m going to smile and say, “Thanks. I really worked hard on that.”