Heath Evans is a marketing and communications strategist, innovator, entrepreneur and Coach.
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Stuff I write

Why do we constantly undervalue ourselves

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“I constantly undermine my own skills. If I have a skill, it’s no big deal everyone else should have it. If someone else has a skill, it’s amazing and without parallel. I am completely blind to my own value.”

It was an insight from the brilliant mind of Laurent Courtines, who I’ve met over the past few weeks during Seth Godin’s AltMBA.

Having initially connected with him, I was in awe of his skills and achievements, but then was equally as flawed by this revelation.

Why did this feel so familiar for me?

As I explored this concept , I realised just how prevalent this thinking had become in my everyday life.

When I had first discovered the AltMBA, I was extremely excited and wondered if somehow this might be for me. I quickly searched the site, looking for some measurable mandatory list that would help me test whether I had the qualifications and experience to be considered as an applicant.

“This is for leaders, executives, entrepreneurs, managers, artists, innovators, designers, builders, doers, and makers.”

This statement felt vague. It lacked the level of specificity I have become accustomed to. It wasn’t just for Marketers. It didn’t tell me what skills I needed, and even when it mentioned the typical candidate would have 5–8 years of experience, I still found this hard to quantify.

It also required me to ‘apply’, and as I read this I imagined someone receiving my application and bursting out laughing, yelling:

‘Hey Guys, Get over here! Get a load of this bloke, is he for real?.”

 

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Without this level of certainty, I began to panic.

Why?

I believe deep down this is part of the fear of failure. The fear that I might be in over my head. The fear that without the ability to match my skill-set or experience against the benchmark of another person, how could I ensure I wasn’t about to embarrass myself.

Now I consider myself a very outgoing person, and certainly push the boundaries, but I think deep down we all experience this feeling so regularly and we have therefore been trained to seek these measuring sticks in so many aspects of our lives.

Every job description is about the skills you bring, the qualifications you’ve obtained, the results you’ve achieved, and as I shared the news of my acceptance with friends, I saw this same desire to measure themselves emerge.

“But what is it? What skills do you need? What do you get out of it, does it give you a qualification? How don’t you know?”

I too was puzzled, but having worshipped Seth Godin and listened to his Start-Up School in the same way a young child does their favourite nursery rhyme, I was certain I wanted to be a part of it.

So….fast forward three weeks and what have I discovered?

I discovered this course is so different to anything I’ve ever been a part of.

I discovered it’s about mindset, much more than skill-set, and in-fact the values and ethics people bring to this are what have made it so unique.

I’ve experienced how much more powerful it is to share the same mission and purpose, than it is the same skill-set, and have had the courage to be more vulnerable and open to exploring these insecurities with people who genuinely want to help each other grow.

Within this group have been some of the most brilliant people I’ve encountered, but what has been more striking is their generosity to share their knowledge and advice, and in turn I’ve been willing to do the same — often becoming competitive to give even more than you can ever possibly take.

And most importantly, I’ve realised that focusing on what you don’t have becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, I’ve recognised the magic that occurs when people bring what they have, and witnessed a richness of ideas flourish from a breadth of perspectives that a narrow focused course would struggle to emulate.

Finally, this has led me to discover the power of genuinely valuing myself, just as I value others. What allows us to shape the world is not mirroring or measuring ourselves against those who are the same, but working together because we are different.

As I approach my final week, I will be sad when it all comes to an end and I await the inevitable questions.

“What skills did you learn? What frameworks have you taken away?”

These questions encapsulate our finite approach to learning. They want to know how I will be building my treasure chest for when I need to be measured against the next person, job, course or opportunity.

However, my answer will likely not be to their satisfaction, because what I have taken away is much more infinite. Whilst my toolkit of frameworks has been heavily bolstered, it is not what I will treasure most. Rather it has been about a shift in mindset, a new way of approaching the world, and a new posture of generosity to those around me, that has become my most valuable asset, and in this way, this has only just been the beginning.

Heath Evans