So, my first born, Sydney, thrives on being the center of attention. I think this has a lot to do with birth order as well as the fact that she has always gotten a lot of attention. Her first adjustment was school, when she had to learn to share the spotlight with 19 other kids in the classroom. She had a hard time understanding why the teacher paid attention to anyone but her!
She’s gotten a little more comfortable with this concept, but last weekend, I watched this issue manifest in a different way.
My daughter was at a party of an older girl she is close to. She is a couple years older than Sydney, but she also had other friends there that were older than her. So the gap between Sydney and some of the girls was 3 or 4 years. Before I left Sydney came to me with a panicked look in her eyes. I asked her what was wrong and she started crying. She explained to me that she felt weird and she didn’t know what to do.
Now, this is never Sydney’s issue. She is a very confident girl, who usually is the first to try something, the first to speak and the first to join in. But, she didn’t feel comfortable because they were talking about things she didn’t really know about and things that her and her 8 year old friends don’t worry about yet. But that’s not what really made her uncomfortable, the fact is she didn’t know what to do with herself if she wasn’t going to be the center of attention, the one talking, the one being listened to.
I think for a lot of us at work, we sometimes feel like this. We feel like if we aren’t leading the project, if we aren’t running the meeting, if we don’t have all the answers, we don’t know what to do. I think we should do the same thing I told Sydney.
Sit back and learn something from others around you.
We so often think leaning in is doing more, taking a seat at the table, speaking up, fighting to get noticed. I believe, particularly for strong, assertive women, learning how to sit back and not be the center of attention is sometimes harder, but often times more fruitful. If you’re a leader, you’ll be able to better observe those who work for you and discern their real abilities. If you are working on a project, you’ll find others will step up to the plate if you let them, actually freeing up some of your bandwidth.
You’ll also very likely become more like-able. Let’ s face it. No one likes the little girl who always has to be the center of attention, not sharing the spotlight with anyone.
So challenge yourself. Make yourself sit back and listen, not talk in a meeting, not be the one with all the ideas. Be a learner, a listener, a supporter. You may feel like a fish out of water, but you’ll appreciate the water (being the center of attention)much more when you get back in!
Now, that’s how single mom’s lean in!