“Self-worth comes from one thing – thinking that you are worthy.”- These words of renowned speaker and author Wayne Dyer reminds us how we are accountable to ourselves first in questioning our deservability. For most people, answering the question “Am I deservable in my own eyes?” is the most difficult. We may be quick to praise another person or pass a verdict on their deservability but when it comes to evaluating our progress, it is quite challenging.
Tough as the question of deservability may seem, feeling deservable is an essential aspect of our psychological well-being. It relates to our sense of self-worth, our ability to receive and accept love and appreciation, and our capacity to set and achieve goals. Easy as it sounds, many people struggle with feeling deserving, and this can lead to self-doubt, anxiety, and depression. In a society that often values external achievements and material success, it can be challenging to cultivate a sense of inherent worth and value.
While most people struggle with this feeling, research shows that women battle with feeling worthy more because they are socially conditioned to scrutinise and criticise their actions constantly. This is why cultivating a feeling of deservability is essential to a woman’s growth as an executive and leader.
Recently, we spoke to select women leaders who shared their valuable perspectives on how they worked towards increasing their deservability.
The essence of these conversations has given birth to 7 Powerful Deservability Principles that can help individuals and leaders, to reflect and act upon.
Here are our 7 principles that will help women to improve their deservability
Principle 1: To say, “I deserve”, one needs to stop being critically judgemental and start becoming compassionately curious to oneself.
Principle 2: Deservability does not come with an entitlement mindset but requires a value-creation mindset.
Principle 3: Deservability is about understanding and evaluating yourself every now and then to stretch yourself.
Principle 4: Deservability becomes real with an embracive mindset which means you need to embrace changes, opportunities and situations and adapt to them.
Principle 5: Deservability can be improved by willing to try new things and agreeing to explore new possibilities that others believe for you.
Principle 6: Deservability is about writing your own script, defining success on your own terms.
Principle 7: Deservability is about leveraging tools and technology to take a reality check on your strengths and weaknesses.
Deservability Perspectives from Senior Women Leaders
“As individuals, it’s important to question ourselves on what we stand for and what we would like to stand for. If we can answer that question ourselves, no matter what happens around us, we will be seen as a person who values something.”
Executive Director, VMLYR & Regional Client Lead, at WPP
As a woman professional, and not just as a professional, culturally, we battle a lot of demons. Deservability is not just at the workplace it is also in the personal space. I’ve looked at deservability not just in terms of material gains, say salary or wealth, but also in terms of certain values, or the right to express myself emotionally, for example, I deserve to be happy. And in deserving to be happy, if I have to put myself before, maybe people I love at the workplace, maybe colleagues, etc, I’ve learned that it’s fine to do that, because it’s an informed decision. Sometimes the risk is that we develop a false sense of deservability. I’m bringing in gender here because what happens is sometimes there’s so many things happening around us that we almost feel, “You know what I do so much so I deserve it.” No, it’s not about doing so much. It’s about what have you done to add value to your role? And is that value tangible? Is it measurable? If yes, then absolutely. You notice availability is very much on your table. It’s necessary to constantly develop business acumen. And this is relentless to be, whether it’s training, whether it’s rescaling whether it’s learning to be the best at the job, because you cannot deserve anything if you don’t own it.
“The best roles are those with no defined structure, the more ambiguous, the better, as it allows one to expand their limitations and find more interesting things to do.”
Business Consulting Leader, EY GDS
Deservability is about working hard, making an impact, and bringing our authentic selves to the table. It’s also about creating shareholder and company value. If we have a strong work ethic and stay relevant through continuous learning, the question of whether we deserve a role becomes irrelevant. Instead, we should focus on what we can bring to the role and whether the role deserves us. By changing our perspective, we can challenge ourselves and reach our full potential.
“For every role that I’ve undertaken, I’ve been my biggest critic and I, myself, hold myself in my heart, per se, to the highest standards.”
Area Business Group Leader – Cybersecurity, Data Governance, Risk and Compliance | Asia Pacific | Microsoft Corporation
In the tech industry, we are on a journey for gender diversity and gender equality. Having worked in the industry for over two decades, I have seen how women had a harder time being seen as equal earlier. If not better at times, we have been compared to people doing similar roles. I’ve always worked on the principle of deserve than desire. This was by understanding and clarifying sometimes with my line managers what the requirements of the role were, the statement of excellence, the gives and gets of excellence. For every role that I’ve undertaken, I’ve been my biggest critic and I, myself, hold myself in my heart, per se, to the highest standards. And with that in mind, I just basically mentally tick off a checklist. When I want something, a broader responsibility, I have to be convinced 100% that I’ve checked all the boxes that I deserve this. So, every role that you do in an organization makes me look at the set of KPIs. I ask myself if I attaining those KPIs or am I doing better than those KPIs? And can I hold myself accountable as me to say, I have delivered on every single KPI. And when I know I’ve delivered, I add them and give myself the permission to design. That’s what I teach my child as well that you first deserve and then desire. And then you have to prove your desirability as well.
“We need to pause and think, what’s in my control versus what’s not in my control? What’s in my control is when I’m on the stage, I own the stage. And if I’m the owner of the stage, I’m going to own my content, I’m going to own my delivery.”
HR Head, Quantela
I think everyone goes through a transition phase when we are individual contributor to becoming a manager, from manager to leader. And then in leadership, there are multiple levels. Again, it’s not about the literal levels of titles and designations, but there is a certain level of seniority that you bring in experience and maturity that you bring in. Number one, it is about how others are treating you. Number two is how you create your positioning rightly. We believe in ourselves as lesser than what others might believe in us. Bringing in the factor of gender again, I think women typically tend to see 100% fit of something before they go for it. Let’s say you’re applying for a job. You could say, “Okay, well, will I fit 80% and beyond only then I’ll even apply for the job. It’s a very female way of thinking.” I think it is a good acknowledgement to say, “Okay, if that’s the way I’m naturally made, then how should I flex and alter myself so that I don’t lose out on opportunities that I might actually deserve?” Next is to say, “There are three, four people around me telling me that I might be able to do it, then pause and say, am I capable? What are areas where I think I should be working harder on?” And then finally taking a leap of faith and seeing how the opportunity works. Go show up in multiple places to learn from other role models, male or female, and then talk to people who will energize you. Finally, I do a lot of affirmations to myself. In a future state, whatever I want, and I write as if it’s already there. In the present, I think those things certainly help because subconsciously, it starts tuning me to move towards the future that I want to create for myself. So, these are ways I have tried to work on desirability for myself.
Gina Mc Namara,
“If the limitations are only what you’re putting on yourself, you need to get outside of that and really look for what it takes to stretch yourself.”
Regional Chief Financial Officer, Asia Pacific & Japan at SAP
It has been quite a journey. One of the biggest things that has helped me to improve my deservability would be completing diagnostics where other people have listed my strengths and weaknesses through different tools. So I started a program many years ago called Leadership circle where I did that. And, and I’ve done it over and over again. It’s really interesting because in the beginning you see your diagnostics, and you get a big shock. And you know that a coach is there with you to take you through the results. The biggest takeaway the first time was that I was rating myself much lower in a lot of things than how other people rated me. It helped to spend some time focusing on the positives more than the negatives, and then internally it changed my own mindset. But like I said, it was a journey.
“Being very clear and deliberate about my career journey, where I am, what I want, and what I bring to the table as a leader, really helps me stay focused.’’
Business Management Lead, Engineering team, Client Technology, EY
Deservability, if I can reflect on that with my own journey, comes with understanding yourself. It starts with knowing your brand and understanding what you bring to the table as a leader and as a professional. And once you’re clear about that, I think it helps you figure out your narrative and your story. However, you can’t quiet the inner critic very often, which tends to come up easily, especially for women. Being very clear and deliberate about my career journey, where I am, what I want, and what I bring to the table as a leader, really helps me stay focused.
“Self-evaluation allows for an objective assessment of oneself because you cannot deceive yourself.”
Senior Director- HR at Sony India Software Centre
I think it all starts with being true to oneself. And not getting too carried away by what people say, I think it starts from there. Because once you get swayed by what people are saying, you tend to actually look inside yourself very differently, or probably you just go by what others are saying and not really looking inwards. So, I think looking inwards is very, very important. Basically, you know, especially in the professional environment, evaluating yourself, your behaviour, your intentions, the amount of effort that you’re putting in, how genuine are you, and the integrity that you’re putting into any exercise or any discussions that you’re having these all become extremely important. This self-evaluation allows for an objective assessment of oneself because you cannot deceive yourself. When others offer their opinions of your performance, you should take them with a grain of salt since they are merely perceptions. Although perceptions are important, it’s more important to credit your own thoughts about yourself. And when you start looking at yourself, in that sense, I think you tend to make a very objective evaluation of yourself. It’s vital to be honest with oneself and avoid camouflaging the truth. Doing so enables one to feel deserving of recognition because you’re true to your intentions.
Mary Nisha Thomas
“There are certain things that you have to do — some of the things you can do, some you cannot do. And to be able to be kind to yourself in that journey is what brings up the compassion in yourself to others.”
Global Talent Development Leader, EY Client Technologies
Two things come to mind when I reflect on how I brought about change within myself. First, I became aware of imposter syndrome, a phenomenon that many people experience. Recognizing this was half the solution, and I learned how to address it. Secondly, I started taking risks and trying new things, even if it meant failing. Every two to three years, I changed my role to something more challenging, with a broader scope. Even if I had doubts about my abilities, I wrote down every success story and read them to remind myself. These actions helped me to challenge my negative thoughts and move beyond them. Ultimately, it’s something that requires self-work more than external factors, and I am grateful for these lessons.
“Success doesn’t require specific qualifications or experiences — you can define success on your own terms.”
Master Coach & Mentor (ICF & EMCC)
As I grew older and went through various stages of socialization, society began to place narratives in my head about my age, education, and experience. The cognitive questions of whether I was good enough or deserving of success began to creep in. Nonetheless, I have always felt that I deserve whatever I have achieved, and I have never struggled with imposter syndrome. That being said, it takes work to maintain this mindset, and the doubts do come back from time to time. For instance, when I earned my Master Certified Coach credential, I was one of the youngest coaches to do so. Some clients even questioned my age and experience, which made me wonder whether I was truly deserving of my accomplishments. But ultimately, I believe that it’s important to write your own script and not let others dictate what you can achieve. Success doesn’t require specific qualifications or experiences — you can define success on your own terms. As someone in a position of influence, I strive to use my voice for good and encourage others to write their own scripts. Writing my own script has helped me feel worthy of wherever I am today.
So how can a person feel deservable?
There are several factors to consider. First, it’s important to examine one’s beliefs about self-worth and deservingness. Often, these beliefs are deeply ingrained and may have roots in childhood experiences or cultural messages. By identifying and challenging negative or limiting beliefs, individuals can begin to shift their self-perception and build a more positive sense of self.
Second, it’s essential to cultivate self-compassion and self-care. This includes taking care of physical health, engaging in activities that bring joy and fulfilment, and practising self-acceptance and forgiveness. By treating ourselves with kindness and compassion, we can reinforce our sense of inherent worth and value.
Finally, building a support network of positive relationships can also contribute to feeling deservable. Surrounding ourselves with people who accept and appreciate us for who we are can help to counteract negative self-talk and reinforce our sense of value. Feeling deservable is a work in progress and sometimes baby steps everyday can go a long way in helping us improve this feeling in our own eyes first. After all, before we lose our sleep over other’s opinions, we must first be accountable to our feeling of being capable and deservable in the workplace and beyond.