Written by Suset Laboy, Lalaboy Public Relations
“Usted habla cuando las gallinas mean,” loosely translates to “You are allowed to speak when hens pee.” And where I grew up, at least, hens don’t pee. This old Puerto Rican saying stopped me from sharing my opinions while growing up. I can’t quite remember the first time I heard it (I was very young), but it stuck and paved the way for a few decades spent speaking for and on behalf of others, but not for myself.
I used to be one of those people who refrained from sharing the work they were doing, preferring to stay behind the scenes and highlighting other people’s work. “Let the world recognize my work without me uttering a word about it,” I mistakenly thought.
I suppose I expected PR organizations, colleagues, journalists to find my work using a crystal ball or ESP. If the work was good enough they would find it… right? Later on I would discover that this unrealistic expectation was Imposter Syndrome, tinged with an underlying lack of belief in myself and my work.
Do not get me wrong. Even from this space, my agency produced beautiful results for our clients, placing them in spaces like the New York Times and Vogue; and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to name my firm within our niche and be met with, “Oh, yes! We love your work.”
But no amount of hoops successfully jumped though, or accomplishments garnered, managed to wash off the imagined stench of Impostor Syndrome. I got a whiff of it anytime I was about to send a pitch to a journalist (no matter how friendly we were); it filled up the room whenever I was about to speak to a panel or even return the call of a writer who actually was chasing my story.
I suppose I expected PR organizations, colleagues, journalists to find my work using a crystal ball or ESP. If the work was good enough they would find it… right? Later on I would discover that this unrealistic expectation was tinged with an underlying lack of belief in myself.
Sure, it’s possible to build a career from the shadows, but there is a much better way to become a skilled, sought-after communications professional. It begins with doing the personal work necessary to discover and then believe fully that what you have to say matters.
Oddly enough, it took a very rare tumor diagnosis in my throat to push me to find my voice. Suddenly, the fears and stories I had been battling my career seemed so unproductive. I wanted to scream to the world how wonderful I was for merely existing.
As are you.
It took this diagnosis to crystallize what my heart and intuition whispered whenever I found myself playing small: I have ideas and important things to say.
As do you.
The journey to own my worth hasn’t been smooth, but boy has it been rewarding and necessary. Here are some steps that have helped me along the way:
Do the personal development work
Do the work. No matter how woo woo. This one may come as strange career advice, but doing the work needed to heal your past stories, past traumas, and past beliefs is absolutely necessary. After my diagnosis—which turned out to be a rare benign-ish tumor that remains lodged in my neck— I delved deep into healing through yoga, life coaching and independent work. I did this as a way to remind me of my own worth. My 20s were dedicated to therapy, so this time around this alternative worked for me. Both are divine and I advocate for both.
Fake it ‘til you make it
As I began to get comfortable with visibility, owning my voice and my self-worth, I approached it as I would a role in a play.
So I gave myself a PR expert name ala Beyoncé’s alter-ego Sasha Fierce (Mine was Fearless Sue, thank you very much) and would put on this costume anytime I went into work. Eventually, I stopped needing this persona because it dissolved into simply, me.
Be patient with yourself
We have between 12,000 – 60,000 thoughts per day. The ones that keep us from sharing the wonderful things we are doing have been playing on and on for decades. So, be kind with yourself on this journey.
We have an expectation that simple awareness should solve the problem, when in fact, just like any new skill, we must practice until it becomes second-nature.
Take baby steps – but DO take them
You need more than words to send your Imposter Syndrome on its way. Anyone who tells you that all you need to change a painful thought or habit is a new thought is lying. Yes, reframing yourself beliefs is super important, but the magic happens when thought meets action. Take those scary baby steps so that the world may show you want is possible to you when you advocate for your success and your brilliance.
Make friends with your past tendencies
When all else fails, I remind myself that the work I am doing not only benefits me but also my clients. In this way, I use my past negative patterns for good. My clients get my full, brilliant opinions meant to help them fuel their brands rather than stroke my ego; and they benefit by proxy from every little opportunity that allows me to express myself.
I hope that me sharing my story supports you to stand in your brilliance and advocate for yourself in the same powerful way you advocate for your clients.
You are doing amazing, brilliant work and should be sharing it fearlessly with the world, with gusto.
Suset Laboy is a seasoned PR expert and empowerment coach. Lalaboy PR is her integrated Public Relations firm that works with future-forward projects, people and brands inventing a more inclusive and creative world through arts and culture. Through A Little Awareness, her solo project, Suset works with ambitious people whose enthusiasm has led them to success, but also burnout. She helps them quit the hustle mindset and bring ease into their life, a small step at a time.