A seasoned executive in a senior role told me, "Jack is a legend – successful, brilliant, famous. When I’m in the board room with him, I tend to keep more to myself – after all, I don’t add as much value as he does.”
One could easily say my client has a confidence problem, or needs to mature more, which are quick explanations without solutions. Looking more closely, he was discounting his own value. He was seeing it as variable, rather than constant. And in viewing it that way, he was marginalizing his own contributions.
More seasoned executives than one might think get in the bad habit of self-marginalizing. In fact, your value doesn’t vary based on who else is in the room, no matter how amazing or awesome they may be. The only thing that limits the value you bring to any conversation is the choices you make about participating. When you choose to devalue yourself -- either consciously or unconsciously -- in comparison to someone else in the room, because you feel in awe of them, or less than them, you will of course shut down and stop short of giving your best.
I explained it like this: it’s as if you start your day with a 100% sign on your forehead, but when you walk into certain meetings, depending on who else is there, you cross it out and change the amount to 1%, 10%, or 18%, etc. You see your value as a floating amount, relative to others.
What if, instead, your value is exactly 100% in every situation, no matter who else is there?
Those who view what they have to contribute as constant in every situation don’t need a self-imposed measuring stick, and are thus able to be at their best most of the time. Try it!