I Don’t Throw Like A Girl Either

People have underestimated me all my life.

Due to my baby face, everyone assumes I'm younger than I am. And yes, I know I'll appreciate it when I'm older, but that was small comfort when I was twenty-three years old and people assumed I was still in high school. I once had an HR person tell me I shouldn't go into HR because she didn't think I could deliver tough news or fire anyone.

After getting good grades in college, relatives told me they never thought I would do so well in such a big university and had thought I should have gone to a community college instead. I've had bosses hand me a project they assumed would take me two weeks that I completed in half the time.  And so on and so forth.

I know that, to get through life, people have to make quick judgments and assumptions. Everyone does it, myself included, and that by itself is normal. But I have to tell you, it used to frustrate me to no end how everyone seemed to underestimate my abilities, my strength, and my intelligence. What was it about my looks or my behavior that lead people to make these judgments about me?

It used to make me incredibly self-conscious. So much so that in certain situations, like at work, I would adjust my behavior to how I felt people needed to see me behave. And it was exhausting. Worse, it kept me from forming any kind of close relationship with co-workers because I w

as never myself around them.

It finally dawned on me that I needed to:

  1. Stop caring about the assumptions people make about me. It's going to happen and I certainly can't control it. People are going to make assumptions about me based on their mental models for how they think people my age, race, gender, and occupation should be.
  2. Take advantage of the situation when people underestimate me. As frustrating as it can be, it can also be advantageous to have people underestimate you. Every task and every conversation can give you an opportunity to surprise and impress them. I find it endlessly entertaining to challenge people's misconceptions of me. Even better, watching someone's whole attitude and behavior change in more positive ways as they start accepting who you really are is very gratifying.

Take pride in who you are and what you can do. Never let someone underestimating you cause you to underestimate yourself.

Get to know Shauna better as we highlight her on LinkedIn this week

Photo credit iStockphoto


About the Author

Shauna Moerke

Shauna is an HR professional with a diverse work history, a Master's degree, and a PHR certification. She is also a huge geek, social media advocate, and infectious giggler. Besides being a co-founder of the Women of HR she also serves as the current Ringmistress of the Carnival of HR, is the former co-host of the HR Happy Hour blogtalk radio show, and blogs at her own site as the HR Minion.


Shauna Moerke

Mike – These days, the statement really has lost some of it’s sting. But it’s a catchy title so I like it. 🙂

Shauna Moerke

Trish – I think you exceed expectations regardless because you are awesome! 🙂

Eric – Wow! That’s a lot of great info, thanks! Can I get you to write my posts for me? I’ll sound smart then.

Eric Peterson

In “the biz,” we call this phenomenon internalized oppression, and it works on basically everyone who is mischaracterized by stereotypes because of who they are. Extroverted Asian-Americans get quieter, bold women take on submissive qualities (to be more “ladylike” … barf), emotionally intelligent men get TOUGHER, relationship-minded gay men sow way more wild oats than they even want to, and on and on and on.

I think as humans (particularly American humans), we really want to be seen – and if people aren’t seeing us the way we really are, the cognitive dissonance is tough to deal with. And many of us are so hung up on it that we become who they think we are, rather than focus on who we really are. We all need to “let go” of what other people “see” when they look at us – but it’s not easy.

Of course, what’s just as important (and just as difficult) is trying to SEE others for who THEY really are, beyond the stereotypes that we’re familiar with, even when (especially when) they’re acting in accordance with those stereotypes. That could very well be the internalized oppression we’re seeing, and not the real person.

Trish McFarlane

You bring up a great point when you say to take advantage of people underestimating you. Believe it or not, I still have people think I’m younger than I am so they seem to be surprised when I have a certain amount of experience. It’s actually fun because when that happens it is easier to really exceed all expectations. Great post!

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