WomenEd Blogs

Forming an opinion


by Lucy Flower @MrsLFlower

'What do you think Lucy?'

A table full of expectant faces crowd my vision. I feel the familiar and tell-tale flush of heat crawl up my neck as I consider what to say. In truth, I have no idea what to think. Usually I make do with a thoughtful nod to someone else’s point of view, increasing in vigour the more eloquently they articulate themselves. Panicking, I echo someone else’s words, and slump in relief when attention shifts away from me.

Until recently, when asked for my opinion, instead of examining my actual thoughts, I followed an altogether different process: What is the right answer? How can I articulate it in a way that makes others nod with approval? This desire to be right, rather than the want of being heard, has dogged me throughout my professional career. This would embody itself in meetings, by being hyper aware of others’ imperceptible signals of approval – nodding once others had nodded, my eyes flicking to notice every quiet sigh, brush of hair behind the ear, purse of the lips, frantically modifying my response in accordance with theirs. I would leave meetings emotionally exhausted from the strain of trying to read minds. 

This is, of course, imposter syndrome at its finest, those clear and deeply embedded messages: You’re not clever enough, not articulate enough, not brave enough to have your own opinion.

My own significance was weighed in how many would agree with me, rather than the satisfaction of wrestling with a problem and coming up with my own justifiable solution.

I discovered I wasn’t alone in this, with a recent study by NatWest revealing that 28% of women feel like imposter syndrome has stopped them speaking in a meeting, and 21% of women feel prevented from sharing a new idea or alternative solution in the workplace. 

But for me, it wasn’t just that I didn’t feel I could share my opinion, it was that I honestly didn’t have one. Coaching has been a powerful tool to examine my thoughts and emotions forensically. The time away from a leadership role, and the thinking space offered by lockdown, along with the unique opportunity to contact, collaborate, debate and discuss educational ideas with a network such as edutwitter have all enabled me. They have given me the opportunity to ask questions, read around the subject, along with the time I need to really consider what my view point is.

When I return to work, and hopefully one day return to a leadership role, I know now what I think. I know how to reach my own conclusion – through questioning, researching, and taking the time to think and consider all aspects. Next, just the small matter of how to raise my opinion…any advice?

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Sunday, 29 January 2023

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