I have had a person in my life whose first response to any of my career achievements was ‘how are you so lucky’ – please note this was said in the way Blair Waldorf says it about Serena Vanderwoodsen, not in an ‘omg go you’ kind of way.
My first by-line, my first full-time job out of uni, my first promotion: this person chalked them all up to luck despite knowing the years of study, the dozens of unpaid internships, the cancelled holidays and the time spent perfecting my resume that went into it.
That, mates, is not luck. That is hard work.
Yet every time this person gave me the face and told me I was lucky, I started to believe it more and more. Which is exactly why you shouldn’t just shrug it off when people do this to you. That person hasn’t been in my life for years now, but my dream job sure has.
It’s not just me either. Dan Auerbach, Organisational Psychology Consultant with Employee Assistance Providers explains that being told your work achievements are due to luck can change your whole perception of your capabilities.
“For most people, internalising a sense of true confidence takes some time and repeated success and acknowledgement,” he says.
“If we’ve had a lot of experience learning new skills and being well supported by others along the way, we are likely to have a stronger sense of self. For many of us though, trying new things can be fraught with self-doubt”
“When people tell us our success comes down to being lucky, it can really play into those feelings of self-doubt, especially when we are new to a role or learning new skills. While some degree of self-doubt is healthy, some people are much more vulnerable to the idea that they don’t measure up, or that they don’t have anything to offer.”
So yeah, no matter what the intention behind it, it’s a d-bag move to tell someone they’re ‘lucky’ when they’ve worked hard to achieve something major in their career.
Sadly, shitty people do exist, so what should you do when you come across this particular breed of them?
“If someone at work is consistently undermining your achievements it can also be helpful to outright point out the skill and work you put in and show them that you don’t agree with their assessment of your abilities,” recommends Dan, “A display of genuine confidence can often shut down someone who looks for opportunities to overpower or control you.”
However, Dan does stress that most of the battle to not let someone chalk your success up to luck is within.
“If you are vulnerable to having your confidence undermined, it is important to look at your own esteem and sense of self-worth, and to try and become more accurately aware of your skills and abilities and how you consistently underappreciate them.”
“One of the first steps is recognising how often we self-criticise and how negatively we evaluate ourselves.”
“Try and reflect on where you first learned to feel this way about yourself,” Dan says. “Who gave you the message that you weren’t good enough? Is it realistic or is it habitual?”
“Sometimes recognising these patterns can be the start of becoming more self-compassionate and challenging the way we treat ourselves. Learning to develop an internal voice that supports and cares for us can be a huge step forward in adult life.”
But also never be afraid of kicking crap people out of your life. If they’re not genuinely happy and proud of your success, chances are they’re not great people to have in your life.
“It’s important to have a network of people who accurately see and reflect your positive attributes and who enjoy and support you,” agrees Dan.