Are you disqualifying yourself?

I was asked to take part in a panel last Summer with Sage UK. The topic was “Women with ambition – From Bossy to Boss”. As I scanned through the questions, words like “gender pay gap” and “quotas” jumped out – and I recognised a familiar feeling.

What am I doing here? Who do I think I am?

This is not my area of expertise.

I don’t have a big story of overcoming oppression. I never got fired for being a woman or being pregnant (although I do remember a highly inappropriate comment from a young, inexperienced finance director!) I’m not a CEO of a big company. I’m not familiar with the research or the government policies in this area.

I’m not qualified to speak on this subject, I thought.

And you know what? I could have easily said no to this one.

Because it was the school holidays and I generally don’t work in the school holidays. Or because it’s not my topic – productivity is my thing – my area of expertise.

But I said yes.

Instead of saying “I can’t because…” I said “I can if…”


I can do it, if the company asking me was willing to cover the expense of a family train ticket (which was actually cheaper than a standard adult return) so that I could bring my kids, a friend and her kids and make it a day trip for all of us to London.

I can do it, if instead of having to be the expert, I simply speak my truth and share my experiences.

As it turns out, I had plenty to say.


A lifetime’s experience, plus brilliant examples from friends and colleagues – and yes, I snuck in a few words on productivity!

In fact, that sums up a lot of what we ended up talking about – imposter syndrome, saying yes to ourselves, taking the risk, being willing to show up, learning from knockbacks.

When we think “I can’t because” we find reasons to say no to ourselves. We see our constraints as evidence that disqualifies us.

When we start thinking “I can if” we embrace constraints as our criteria.

“I can take that promotion if… [I have flexibility and boundaries in place to make sure I can meet my family commitments].”

“I can expand my business if…[I make my services more scalable]”

“I can take that sabbatical if… [I build up my team and stop getting in their way]”

“I can make time for ___ if….”

What constraints are you facing at the moment? Where do you find yourself saying “I can’t because…”? What if you said instead “I can if…”

Let me know where that takes you!

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