What does it actually mean to know your worth at work? This week, we asked the queen of confidence (and of morning TV), Gayle King, how she found hers. She told us: her self worth came from years of salary negotiations, building strong support systems, navigating setbacks, and dealing with tough bosses.
On Being Underestimated
Carly: For a number of years, most people knew you as somebody's best friend, despite your decades of work as a journalist.
Gayle: As Oprah's friend. Yes.
Carly: When people downplayed or overlooked your accomplishments, how did you handle that? How did you maintain your sense of self and self worth?
Gayle: Well, this is the thing. I always think it's good, number one, to be underestimated and over-deliver. I always think that but I was never hung up that people only knew me as Oprah’s friend…. And the reason was because I was so happy with my own life and what I do, you know? I wasn't trying to be her. I never thought I was her. I was so excited about her success that I just thought it was a kick…. I never saw myself standing in her shadow. I always saw myself standing in her light.
Danielle: You know what I love about how you described that is it's so refreshing when even today there's so much depiction about women, even in friendships, fighting. I don't know if I've ever seen a depiction of two women who are best friends and who are both successful in their own rights.
Gayle:…. It’s so upsetting to me, Danielle, when I see women not supporting each other, whether you're friends or not. I learned long ago that there's always going to be somebody who's cuter, prettier, richer, or smarter, and I've just gotten to a place where I feel really good about me, honestly. And so I don't think I'm the cutest girl in the class. I know I'm not the thinnest. I know I'm not the smartest, but I really do like me. I like hanging out with me. I think that I have a good time.
On Self Worth and Confidence
Gayle: You also have to believe that you can do it even when it doesn't go according to plan. And I've had plenty of times where I've made mistakes on the air. But I ultimately believed that I could learn how to do this. I did believe that. Where does that come from? To me, it just comes from doing and redoing and never letting anybody say, "No, you can't do it."
Gayle: When you are in a position that brings value to the network or wherever you're working, it does give you some leverage. That said, I'm also mindful that it's a business and ultimately, they get to decide, whoever your employer is, they get to decide whether you get to play in the sandbox or not…. And so you in your own mind have to figure out what you want, what you will accept, and what you won't accept. And be prepared to walk away if they're not going to meet what you want.
I'm now at the stage where if I don't get what I want, either I can decide I'm going to stay or I'm very comfortable walking away. And I don't say that with arrogance, but I've just reached a point in my life that I don't really want to argue…. I don't want to have to feel that I have to convince you, whoever you are, wherever you're working, that I bring value to your company. And if you don't think I bring value to your company, I'm okay. I'm okay with saying, "Okay, maybe this isn't for us."
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