The Ivy League Sized Chip On My Shoulder


My mother went to Yale. So did both my brothers; my dad also worked there. My uncle went to Harvard and my girlfriend attended Cornell.

I didn’t get in.

Instead, I went to Boston University, an amazing school that I’m proud of and grateful that I had the opportunity to attend. But sometimes I feel like an Ivy League outsider.

Whether you agree or not, our society tells us that Ivy League schools are “the best” and only the “smartest” can get in. Their alumni tend to be the most sought-after candidates for jobs.

What does it really mean to be “the smartest?” I’ll admit that as intelligent as I am, I’ve always struggled with taking tests and let’s be honest, with authority. Not exactly Ivy League material.

However, I’m creative, determined, and entrepreneurial. I’m a hard worker and a good writer. I’m highly empathetic. I’m brave. That being said, it can be hard to not self-judge for not being part of the Ivy League echelon.

But since I started teaching at colleges around the country, I’ve realized that I may have a chip on a shoulder because I didn’t go to an Ivy League. As bad as that sounds, I’ve wondered if it may have been a partial motivator to prove my worth and be successful. In that sense, it’s a good thing. But it’s time to let it go.

While easier said than done, part of the process of letting go is stepping back. It’s about recognizing how I’ve forged my own path while helping others along the way. It’s about redefining success on my own terms.

I’m grateful that early on in my career, a mentor pushed me to do just that. I’ll never forget it; we were sitting on the stoop of a brownstone on a hot, New York summer night when he asked me to define success.

As I began to answer, he interjected, “Whose voice is that?” I was confused.

“Is that your definition or is it your mother’s?” I tried again, but again, he interrupted. “Now whose voice is that? Society’s?” As exasperated as it was, he really pushed me to drill down into my values.

The conclusion I came to was that success to me meant freedom. It meant having agency over my life; it was having the ability to choose.

From that point on, the pursuit of freedom would serve as the compass in my career. It’s what led me to start Ladies Get Paid. It’s what has driven me to seek independence, not just for myself, but for all women. It’s so important that we never feel trapped by anything, professional or personal.

I hope you uncover your own definition of success and when you do, share it with the world. We need more voices like yours.

Now go get paid.

x Claire

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