Choose How to See Yourself in the World.
Reaching a level of success that you have worked years or even decades to achieve can feel absolutely amazing. Ironically, however, the hardest part can be owning the fact that you belong there; it wasn’t luck, you earned it. This is where recognizing the power of your mindset comes in.
Recognizing the beliefs, the expectations, and the inner messages, you learned long ago, that can greatly impact your ability for success and enjoying the achievements you deserve, is imperative. I have worked with women who were absolutely amazing and yet nonetheless feared being “discovered” as frauds.
That is a set-up for failure before you start. Walking in fear and uncertainty prevents your creative juices from flowing freely. Creativity, intuition, and a sixth sense are your greatest and deepest skills – so you need immediate access.
It can be hard to realize that your long CV, your outstanding resume, and your great ability to work an interview are only small parts of why you got the position you did. You got it because of who you are. Your energy, your way of looking at things, your ability to stand out and be exceptional, are really what got you hired.
If you are an entrepreneur, these are the traits that will make your company a wild success. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of others offering the services you offer. What makes you special? YOU. The way you think; the way you choose to brand yourself, the way you choose to make yourself seen, are what sell you.
Simply put, what makes you the success you are, are the qualities you possess in the way only you possess them. Those are your definitive factors.
Let’s start by looking at the Good Girl because she may be the greatest saboteur you’ve got. No matter how much you develop, she is still within you. The power you give her is the deciding factor on her impact. It lets you know how far you have come as well as how far you still need to go.
The Good Girl is someone who was raised to make sure she never makes anyone feel uncomfortable. She was raised to never offer an unpopular or contrary opinion on any topic because she would risk offending someone. Always, she put others’ feelings, wants and desires first because that’s what a Good Girl does. Most importantly she wants and needs everyone to like her. That is her validation that she has done everything right and is therefore lovable. As a child, when she did something wrong she was sent to her room and usually felt unlovable and unwanted. She learned how to behave in order to feel loved all the time. Outrageous, out-of-the-box, uninhibited, “bossy” behavior was never appropriate.
She couldn’t stand out or draw attention to herself since that was egotistical. Fitting in was the goal. Think of that picture that floats through Facebook again and again of a little girl in ballet class who is the only one upside down. Notice how many respond and say, “I want to be her.” There’s a reason. We all want to be that girl who has the strength to simply be – not against- not for – just be – natural and alive.
As she develops, the Good Girl usually reaches a point where she realizes she has no idea who she is, what she thinks, what she feels, or what she wants. She realizes her life has been spent focusing solely outside, on others. She has disappeared from her own consciousness.
Discovering, or rediscovering, who she is, what she wants, and what her dreams are become the necessities for reclaiming or creating a life with room for her in it.
This process becomes her metamorphosis and can be absolutely terrifying yet compelling.
The Real Woman is frequently the Good Girl who has come into her own. Therefore, she is equally compassionate, kind, and thoughtful. She however is fully present to herself as well as to others. She knows who she is and much of the time she knows exactly what she wants.
It’s because she may have struggled to exist that she is aware of what she wants to achieve, who she wants to be, and what her dreams are. She is writing her bucket list and intends to live it. There is a cleanness to her thinking since she doesn’t have to distort her ideas to fit others’ expectations of who she should be.
When the Real Woman speaks, she speaks her truth. It may be filtered for her audience in terms of technical terminology, or to meet them where they are, but she is not filtering herself. This is who she is, what she thinks etc.
I frequently say, “Don’t ask me a question, if you don’t want an answer.” I do so because more than once someone has asked me my opinion and then been offended when it wasn’t the same as theirs. If you ask me for my thoughts, my assumption will be that you want to know my truth. If you are simply looking for validation, please tell me. I may validate your opinion, but I may also simply say “That is another approach.” No judgment, just a fact – but real.
If I don’t offer an opinion it is because it is irrelevant or because I don’t want to get into a long-drawn-out debate. I am very comfortable with letting others have their opinions knowing I disagree and that is OK. Are you?
When you are real and comfortable with your own thoughts, you don’t need validation through the approval of others. You may share your thoughts, so you can expand your ideas in the sharing or possibly because it can cause you to consider other opinions, but never because you doubt them or a need to defend them.
Please know I am making a clear distinction here between an honest, undefended Real Woman who has nothing to prove; who is comfortable in her own skin, and who has done a significant amount of work on herself to become the woman she wants to be. That is dramatically different from the woman who says she is “real” when in truth she is highly defensive, angry, and in fear of being controlled or manipulated.
This last woman often calls herself “real” yet actually sees no difference between attack and confrontation, between compromise and surrender, or between control and power. Her fear projects her anger, her lack of self-awareness, and her inability to stand comfortably in her own skin without a readiness to battle anyone and everyone who she believes is challenging her. She is hell bent on fighting against the role of Good Girl rather than simply standing solidly in the powerful place of the Real Woman. As long as she is in an inner battle, she can’t be at peace in her own truth.
The Real Woman has nothing to defend against. She has no need to be battle-ready. She has peace, power, clarity, and purpose. When she needs to stand up for herself she does so but without a single inclination to do battle or take control. Sometimes that requires a moment to step back and breathe but with experience she knows that and so she does. Simple, but not always easy.
Truthfully, powerful people have no need, or desire, to control. Only people in fear seek to control. Think about it. When an acknowledged national president knows he or she is the leader, they simply discuss/present their ideas and offer a policy to be followed with the support of their citizens. On the contrary, when a dictator fears a coup, he calls for Marshall Law, controlling everyone’s movement in order to safeguard his own position. He cannot lead his people; they will not willingly follow, so he needs to control them through intimidation and fear.
I recognize that fear is a part of all our lives. Fear of a new responsibility. Fear of a medical diagnosis. Fear of being late. Fear of a major presentation that’s coming up… As a result, it’s highly beneficial to acknowledge fear and learn how to use it or minimize it versus running from it, or letting it run you. We all have fear, yet you can decide how much power you give it in your life. That is totally your choice. Learn how you can best govern it since you have so much else that needs to get done.
Right now, we need far more women in medicine, business, and politics. However, we need those women to balance out the power that already exists in those areas so that we can have the best of both worlds, male and female. We want and need more women Presidents/CEOs of hospitals, insurance companies, and medical clinics. They can bring the heart and soul back to medicine since it needs to be a caring as well as a profitable business.
We also want more women Presidents/CEOs not just in Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies but in all the other companies, NGOs, and nonprofits of this world. A woman’s tendency is to collaborate, to work for solutions, rather than to win. This can bring humanity back into organizations that are placing radically inhumane demands on their employees. Long hours, no balance of time for family, and/or personal health, are only some of the issues we need to assess.
To support that change, the employees must be considered the first customers of any organization. Conscious capitalism and socially conscious and purpose-driven companies have listened and are all proponents of what is being demanded now by both millennials and the increasing number of women in leadership. This demanded balance comes from a new set of values where heart and head work together. Life is shifting as it always does so why not be a driver of that shift to assure your values are a part of it?
In the political world, we certainly need more women. Someday there will be a woman president but, in the meantime, we need more women in Congress. We need more women in state and local politics as well.
One authority on the subject of women in politics is Barbara Boxer, author of Nine and Counting: The Women of the Senate. From her book summary on Amazon:
The Women of the United States Senate have forever changed the political landscape. Their backgrounds, personal styles, and political ideals may be as diverse as the nation they serve. Yet they share a commonality that runs deeper than politics or geography — they desire to give a voice to all their constituents while serving as role models for women young and old.
It was these women of the Senate who are credited with ending the government shut-down in 2013. After weeks of not being able to accomplish anything while each party aggressively stuck to their own sides of the aisle, the women of both parties got together, devised a plan where everyone won a little, and within days the crisis was over. To this day, these women meet monthly for dinner to discuss issues, family, life, and politics. Collaboration, not winning, is their goal. They do it together, as one group of invested women, not party members. This needs to be the politics of the future and as this example shows, this approach is generally women led.
Not for a single moment do I think all women are qualified for the positions they occupy, nor that all women work from the healthiest of motivations or intents. However, I do know that the vast majority of women use power differently than men – not better – differently. We need the mix of approaches for the greater good.
I also know that simply having more women in these positions, whether in medicine, business, or politics, doesn’t guarantee positive results unless she is a powerful woman, a Real Woman, willing and ready to make an impact, to stand out, and to make a difference.
That’s because positioning is only the first step. I once worked with a woman who was highly successful on Wall Street. She was CEO of her own firm. When she became, through a series of unexpected turns, the CEO of the American division of a global operation, it was her task to merge several companies into one.
We could easily work together to create a new culture, to decide who fit and who didn’t fit that culture, what to outsource and what departments to keep in house. Of all the problems she needed to face, however, the most unnerving for her was that the SVPs of the other organizations didn’t like her. They resented her success and that their boss was let go. That is a Good Girl problem and it was sabotaging her success.
Another woman who had made it to the C Suite was caught in a dilemma when a colleague presented her idea as his own at a meeting. Should she angrily and righteously confront him and claim the idea as her own, or disappear and slide down her seat? Either way would result in her readily being dismissed.
Thankfully, she was inspired to sit up straight and say in a normal conversational and yet powerful tone with certainty in her voice,” Bill, you presented my proposal nicely, but you forgot the key point that brings it all together. I want to add….” There was no key point here really, other than the impression she made to the group.
All in that room could see, without pointing a single finger, whose proposal it was. No acting out, no degrading herself, simply claiming her place at the table and making quite an impact while doing it. Her mindset was defined – “I am not a victim here, I am not powerless, even when fair has nothing to do with it. “
Life isn’t fair, yet you need to have the mindset that sets it up to be fair wherever and whenever you can. If Bill was offended, humiliated, or hurt, that was not her intent. Keeping her mouth shut, however, to be a Good Girl, would have been a huge act of self-betrayal. She claimed her place, and she will need to again and again – until she doesn’t…
Self-betrayal, whether in order to be liked, or to be kind, is a self-inflicted cruelty. People cannot respect you if they don’t even know who you truly are. Hiding behind outdated protocols prevents you from being seen. Every one of these points below sets you up to fail or puts you in a situation where you will be betraying yourself without realizing it. In addition, each sabotages your desire to be seen as credible, powerful, and real. Which is your weakness?
- Keeps you silent when you have something of value to offer
- Allows others to be valued when it is your opinion they are promoting
- Keeps you in a “one-down” position
- Has you striving to be liked rather than respected
- Keeps you in a child state rather than owning your space and your voice.
“Proving” your Worth:
- Doesn’t work – It sets you up as one-down before you start
- It’s futile – those who don’t want to see won’t – those who are open, already do
- Doesn’t allow your success to speak for itself
- Shows you don’t believe you simply belong
- Hides the needed confidence, focus, clear-sightedness, and acknowledgement that you earned your place at the table.
“Playing the Part:”
- There is no “part”
- This takes place when you misconstrue who you already are
- Is supported by aggression, will, ego, and unrealistic expectations
- Prevents authenticity
- Doesn’t allow you to bring all of yourself to the table.
The confidence that comes when you have permission, from you, to be your whole, authentic self, while you continue to evolve and grow, sets you free to reach beyond your imagination. As an example, research shows that when men apply for a position they believe having 60% of the job skills required is sufficient since they believe they will learn any other skills they need while on the job. Women, however, believe they need to have 100% of the skills listed already developed.
Not only does this hold you back from moving forward, it also sets you up to never be considered. Don’t be nice, shy, or hesitant; be motivated! Every move up the ladder will ask more of you both in terms of skills and leadership ability. That is how you grow. You are becoming more of who you are capable of being, more and more your real self, while gaining more experience. Take a risk – go for it!
Risk is a major part of the growth needed. When I am confronted with something I feel called to and can see my shadow side trying to talk me out of it, I always ask myself the questions: What is the worst thing that could happen? What is the best thing that could happen? No matter what occurs, I have usually already been there through this step, so I am more prepared than not.
Understand, a willingness to take risks:
- Opens up more opportunities
- Provides far more growth
- Frees you from your comfort zone
- Allows you to live not survive.
You learned early in life to live up or down to others’ expectations. A higher position brings in higher expectations for you so you need to keep reaching; you need to keep growing into those expectations. Joy, self-confidence, and greater skills will come in proportion to your willingness to jump in, to grow, and to expand your vision.
Be sure to love who you are at the moment and be grateful for what you have done but always know that your past was only your preparation for your future. What’s next? What’s your vision? What’s going to make you the best you that you can be?
Too many have abandoned their passion, their joy, and their outrageous wild side.
No wonder so many women feel incomplete. Parts of themselves were lost because their focus was external – not about living their best self, their highest values, and their visions for themselves or their purpose in this life.
Your best expression of the Real Woman is a byproduct of living your truth, taking those risks, owning your power, creativity, and unique skills in service to others. It requires that all of who you are to be present even those parts you may have left behind.
I am not at all saying anywhere in this book that all, or any, woman should be career-focused, family-focused, or anything else. What I am saying is that no matter what you choose to do with your life, be the leader in that decision. At that point you will always know, without exception, that wherever you are is where you have chosen to be.
Even if you don’t like a particular place, either you leave, or you are choosing to stay, so there is no victim. At that point you will need to find what makes it far more than bearable and go after that extra piece.
Perhaps you are tending to a sick parent. If you don’t like it, stop. If you don’t stop, it’s a choice. More than once that statement has initially angered someone. It takes away the grandiosity of martyrdom. I feel no guilt about making the statement however because it’s a fact. Being kind is wonderful, but measuring the amount of misery it is costing you doesn’t make you a saint, only a complainer, even if it’s all internal.
In that instance, can you give yourself permission to go out to play with friends one or two nights a week? Can you take daily yoga classes nearby while you have a helper come in? Be the leader of your choices and their consequences. Anything else is self-betrayal, giving you permission to play a role of doing “good”, while being a “victim”, and playing “poor me.” Anyone practicing introspection won’t buy it.
It is such a vast difference from, “I couldn’t live with any other decision, so I am going to make the best of it and still bring in laughter, play, and personal time to live my life while I do what I want to do as well as what I feel obligated to do.”
Your mindset defines everything. It is absolutely amazing how changing your perspective can completely change your life – professionally and/or personally.
- Do you know the beliefs that can sabotage you as a Real Woman?
- Have you developed a means of counterbalancing them when they show up?
- What risks have you taken over your lifetime to succeed or achieve a goal?
- What happened when you did?
- What was the cost?