Our culture has certain expectations and rules for women
(yes, there are some for men too – but here I’m focusing on women)
Time and time again, bright, self-aware, grown up women business owners struggle with issues like visibility, sharing their opinions, setting boundaries, asking for the sale, putting themselves forwards for the bigger, brighter opportunities, the imposter syndrome, and perfectionism.
Be small, thin, softly spoken, pretty and sexy – but not sexual and definitely not slutty, giving (to the point of putting themselves last), compliant, agreeable, non-confrontational, private, polite, nurturing, perfect (although this is obviously the biggest head Fuck because it’s impossible to achieve – but still we try) and certainly not the most brilliant one in the room.
Maybe you didn’t get these messages explicitly from your family of origin OR you did but you’ve done the work to overcome this conditioning, our culture is giving you (and others) these messages ALL THE TIME.
Sometimes it’s so subtle we only notice it when we violate those rules.
OR we are approaching violating them – that’s when our own internal protective system kicks in and creates resistance around the ‘dangerous’ action.
Even if it doesn’t show up in every single way for you – but I’m betting there’s a least a few on that list you can relate to.
It’s not your fault.
It’s not anyone one individual’s fault.
And together we can overcome, override and surpass the limitations unconscious feminine conditioning places on us all (yes, including men).
But not by ignoring it. Not by getting frustrated with ourselves. Not by blaming or, trying to push through or denying that it exists.
To build a service based business you need to be visible, opinionated (as in, share your opinions,) own your competence, and ask for the sale.
You need to be public, seen and heard. This, for many of us, is challenging and creates a tension that can keep us feeling stuck.
The work we do here is about resolving this tension…so we can rise.
Our feminine conditioning means we’re very tuned into the needs, wants and expectations of others. Partly because that’s what we’ve always been encouraged to do and praised for. But also because from the time we’re a pre-teen, we become aware that – men have more power than us – both physical and cultural. They can hurt us. Most of them don’t of course, but
We are on high alert to try and keep ourselves safe – safe from judgment, safe from criticism, and yes, safe from physical harm. As Gretchen Kelly lays out in her Huffington Post article:
“We have all learned, either by instinct or by trial and error, how to minimize a situation that makes us uncomfortable. How to avoid angering a man or endangering ourselves. We have all, on many occasions, ignored an offensive comment. We’ve all laughed off an inappropriate come-on. We’ve all swallowed our anger when being belittled or condescended to…It doesn’t feel good. It feels icky. Dirty. But we do it because to not do it could put us in danger or get us fired or labeled a bitch. So we usually take the path of least precariousness.”
But the upside I was talking about? That hypervigilance gives us advantages when it comes to empathy, leadership and the ability to ‘tune in’ to what’s going on around us.
That sixth sense we have when walking down the street or when we enter a room? The sussing out the mood, looking for signs of distress or upset, reading the emotional temperature of an interaction? That can be turned into a superpower.
It means that as women, our leadership comes with an awareness of our impact on those around us – the opposite of the traditional charismatic leader (where the focus is solely on themselves). We can lead from a different place – and that has the potential to change the dynamic and the conversation around what we want our businesses to be about.
If ever there was a time when our culture needs women to take a stand for things, own their expertise, step up as leaders – it’s now.
So that’s what we do here – in the context of building your business and we do the strategic pieces AND the emotional, cultural, behavioral pieces that can get in the way.