The world we live in is one of conflicting viewpoints, mixed messages from the media/pop culture and the ability to share your opinion broadly without hesitation in seconds. This creates the perfect storm of disagreement all over, both virtually and in person, which could complicate how we as women choose to use our voices.
Within this world, women are rising, for a multitude of reasons. One reason is the solidarity the #MeToo movement has created. While not part of that community, I can see its power. Women who were abused are standing on each other’s shoulders to hold their male abusers accountable. Their bravery is inspiring, their tenacity empowering.
There is no doubt in my mind that there are bad men out there. Ones who abuse, denounce and berate women at every opportunity. Those men must be held accountable. For certain, that’s not all men. As women, for us to make that generalization, one I hear in lots of places, from song lyrics to conference calls to presidential debates, is ultimately doing us a disservice.
Being pro woman does not mean you have to be anti men.
There are 33 female CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies this year (2019). While that is a record high, it’s certainly not where we want to be. So tell me, what play do you call here? Engage men differently to achieve success or minimize their existence altogether? We’re not going to change the landscape of leadership alone. We will need our brothers as allies to support our journeys.
It’s complicated, creating this dialogue, especially considering we live in such a polarizing environment. I’d offer taking a look internally at your own perspective would be the logical first step. Here’s a few ideas I plan to try as I wrap up my summer and head into my busy fall season.
- Review my personal board of directors. How can I engage more male perspectives and in which areas of my career/life would those be helpful? What current relationships could I leverage to build out these new relationships?
- Leveling up my personal vibrations by surrounding myself with positive influences, whether that be people, media outlets (there are still a few!), brands, businesses, etc. Negativity and hate perpetuate stereotypes and generalizations I don’t want to waste my energy on.
- Challenges assumptions – my own and other people’s. You can sing ‘You Don’t Own Me’ at the top of your lungs and then pull up your dating app to engage in productive (fingers crossed) conversations. It doesn’t have to be one way or another. Developing meaningful relationships with men – in any context – doesn’t mean you’re handing in your ‘Who Run the World? Girls’ card.
- In every situation, stay open and base your opinions on facts, not the story you’re telling yourself. This is the hardest one for me. I have to unwind stories I’ve told myself about men, especially when it comes to dating. It’s a dance, one that I’m now more conscious of so I can see when I’m making excuses for my conditioned behavior.
None of this is easy. Give yourself a level of grace as you carefully unwind these twisted stories that potentially aren’t serving you. More on that later this month too!
Did you know that humans are the only mammals that don’t follow their guts? We often ignore that feeling deep in the pit of our stomach or the words choking us, paralyzed in the back of our throat. How many times have you reread a text or email message before hitting send? *Raises hand slowly.* Don’t worry, you’re not alone my friend.
Since March (and probably before then), I’ve been on a journey. I started what I call coach school at Coaches Training Institute (CTI) to become a co-active coach. This included five three day weekends where I learned and practiced techniques in a safe space. As I type this, I finished the final course and am heading towards certification.
A coaches most powerful tool is his/her intuition, that gut feeling that guides the coaching. I’ve always felt my intuition and knew from a young age that it held great power. Yet, early on in class, I let fear of being wrong or judged hold me back. As I practiced and grew, I saw that when I trusted myself and trusted my intuition, it was powerful beyond measure and resonated with others.
So what if you’re not in coach school? Why might your intuition be useful? Well, for starters, who knows you better than you?! No one is more equipped to understand you needs, wants, hopes and dreams better than your inner voice. You might call it something different – inner goodness or Winston Churchill. You name him/her/it and talk to them often. Listen to what he/she/it is saying and sense the response. At first, you might need a quieter place to do this. After some practice, it will become natural and you’ll have a track record of success.
And what if you don’t listen to your gut because sometimes you won’t. Each day is a new beginning, you still have a powerful intuitive sense that you can further cultivate. Find others who you trust and ask them to tell you a story. Listen with all of your intention, ask follow up questions and try to name emotions that might have come up for the storyteller. That’s one way to build your intuition muscle.
The more you use intuition to guide you and eventually others, the more you’ll seen it’s power. It is your North Star that shines its light so you can see the way. Intuition doesn’t create the journey but it does allow you to flow through energies and challenges with more confidence and ease
In my last post, I wrote about the power of storytelling. Stories help convey our values, purpose and brand. But what happens when that oh so powerful story is a lie we repeat to ourselves often?
Much like fairy tales, our personal narratives were constructed at an early age, whether we believe it or not. The people closest to us helped to develop these stories, both positive and negative, that we end up carrying with us through life. So, if you were told you weren’t good enough your entire childhood, chances are you’ve carried that baggage with you through adulthood.
Another thought is that we may have perceived situations as children and translated them into negative stories about ourselves. The mother who was tough on her kids was merely preparing them for life’s challenges versus how a teenager might have perceived this tough love. Either way, the stories we tell ourselves can both help and harm us in the long run.
For me, the stories I create in my head are absolutely dramatizations of reality. I’m still trying to figure out why this is. I’m assuming it has something to do with my personal triggers. Triggers are scenarios that prompt an emotional response. Note: this emotional response can be extremely positive or extremely negative. Triggers, much like personal stories, are deeply rooting in your past experiences.
I tend to obsess about certain situations, then create a false story in my head that in turn solicits an emotional response. See what kind of chain reaction I have going on here? It’s not healthy or sustainable. I’m working on it but am finding it’s really hard for me stop the whirling in my head. The good news is I’m starting to recognize when I’m giving in to this behavior, so that’s step one. Here’s what I’ve been attempting to do when I know I’m obsessing, lying and reacting.
- Recognize that I’m obsessing and creating a false story about a particular situation
- Take a deep breath to calm myself down and pull myself out of the emotional reaction I’m having
- Think about what actually happened versus what I perceived
- Put myself in the other person’s shoes: could something have triggered them that then caused a chain reaction?
- Ask myself: will this matter tomorrow, next month or next year? This one is especially helpful in keeping things in perspective.
I am certainly a work in progress, but have found these steps helpful. What kinds of stories do you tell yourself? Do any illicit an emotional response and how do you manage that? Share with me!
Think back to when you were a child. What was your favorite bedtime story, one you could hear over and over again? Now looking back, what was it about that story that intrigued you? The characters, a particular moral, a happy ending? Either way, it’s clear that stories, whether real or fictional, have the power to influence.
A few weeks ago, I listened to a presentation by Lani Peterson, an award-winning storyteller, author and public speaker. In her 60 minute talk, she spoke about how powerful personal stories can be if constructed correctly. Her main points are summarized below:
- Stories need to be personal, emotional and connected to your values. If a story isn’t authentic, it loses its power. Having a powerful story positively contributes to your presence and identity.
- As you’re telling your story to others, take time to step back and evaluate. Check in with yourself and others within your organization to ensure the story you’re telling is aligned to what others know or hear about you.
- There is also immense power in listening, especially when you are new to a company and need to better understand their story and the motivations behind it. By listening, you can find common values between you and your colleagues or your company at large.
After listening to Lani, I reflected on what she said and really thought about my own story. I’d venture to say your personal and professional narratives are one in the same. You might need to tailor it to your audience. I asked myself the following questions to strengthen my story:
- What do I want to be known for?
- How did I get here/what did the journey look like?
- If I wasn’t in the room and someone asked about Alex, what would I want that response to look like?
Your story is essentially your personal brand. It’s a tool you should use to build your credibility and establish strong relationships with others. What I find challenging when developing your story is aligning it to your company’s values while also stay true to its meaning. Like Lani said, a story must be authentic to be powerful. But, it’s also important to message it correctly so it resonates with others within your organization.
As I move forward in my career journey, I plan to take Lani’s tips with me. I’ll also continue to evolve my story as I experience new things or challenges. How have you created a career narrative? Has it changed over time?