As we celebrate Women’s Day this month and the incredible strides made to level the playing field let us look to address the imbalance in our minds first and foremost before we look to point fingers at society for such an imbalance.
“We have the power inside to be great, but oftentimes it’s covered by false beliefs about ourselves”- Helene Lerner (Womens Advocate)
So what’s holding you back? Let’s explore eleven most common self-sabotaging behaviours and look to break free.
1. Thinking Too Small
Women do not think big enough. The talent is there but we shrink our dreams into boxes that fit the portfolio lifestyle of modern multi-tasking women. God-forbid we dream of launching a clothing line whilst we have children to cart to school, bills to pay, and a hubby to feed. The likes of Oprah Winfrey and Arianna Huffington spoke of the need to find a sense of purpose, the need to be motivated by service and connecting to our own unique destinies. It’s not about amassing wealth or the biggest title, but asking yourself: Am I living up to my potential? What can I do differently today and each day to take me in the direction of my destiny?
If you’re feeling scared, worried or overwhelmed, get used to it! Actually you should aim to do something every day that scares you. Growth has a component of discomfort, and not only is worry unproductive; it drains your energy, making the possibility of failure more likely. Planning for various outcomes is one thing, but constant worry is quite another.
3. Misunderstanding Yourself
It’s important to see, accept and honour the whole package—your strengths and weaknesses. As women we need to own and appreciate our accomplishments (which is difficult when we’ve grown up attributing our successes to circumstances rather than ourselves), while also identifying and being compassionate about our limitations.
Women too often say “yes” when they mean “no,” hide their achievements behind a veil of false modesty or fail to express their thoughts and feelings honestly. Even if we want the approval of someone else, it’s very important to learn that we can’t do it all. Thus it’s important to learn to say “no,” to set boundaries and to be true to oneself which ultimately makes your “yes” a lot more valuable.
5. Holding Back
Women need to assert themselves in order to grow the ranks of female leaders. When you know something, have the courage to step forward. Women need to shift from thinking ‘I’m not ready to do that’ to thinking ‘I want to do that and I’ll learn by doing it’. Sherl Sandberg the COO of Facebook writes in her book ‘Lean in’ that women are ‘plagued by self-doubt and "feeling like a fraud" and therefore consistently underestimate themselves and their abilities’. Learn to build confidence by quieting your inner critic, not taking yourself so seriously, taking stock of and credit for your achievements, and continuously pushing yourself to step up.
6. Not Taking Time For Reflection
Women often play many roles— worker, wife, mother, friend. But keeping yourself constantly busy, without taking time to stop for reflection will derail your balance and success. We’re doing so many things that we get confused and its therefore necessary to make time each day to collect your thoughts and reconnect with what really matters to you. Moreover, take a holiday. Play on the weekends. Be truly off when you’re off, so that you’re fully present when you’re on.
7. Inhibiting Desires
Do you know what you really want? Men joke about the fact that we don’t- and they could be onto something! Do you really know what you want personally, professionally, financially, relationally and physically? It’s so important to get in touch with your desires and to learn to express them honestly. Unfortunately, many women have trouble embracing and communicating their needs, often feeling guilty for doing so. But to lead a passionate, more fulfilled, life one needs to let go of the guilt and grab hold of what you truly want.
You probably can’t do it all, but you certainly can’t do much alone. Men are so much better at this than women- from Old Boys Clubs to Sports Leagues they leverage the “power web” of personal and professional networks. Start to develop yours today, a network of advisers who can offer the support and honest feedback necessary for success.
9. Disempowering Other Women
Many women who reach positions of power, keep it all to themselves. We need to learn to pay it forward- there’s more than enough to go around. As more and more women move up the ranks personally and professionally, the ratio improves and we all win.
10. Trying To Please Everyone
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Sandberg a few months into her job that her desire to be liked by everyone would hold her back. She recalls him saying, "when you want to change things, you can't please everyone." And he’s right.
11. Being Controlling At Home
"As women must be more empowered at work, men must be more empowered at home," Sandberg writes. "I have seen so many women inadvertently discourage their husbands from doing their share by being too controlling or critical." Moms let dads change that nappy, even if it's not the right way. Everyone should encourage men to get involved with their families- not only does it relieve your load but it models to your children a supportive environment where each spouse is respected.