March 67th 2021, 3:22:30 PM
I was recently interviewing a client about her reflections on what she has learned about being in her new relationship after doing our Relationship Ready Programme. She worked with us because she thought ‘it might be nice to date’ after an eight-year gap since her marriage had ended. At the time when we first met, she was in her mid-fifties and a partner in a successful property company. The hard work and drive she had put in since her early twenties had paid off. She now had a rewarding career under her belt, and enough resources to be able to travel, spend time with her two kids and buy nice things if she wanted them.
When she entered the property market nearly forty years ago, she was stepping into such a sexist, male-dominated world, that she would find herself on more than one occasion being asked:
“make us a cuppa love”
Her male counterparts assuming that she was there to make the coffee rather than buy a priority from them.
Her drive and vision allowed her to ignore what the industry thought it was ready for.
But this article is not about the property market or the glass ceilings and sexism in the workplace that many women face every day. This article is about something much more intimate. It's about the relationship we have with ourselves.
Towards the end of our interview, I asked:
“What would you tell your 16-year-old self?”
She started to answer without missing a beat.
“Relax, just relax. I was just desperate to be older... I was so serious.”
Then she paused, and then added
“And follow my heart more.”
I asked to hear more, and our conversation took a quieter note. This was not something that she had thought about before. It was not until this moment that she would realise that following her heart earlier was something she could have done more of.
“Given your ambition has been a large part of what has got you to where you are now, where does following your heart fit in with ambition?” I asked.
This question left a quiet pause in our conversation. When she finally came back with a reply, it was with some clarity that she could have done both.
“I think I followed my head more than my heart” she added.
“There is more information in there (my heart) than in my head.”
“Do you think your ambition would have taken different shapes if you had allowed yourself to follow your heart more?” I asked.
“Perhaps,” she replied then adding “ I’m still ambitious now, but I follow my heart more and my ambition is for different things.”
This was where we ended our conversation on this topic. It was not a question that needed to be answered in detail or nailed down. I see this as the kind of question that can open up new opportunities for us if we give ourselves permission to just ponder the question.
“What if I trusted myself and followed my heart alongside my ambition?“
Opening up to this possibility allows us to dream big while staying deeply connected to ourselves.
With International Women's Day coming up, it led me to reflect on the young women that I work with. As a company, we have many clients whose main workforce is young women in their mid twenties to early thirties. I think of how many of these young women I have worked with live with a lot of self-doubts. If you want to give it a name, you could use ‘imposter syndrome’ or ‘low self-worth’. If you want to get more clinical you might describe them as suffering from anxiety. In fact, 65% of tthese young women would describe themselves to me as struggling with ‘Anxiety’ or as ‘worriers’.
I noticed that young women seem to suffer more from this kind of thought than the young men that we have worked with. It does not mean that young men are not suffering from self-conscious, anxious thought. But what I have observed is that more women than men projected these worries on to their feelings about their capability and self worth at work.
Our job with these companies is to bring a level of confidence in the internal resources available to everyone, regardless of age, gender and race. We work with our clients to help them to look in the direction of a clear and neutral mind so that they can access these resources within themselves. We show them that the only thing getting in the way of tapping into their own resources is their trust in their distorted (insecure, self-conscious, self-critical) thought.
What I started to see in these women once they looked past their insecure thoughts about themselves was that they started to discover they were not the story they told about themselves. I would hear feedback like:
“I'm a lot stronger than I thought.”
“I am able to deal with things that I never thought I was capable of.”
“I can trust myself.”
“I’m not the person I thought I was.”
The flourishing of these young women has ignited a passion in me.
It has ignited a passion in me to empower women to learn to be comfortable in their own skin.
To empower young women to see, feel, and respect their own wisdom.
To empower young women to be brave and show up as themselves.
To empower young women to look past the mean things they say to themselves and to discover a deeper truth about themselves that is clear, competent and brilliant.
If I was to talk to my 16-year-old self I would tell her: