I work with women on the cusp of major shifts in their lives. These are wise, powerful, and changemaking women. Women who are dedicated to their personal growth and making a difference in the world.
All of them, including myself, have adopted dangerous tendencies from our society and culture — tendencies which stop us from following our callings.
1. Sensing that we “aren’t ready yet.”
We women can spend a lot of time to researching, preparing, wondering, and training. But the fact is we don’t need another degree or certificate to do the work we’re called to do. That chronic sense that we’re not ready yet or expert enough? It’s just an internalized message from society which tells us that we must become highly specialized in a field.
The way one becomes qualified to do the work is by doing the work.
2. Wanting it to be perfect.
Women have been praised to believe abilities are fixed, leading us to couple our work with our worth. We’ve all felt the the pain of sending out an email to our advisors with a bunch of typos. Many of us cringe when receiving negative feedback. But it’s important to invite negative feedback over for cake and tea. To grow a healthy thick skin. As we begin to exert our voices into the world, we will acquire “haters.” The key is to not let them stop us.
3. Wanting to be special.
The truth is that there are already so many other yoga teachers, health coaches, entrepreneurs, small business owners, jewelry makers, artists, designers, etc. A lot of it has been done before. Many people have been doing your dream work for years. The belief that “it’s been done before” can often stop us from our truest calling. Keep in mind: none of them will do it the way you do it, because no one has your DNA or life story.
Nobody will do it the way you will because they don’t have your DNA or life story.
4. Feeling pressured to make a big impact.
Our society — and especially funders — cares about big, wide, measurable impact. But what about small, deep, immeasurable impact? In witnessing a small act in India, my life was radically changed. Let’s shake of this internalized value that big impact is better than small impact. If you’re calling is to work one-on-one with individuals, then so be it.
5. Getting stuck in our minds.
In school, we’ve learned to research, write, study, and take tests. As a result, we can get stuck in mental loops instead of testing our ideas with real people. Think of designers who test out their crappy prototypes (i.e., a physical embodiment of an idea) for weeks, months, and sometimes years before designing the final product. By experimenting, we gain greater creative confidence. We could use a few best practices from design thinking as we bring our work into their world.
Experimentation and curiosity break us out of our minds and into the real world.
6. Denying our contradictions.
Society frowns upon “contradictory people,” which conflicts with our desires for both freedom and security, selfishness and selflessness, breadth and depth in our work. Let’s learn to accept these dynamic tensions as the beauty of lila — the dance of opposites in life. Living with contradictions is a sign of first-rate intelligence. Embrace the beautiful complexity.
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald
7. Sounding unsure of ourselves.
We women can undermine ourselves with our speech. Even though we feel unsure on the inside, we must pretend and sound like we know what we’re doing. Otherwise, we’ll sabotage our efforts. How would we act and talk differently if we felt 100% certain? People would buy into our vision because we look like we do too.
As you observe these tendencies in yourself, your life will organically begin to shift. If you’re someone who would like to take action around these tendencies, here are my suggestions:
Print out the list and stick it on your wall where you will see it in the morning.
Journal around each tendency. How is it showing up in your life? You could do one a day for a week.
I want to give a major shout out to all my sisters who gave me feedback on a draft of this article. As someone who believes in the design process, feedback only makes my work stronger.
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