I have a confession, and I think you might be able to relate. I recently slipped back into thinking "I need to get it right. I need this to work. I need to be on top of my game. I need to be ____ for them to like me." (Insert highly aspirational or unattainable quality.)
I've been interviewing and working with some (bad ass) professional women who I consider to be leaders or emerging leaders. And I picked up on something... a struggle around how others perceive them. "Am I smart enough? Too aggressive? Not aggressive enough? Qualified enough? Am I too much?... What do they think of me?"
I realized that I had started to buy back into the game of "enough-ness" and projecting an image of who I thought I needed to be... for YOU to like me.
I'd like to share a personal story...
Ever since I was a young girl, I was very self-aware. I became very adept at observing the people around me and shifting my demeanor, words and behavior to "fit in." (Which, according to Brene Brown is the #1 barrier to feeling a true sense of belonging.)
I was also a pretty smart kid who learned that pushing myself, getting all A's and putting on a face full of makeup would get me a lot of external validation... especially from powerful men.
Eventually I began to feel crushed under the pressure I had put on myself - pressure to be the "good girl," to make the grades, make the sales, pressure to look pretty and act like I knew it all, pressure show no signs weakness (or emotions), pressure to be "cool" and social, go along with the "group" and not cause trouble in the relationship...
Pressure to be who I thought I needed to be in order to be liked and get ahead...
Pressure to be perfect and have it together all the time.
I was afraid. I was afraid to fail or seem weak, afraid of being poor and lonely and thought, "if they really knew me they wouldn't like me."
I didn't feel safe to be myself.
So I hid. I hid behind the masks of makeup and "strong," "independent," my job title, relationships and "I'm fine" to name a few.
Can you relate?
But here's the thing... Underneath it all, a part of me knew this was bull shit. I had always questioned authority and the status quo. I was always able to sense the pain beneath the masks of others. I was able to sense that others were faking it too. That observant quality that helped me fit in was the same part of me that knew I was just playing the game. I thought I had to in order to survive! But there was another part of me that I could feel was dying inside, and she just wanted to be herself and to be loved.
She knew she was beautiful and enough just as she was without changing a thing.
She wanted to be seen and heard and express herself!
For those of us who have always questioned the status quo, feel trapped by the rules or want to change things while we are here, following a prescribed formula or career path doesn't work for us.
Fitting in doesn't work for us.
WE are the wild hearts and free spirits.
We cannot be contained by systems and structures and ways of doing things that keep us hidden and small.
We can no longer live in FEAR of what others will think of us. Our lives depend on it. Our souls depend on it. Our true "success" depends on it. WE are the ones we have been waiting for.
So how did I regain my footing?...
I spent last week in Sonoma celebrating the end of a group mastermind program with twelve amazing women and then spent some time alone in a cottage on a farm to reconnect to the TRUTH of who I am.
Through the power of sisterhood, I was able to see the ways in which these old pressures to BE who I thought I needed to be... for THEM to like me, for YOU to like me... had been trying to run the show.