3 Fears Leaders (like you, woman) Face, And How To Handle Them
If you are driven to teach, lead, or mentor, this is for you:
So you’ve got this growing desire to be a leader… GOOD!
(The world needs more powerful women stepping up in every area right now.)
You already have so much going for you as you eye rising in the ranks or building an even bigger platform to serve in this world.
You’ve created a good deal of success and a pretty awesome life through hard work + your skills (hard won through experience) + natural strengths. (Let’s be honest – there are some very cool, unique things about you)
This pull to lead comes from deep in your gut – a ‘knowing’ that things can be different. BETTER.
You feel ready to embody the leader you’re already becoming. People at work tell you they admire you, your ideas, and you’re proud of being known for your authenticity.
You don’t do bullsh!t.
You want to be a leader, to mentor people, to support women who are coming up after you. You want to be a part of their success and help them own how awesome they are, too. And at the same time you desire to grow your own abundance and financial stability while feeling good and strong in your body. In short, you want it all. But, your way.
BUT you also struggle: call it fear, or imposter syndrome, self-doubt, or “low self esteem.”
There are 3 common challenges I see in the women I work with as they grow into their version of leadership:
- Being fully seen + judged + criticized
- Feeling forced into a “masculine” style of leadership
- Prospering while pivoting
These 3 challenges can be managed, healed, and turned into paths for profound personal growth and transformation.
As I’ve mentored countless women through these challenges over the last 17 years, I’ve seen them turn these 3 fears into major successes… in how they work, and the rest of their lives.
Being Fully Seen + Judged + Criticized
Becoming a leader means stepping to the front of the pack, raising your hand to speak, and making bold statements. Feeling comfortable in your body, in your own skin. You stand up for your ideas, and pull the best out of others you serve.
Stepping into the spotlight puts you right in front to either receive the accolades of applause, or the slings and arrows of harsh judgment.
One of my clients is a top saleswoman at a global company. As she steps into higher and higher roles of leadership, growing and leading a team, moving her family to another country to open a new office, she opened herself to criticism.
“If I could feel just 25% more comfortable and less triggered by criticism that would be huge for me.”
The criticism, even when not personal (thought sometimes it is), can trigger stress eating, physical, and emotional anxiety. Sometimes a bottle of wine gets drunk at the end of a tough day. Criticism-induced eating sucked her time and energy, impacting her ability to perform the next day. It also hit her body confidence.
Many of us feel triggered by criticism and judgement because we were judged or criticized harshly as young children. This is a root trauma, which got stored in the body and nervous system, and gets replayed with every “critical,” professional remark.
My client grew up with a mother who was hypercritical, which made her feel very unsafe as a child. As children it feels terrifying and dangerous when a parent is so judgmental of us. Our tiny body reacts strongly, and the direction that gets coded into us is:
“ARG – CRITICISM! YOU MESSED UP! DO EVERYTHING TO FIX THIS NOW! BEND OVER BACKWARD! NEVER DO THAT AGAIN!”
And in an effort to feel calm at the end of the day, her adult body was drawn to the easiest tools around, and craved sugar or wine to dampen the anxiety.
Becoming a leader, for this woman, and so many like her, including myself, meant healing her old trauma wounds and “mothering her inner child” so that she felt safe to hear criticism and not get knocked off-center every time.
She began to see how her self-nourishment game had to be on point!
With tactical planning and strategizing her meals more efficiently, emotional eating meditations, and deepening her self-trust, she has made huge strides in handling criticism:
“I’m standing up for myself much faster than before, and wasting less time ruminating about what to do. I definitely have higher confidence and self esteem, am feeling more authentic, and trusting myself. This will have a huge impact on my life going forward. I’m showing up better in relationships, more clear in my expression, more energy!”
Feeling safe to be seen begins with lovingly seeing all aspects of ourselves so they can be healed and strengthened.
Feeling Forced To Be A “Masculine” Leader
Think of a leader – what images and words come to mind? Most of us will see white male images flash in our mind.
While this is changing, the truth is that 7 in 10 executives in the US are white men. White men comprise 31% of the population, but 97% of elected offices. Representation matters – what we see, we believe is possible, and even try to mimic.
A few of my private clients have been in hot conversation lately about what it means to be a leader, and what kind of leader they want to be:
“The women in leadership roles at my company are very “man-like” and hardcore, and not in a way that I like. They basically mimic manly behavior in order to be respected by their male peers. I believe that a leader should be respected for being empathic and sensitive, as it doesn’t mean that we are unable to make the right business decisions at the right time.” ~ M.
“I’m so tired of checking my humanity at the door – making my emotions small so that I don’t get judged as “too emotional.” I see men get angry at work all the time, and they’re not penalized for it. But if I cry or show anger I know I’ll get punished somehow. People will, at the very least, look down on me. And I hate feeling embarrassed.” ~ L.
In this work, mentoring women who “want it all”, we hold authentic connection as a core value. Using the question, “Does this feel authentic?” helps women like M and L bring their full selves to work, and not fall into the habit of mimicking masculinity.
Having no safe outlet to express a full range of emotions drains our energy and makes us less strong. It’s a powerful reframe to step boldly into self-expression at work.
One of the most powerful strengths these women share is empathy. They sense what other people are feeling, going through, and endeavor to understand where they’re coming from.
Yet empathy is not normally a highly valued strength.
I beg to differ.
In Never Split The Difference, by Chris Voss, the veteran FBI hostage negotiator dives into the importance of tactical empathy in business, relationships, and sales conversations.
Tactical empathy is how you show people you can see things from their perspective, which ends up making it easier to influence them, and find solutions that work for everyone. THIS is a powerful success tool, which “feminine” leaders already embody. It’s time to reframe it as a skill you’re ready to grow.
To really embody The Leader, the women I work with begin to take more risks, show their strengths and opinions, in all areas of life, so that they can truly be themselves, and not a pale copy of someone else.
Prospering While Pivoting
This challenge is about how to feel secure while changing: I call it Prospering While Pivoting.
Change is uncomfortable, brings up fears, and makes us worry that we’ll destroy everything we have. So we stay in our current mode, feeling stuck and frustrated. (which is just exhausting and stressful)
In order to maintain your sense of safety and belief that where you’re going is possible and worth the risks, we need three things:
- Mindset Management
Using mind-body practices to calm our brains, thinking becomes clearer, and anxiety is reduced. Once the brain settles down (which always involves body-based techniques – even the right kind of dancing does the trick), we can tap into our creative genius, find new solutions, and spend less time fixing problems.
I’m about to bring in an idea that doesn’t get nearly enough play when it comes to success mentoring:
Faith that the risk is worth it.
Trusting your instincts.
Belief that even if things go sideways, you can handle whatever comes next. Belief in her circle of support which will catch her and be there for her.
Whether it’s prayer, meditation, Goddess cards, tree-hugging, or spirit quests, the women I know (and love) who are successful by their own standards have some kind of spiritual practice that grounds their life.
Her faith and practices connect her to inspiration and purpose, and offer strength in hard times. Her faith gives her energy and courage to take risks. To speak her truth.
It gives her a deep knowing, in her bones, that her desires are worthy.
Faith is one of the foundations upon which big ideas, big risks, and satisfying, successful lives are built.
The kind of leader you’re becoming feels free to be and express herself. And that means being even braver than ever before. It means really healing the old habits that you know are sucking your energy and wasting your time.
It means committing to your own deeply personal work so you can lead others from a place of authenticity.
In a few days, on October 1st, I’ll open applications for the 2019 Vitality Mentorship group. If you want the opportunity to be among the first to see the details and apply, go here and put your name on the list. We’ll send you the application early.
P.S. What resonated with you? Did you see yourself in the writing above?
Let me know below. I read every response.