It’sInternational Women’s Day this month and a time to celebrate what makes womengreat and bring awareness to the importance of a more gender balanced world. It’s also the one year birthday for my secondbook, Like A Girl and aspecial 2 for 1 deal throughout March is on offer to celebrate!
Thetheme for IWD2019 is #balanceforbetter and I’m a firm believer that equalityfor women is not about the downfall of men – equality is everyone’s businessand balance is definitely better! Likewise, equality is not a women’s problem that can be solved by womenalone, we’re all in this together.
I'veheard many awesome successful women as well as mentioning abhorrent stories ofbullying, sexual harassment and gender bias also talk about men who have beentheir sponsors & cheerleaders. I’ve also been privileged to work with somegreat men. We often forget this bit. Itmay be true that some men (& women) are part of the problem but many moreare also part of the solution. Men are a key part of us making changetowards a more equal society, they still make up the majority of our positionsof authority, not to mention important parts of our family too, so it’scritical we bring them along on the journey with us.
Havingsaid that though it is still harder for women, things are not yet equal. In gender pay, in leadership numbers, in theway we are treated, the expectations on us and how we are judged. Many women are doing the lions share ofhousework, social organising and child caring despite having full timejobs. We also have a habit of beatingourselves up for either having career ambitions and not being at the school gatesat 3pm each day or for not contributing financially whilst that career is onhold so we can be at the school gates at 3pm every day – no wonder we feel wecan’t quite win.
Quitesimply if you walk in a woman’s shoes life is different than if you were a malewearing those same shoes.
Oftenthough some of these issues are with us; who are the people who have thehighest expectation of us, those who judge us most harshly, those who thinkit’s not ok to ask for help or say no – most often, as women that person isourselves! So what can we do in light ofIWD2019 to ensure we’re being our best and thriving at life? Here are 6 tips to enable women to thrive.
Be you and let that be enough
We’realways trying to be more, never feeling good, pretty, clever, rich, fit,strong, thin (place your word here) enough! We have so many moulds to try and fit as women, in the workplace and athome. It can leave us feeling like anexpat living in a foreign country far from who we truly are and adrift fromwhat matters to us, and it’s exhausting trying to ‘be someone’. We live in a society though that putspressure on us to fit in, to be liked, to follow the norm. At work we have to tread the careful linebetween being more assertive but not labelled a bully, or be more vulnerablewithout being labelled as weak – it’s no wonder authenticity is so hard!
Knowingwho you are, what you want and what matters most is key. Making decisions in line with our values anddoing things that align with our passions ensures that our schedule matches ourpriorities.
Speak up, lean in, take risks, backyourself
We canbe guilty of standing back, waiting for permission, waiting for that idea to be100% before sharing or waiting for someone else to speak before we ask thequestion, not speaking up at meetings or apologising too often before we speakor ask a question and waiting for a bit more experience before we apply for thepromotion. When we do this we can missout. If we lean back rather than lean inthe opportunity will go to someone else. Sometimes we have to back ourselves, lean in and take a risk. This is how we grow and develop. It’s easier said than done though and here’swhy:
Face your fear, challenge yourself andhave permission to fail
Generallyfear is what stops us! Fear of whatpeople think, the unknown, leaving a familiar space, what if we make the wrongchoice, what if fail. We can be guiltyof playing it safe to avoid failure, our fear of rejection sometimes mean wedon’t even ask.
It’scalled our comfort zone for a reason and sometimes we think it’s better thedevil we know than the devil we don’t. We’ve been taught to avoid risk and to play it safe – we don’t want tofail at any cost. However getting out ofour comfort zone is the only way we grow and develop, challenging ourselves andtaking risks is a key part of this and yes sometimes we might fail and thatisn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Sooften failure is a stepping stone to success, it’s how we learn and grow. I’ve learned things from many trial and errormoments that I’d never have otherwise known.
It’seasy to look at those we admire and think they’re doing it right and we’redoing it wrong but quite often they’ve made mistakes, learned from them,bounced back from failures and that’s got then to where they are today. Even the best fail in fact it’s often whythey succeed.
Sogive yourself permission to fail and know that it’s often how we learn tosucceed.
Let go of perfectionism
This can be difficult though if we’re perfectionists. Sometimes we’re so scared of failure we go right to the other end of the extreme.
Theirony with perfection though is it sets us up to fail, it’s not real. Whether it’s an airbrushed photo in amagazine we’re trying to look like or a perfect side of someone’s life onFacebook we’re trying to emulate – we’re always going to fall short becausewe’re not comparing full stories, real life! Yet we still beat ourselves up when we fall short and compare ourselvesin this way.
Navigatingperfectionism isn’t about not doing a great job, it’s about resetting the barto a realistic level and understanding that sometimes done is better thanperfect and being in touch with the imperfect reality that exists.
We area breed of people pleasers and always so concerned with what others think. We’ve probably spent our whole lives tryingto make our parents, teachers, friends, bosses etc proud of us. We feel we have to work twice as hard, exceedexpectations and constantly keep raising the bar on ourselves to a point wherewe’re struggling to keep up. We all knowwhere this leads and it’s why so many of us are busy and burnt out.
Balancing busyness and avoiding overwhelm
We dohave a tendency to be superwoman! To doeverything and do it perfectly. We takeon too much, over schedule ourselves and then feel like we’re failing when weapproach burn out. Saying no anddelegating is a key part of avoiding this overwhelm and manging the busyness.
Resilienceis key but so is having good boundaries and taking time out, prioritisingself-care, prioritising us. For peoplewho put others first, don’t like saying no, feel we have to do everything anddo it perfectly, please everyone around us – this can be tough.
Wealso have an attachment to being busy though. We wear it like a badge of honour, it makes us feel valued and attachesto our self-worth. This leads us intothe trap of not taking time out or feeling like down time is lazy, selfish orunproductive. However this stuff is thefoundation we build on, to enable us to be superwoman, without it we’re alwaysfending off burnout and exhaustion.
Celebrate success and own it, get comfortableaccepting praise
We areso busy focusing on what we haven’t got, the things that didn’t go well, thebits about ourselves we don’t like that we forget about the good stuff. Our brains are wired to think more negativelyand as women we’re often taught to down play our success and wave away praiseto avoid being a tall poppy and to appear modest. So often we put our success down to somethingoutside of ourselves or we respond with things like ‘it’s nothing really’.
Ifyou’re receiving praise or acknowledgement it’s because you’ve earned it,saying thank you is a great start. Remember to celebrate your success, own the praise and know that ithelps address the negativity bias in our brains as well as doing wonders forour brand!
We are more powerful together than we areapart
We areoften taught to compete and that our success must be at the expense of someoneelse’s. I’ve learned that we are farmore powerful together than we are apart and collaboration is key for us toflourish. In the spirit of#balanceforbetter we are all in this together regardless of gender!
IWD2019 recommended viewing for moreinspiration
Brene Brown onthe power of vulnerability
SherylSandberg - Why we have too few women leaders
InspiringTED Talk - why do ambitious women have flat heads?
Genderbias, equality and why its still harder for women
Impostersyndrome resources page