Women are holding themselves back, that sounds scary saying out loud! You know it means I am holding myself back, you are holding yourself back, we are holding ourselves back. Now that doesn’t sound so scary! Why? It means we have the power to push ourselves forward.
I mean knowing that you are the boss of your life and you can choose how your life turns out should encourage and give you hope that you have the power to change the outcome of your life in every sphere.
This is all good and talking about it is so much easier than actually doing it. That’s why there is so many ways that we, as women are holding ourselves back. And there are so many ways we can push ourselves forward that’s why today I will share with you the 3 ways we are holding yourself back and how you can change that by referring to Lean In a book by Sheryl Sandberg.
Lean In is a book about women, work and the will to lead. This book, for me, aims at empowering women and including men in the process. There is so much going on in work, social life and leadership.
This book gives pieces of advice on what women can do to help themselves achieve their goals in the business, work and leadership world. It doesn’t leave men behind because empowering women; we need both women and men working together towards the same goal.
Women need to shift from thinking ‘I’m not ready to do that’ to thinking ‘I want to do that — and I’ll learn by doing it.
There are so many things that are holding women back, external and internal factors. Here is my take on internal factors that hold women back with reference to Lean In:
- Lack of self-confidence
Just a couple of months ago I was asked to attend a meeting and contribute to the discussed agenda and I was really excited because the meeting was hosted by a very prestigious international organization. But then later I started to chicken out, I started questioning my understanding on the agenda and if I am capable on contributing on the discussion and later I looked for excuses to get myself out of the hook. Fortunately, nobody was available to go in my place.
I did attend the meeting (Well, talk about leaving my comfort zone) and it was one of the best meetings I have ever attended and it changed the way I viewed myself and it improves my confidence because I was expected to contribute something and they were ready to listen.
What does that story have anything to do with me? No, it doesn’t have anything to do with you and it has everything to do with you at the same time. Ask yourself how many times did you stop doing something simply because you thought you were not capable enough to do what was expected of you? How many times have you doubted yourself?
Sandberg in her book lean in argues that we, as women tend to lower the expectations of what we can achieve and what we can do. Our society has shaped us to expect lower of ourselves. Men are allowed to be ambitious but it is not acceptable for women to be as ambitious as men. But maybe violating this stereotypes and the unwritten rules is important for women to move forward and do whatever they are capable of.
But this is easier said than done. Successful women are more likely to be disliked by people as opposed to their counterparts. This was well explained through the Heidi/Howard study in Lean In where a group of students were given the same story about a successful man and woman.
A group of students with the Howard story liked him better and saying he seemed like a nice person and they were more likely to work for him. The story was different with Heidi, the group of students described her as competent but selfish and not like a person they would want to work with.
You know what this does to women? They start seeking to be liked by others and self-doubt, says Sandberg, becomes self-defence in order to protect ourselves from being disliked, we question our abilities and downplay our achievements, especially in the presence of others. We put ourselves down before others can.
There is so much that we, as women can do if we just believe in our capabilities and be ready to take actions to delivering what is expected of us or even ace the expectations with a very simple reason that WE CAN DO IT! The best cure for fear, doubt and lack of confidence is to take action!
There is nothing wrong with trying and if you fail get up and try again. Self-confidence won’t come overnight; you must put in the work and be ready to change how you perceive yourself because you know what? If you think you can or you can’t, you are both right. Choose the right side of what you think you can do.
- By not raising our hands and speaking up
I am an introvert and speaking in front of a group of people is something that I have been struggling with, I have been fighting so much to make sure I defeat it because I believe I have so much to offer my community through my voice.
A couple of months ago you would never find me speaking in staff meetings or any meeting for that matter and this has nothing to do with not having something to say in these meetings: but it has everything to do with the fact that I didn’t feel comfortable speaking before many people.
If I had no choice but to talk, my voice would be really low and shaky at the same time. You know, when I listened to people speak and being dumb in their discussions. I would argue in my mind and wish I would air out my opinions or concerns on the matter.
After realizing that what I have to say matters to me and to people who would hear what I have to say, I started to force myself to speak with my low and shaky voice, I made a commitment to say something useful in every meeting. To commit myself even more, I started a YouTube channel and I am happy to say; my voice is no more low or shaky and I am confident enough to air my thoughts and they matter as much as any other.
Sandberg says women have to learn to raise their hands up because when they lower them even the managers with best intentions might not notice them.
This rings true to me because how would you expect people to know what you think about something if all you do is to stay quiet as if you are not part of the conversation and you have no idea what you are doing in that meeting.
We must find a way to feel self-confident and promote ourselves whenever we can. We can be ambitious and we can raise our hands to say what we know and we can promote our abilities, we must be ready to take a seat on the table and we must embrace the fact that we are a part of the industry and we can do wonders in the area of our experts and we can learn other things and be competent enough to share it with the world.
- Leaving before we leave
Society has shaped girls to aspire to marriage and not to be too ambitious. When a woman is too ambitious she is going against the norm and you will hear people say “she is too ambitious” ooh and this, according to them is not a good thing. Women are pulling back from their careers because they start planning ahead for their marriage, making a family even when they don’t have a person to make that family with, yet!
We say no to bigger projects and senior positions because “what if I need to get married and start a family” how could I possibly do this and be the perfect wife to my husband and a perfect mother to my kids?
We are so focused on what will the society think if I work hard for what I want. We are eager to make everyone like us and we want to please everyone but ourselves.
A woman might want to be a great writer, a successful business owner but at the back of her head, she thinks, what if I intimidate a man that might be my husband? Or what will people think of me? With this mindset, we leave before we even leave.
An opportunity presents itself at work and you are probably 2 days pregnant, your first reply to the new opportunity is – I am having a baby, I can’t do this! But your baby will be here in the next 9 month, what are you going to be doing in those 9 months while you wait for the baby to alive? Or what before that husband alive?
When you want to change things you can’t please everyone. If you do please everyone, you are not making enough progress.
Yes, there are a number of external factors that are holding women back and the world is probably still run by men and we still have a long way to go.
But the internal factors that are the most important ones, in my opinion, and you have power over them than the external ones. You can decide today that you want to change how you perceive yourself or how you present your opinions.
Changing the external factors that hold women back has been a process and the progress is not bad but still, we have a long way to go. Men and women have to come together and work towards changing the norms of how the society has defined the roles of men and women.
Change begins with you. That’s all I have for you today guys, let’s talk. What is holding you back and how are dealing with it?
We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.” Now that you are aware make you make the needful changes.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
Until next time,