I have two pieces of jewelry that are unique in that they were designed and made for me by a master jeweler.
Recently I was in a petrol station and the attendant commented on the jewelry. This was not unusual as I receive many comments when I wear the pieces. It was his genuine interest in not only the pieces but what inspired me to have such unique jewelry made for me that got my attention. He really wanted to understand me! In the end, I had to tell him that I needed to leave as I was running late for an appointment.
My partner and I regularly eat at the same coffee shop and we know some of the wait staff. We were attended to by a person we had never seen before recently and she had an interesting accent. My partner asked her where she was from. When she replied “Estonia” we began a conversation around traveling and her experiences in Australia. She was genuinely excited and grateful that we had shown an interest in her, beyond ordering our breakfast.
My favorite thought leader, Seth Godin, posted recently about the 4 TED imperatives and how they can also be applied beyond TED. With the previous two stories swimming around in my head, I was drawn to imperative number one, “Be Interested.” You see, I don’t think many people are that interested beyond their own wants and needs.
Perhaps with so much information so readily available we have become less interested as we scan items without really engaging with them, rush to get projects completed on time and see people as resources rather than human beings. How many times do you stop and just talk with someone? How often do you ask interesting questions of a colleague? Do you know the major challenge that is facing your child/partner/colleague/manager at the moment?
Think about a typical day and how much time you spend “telling” compared with “asking.” If you spend the majority of your time telling, consider what you might be missing out on. This is as relevant for the workplace as it is for your home life.
Ask questions, be interested. Life is much more meaningful that way.
Debbie* is brilliantly creative. She leads the public relations campaigns for one of the largest health care facilities in the United States, but she yearns to be her own boss, brave the entrepreneurial path and reinvent the long forgotten power of the written word.
Jill* is an intellectual, with a brain that moves at warp speed. She has advanced degrees in education and worked as an elementary school principal while writing her doctoral thesis. As her mind mulled over the complex issue of praising children for their results or their efforts, her soul asked if it could go outside, sit under a tree and write fiction.
These two smart, savvy and socially adept women were successfully climbing a career ladder. Socially, these women earned top marks. They were accepted by friends, family and society for being wonderful pillars of social order, but their inner knowing, their essential self, was tired of pleasing everybody else, tired of playing the game, tired of repressing deeper feelings and real dreams.
Every woman who has ever yearned to be someplace else, but dutifully shows up where she is asked, or any woman who sits in a boring meeting, nodding with consent while secretly visualizing her hidden talents being applauded by thousands, knows the struggle only too well between the social self and the essential self.
Who are these two opposing elements that reside within the same bodily domicile and why must they struggle? And… is it okay that you hear these different voices?
First, every individual has a social self and an essential self. The social self is the persona which conforms to the demands of family, friends, community, and society and which an individual generally develops for acceptance or for protection. The essential self is an individual’s true self and expresses the individual’s thoughts, feelings, desires, needs, and inner purpose.
The social self often runs in opposition to the essential self in order to avoid ruffling the feathers of those around you, or to keep the status-quo. Your social self is geared to be avoidance based, conforming, predictable and hardworking. Your essential self is wired to be attraction-based, unique, surprising and playful.
How can two juxtaposed selves reside in the same place? Not easily. In fact, most days they are in conflict, but when they do agree to work together, it’s bliss. Literally.
The language of your essential self is this:
- Energy. Your essential self has lots and lots of energy! Feeling lethargic, drained or even exhausted is a sign that your social self has ruled too long. It’s time for a revolution. Take note of the activities that drain you and the activities that revive your energy levels. Where you’re peppy and full of zip is where your essential self resides.
- Health. Your essential self keeps you healthy! Every stressful experience causes a physiological response in the body within seventy-two hours. Frustrating encounters with colleagues lead to headaches, neck pain and an over-burdened immune system. You may not even realize your social self is ruling you until you drop an activity, a job, or a mate and suddenly see yourself looking and feeling better.
- Memory. Your essential self is a sponge not a sieve! Where lies your passion, lies your memory. Ever try to learn information that was boring? When you feel apathetic, or are downright disinterested your brain has a heck of a time hanging onto bits of data. However, when you are genuinely motivated or passionate about a topic, the smallest bits of trivia are valued like gold nuggets.
- Time flies. Your essential self cannot tell time! If the second hand on the clock has stopped moving, your essential self is gasping for air. When you lose track of time, absorbed in an activity that has drastically increased your attention span, your essential self is fully engaged.
- High. A natural one. Your essential self puts you in a good mood! When your social self is tempted to be scared, but your essential self is feeling exhilarated, you’ll float, having found such inner peace that even bitter, nasty, social self driven individuals will not be able to burst your balloon of happiness.
When you reconnect and start speaking the language of your essential self, you thrive. When you are feeling cynical, have doubts, or experience fear, thank your social self for wanting to keep you safe, and then sweetly ask it to be quiet. Pain, self-sacrifice, suffocation or numbness of your spirit are not helping you reach your fullest potential, nor helping you offer your greatest good to the world.
Debbie just finished assembling two hundred and fifty of the most gorgeous wedding invitations. The bride and groom are socially tickled and Debbie is essentially ecstatic with the results. Jill just completed a series of children’s book about the most adorably curious boy and his imaginary adventures. Her essential self will give every child who reads her stories the gift of discovering their own greatest potential.
Go on, get high … naturally. It’s essential.
Photo credit iStockphoto *All names have been changed.
This is the third post in a series where Women of HR writers share their thoughts and reactions to a manifesto, Six Rules Women Must Break In Order to Succeed.
The authors of the manifesto, Six Rules Women Must Break In Order to Succeed, have been very eloquent about the things women need to do in order to get ahead. I do agree that these six rules, if mastered, will go a long way to putting us on the right path. I would add a few things to any thinking we do in this area.
Make the Rules Your Own
Firstly, there’s lots of rules or guides we can embrace in order to get ahead. This is not a particularly new area and there’s been a lot of thought and discussion generated over the years. What’s more important I believe is that you need to have your own thoughts on how to make this work for you, as an individual.
It’s hard, if this is not something you’re used to, to embrace all six rules at a go. So, pick just one and make that happen. The confidence you build in yourself as you make this one rule a reality that you can feel and grasp, will spur you on to more successful endeavors.
Ultimately, we need to think about these rules, and what elements of it that we are happy with and willing to embrace. We also need to consider the parts that we feel are not right for us and which we are not comfortable embracing. We need to make these rules our own and we do that by thinking about them as they apply to us and then going forward by simply making choices about them.
Stop Thinking and Start Doing
Which leads to my second point – start. We can read about these six rules and like them and agree with them. And we can go online and read another blockbuster list of stuff that works for others out there. Everything stays in the sphere of possibility if that’s all we do.
We could fool ourselves that someday, if we put this in action, we will have achieved what the authors say we ought to. But what is possible is not yet real and we delude ourselves if we settle merely for thinking about what’s possible, and being happy right there. At some point, we have to stop reading, thinking or having an opinion and just letting it rest there, whether we do so out of fear, because we’re busy or just being uncertain.
The way to drive success for any of these things is to move from the realm of possibility into the realm of reality. This happens when we start doing. Do and fail and learn and start again.
Stay True to You
I am reminded, in this manifesto, of the many beautiful aspects of womanhood, of the very elements that make us who we are. We see in the people around us, how they move from thinking to doing. They do what they have to do and what they are happy with. Some however, make changes by becoming more like the examples they see around them – the men in positions of power. But we do not need to be somebody we are not.
I believe real success comes to those who are able to see their shortcomings and their strengths and play to both of these accordingly. It requires an unparalleled level of honesty but the reward is a life that’s far more satisfying and truer to oneself.
Photo credit iStockphoto
I used to think I needed to find passion in work.
There are things I feel passionate about – such as creating a work environment where employees feel like they can bring their full selves to work and be engaged to do their best work. But as far as feeling passionate every single day?
Nein. I don’t come to work every day because I feel passionate about my work; rather I come to work every day because I have bills to pay and prefer to have a roof over my head. I am part of Gen Y which I suppose by association makes me lazy and want things handed to me on a silver spoon. I don’t really operate that way, but that is the stereotype.
Me? I need passion in my work. I work much harder and more diligently towards the things I feel passionate about. Does this mean I don’t do the things I feel “eh” about? No, I’d get fired. Here’s my realization. Take it for what it is worth:
- I will not love every job I have during my career
- I will not love every aspect of every job I have during my career
- Ultimately, we work to pay bills
If the goal in life was to feel a sense of passion for what we are doing, money would not be an issue and we’d all be out working towards causes we ARE passionate about. Or, doing the things we always said we wanted to do, but never wanted to take a chance to do and I am including myself in this statement.
Really, if we all just LOVED what we did, we wouldn’t be talking about work/life balance all the time. It would just be a part of life. Okay, maybe that is a bit of a stretch, but you understand where I am going there. I enjoy my job but saying I feel passionate about being a human punching bag most days is kind of a stretch.
Photo credit iStockphoto
I once participated in a team building effort for my facility’s management staff. The drive to build a more cohesive team included consultant led individual interviews, 360 degree feedback and an off-site group activity day.
During my individual interview, I wore gray pinstripe dress pants with a short sleeve turtleneck sweater. I was taken aback when the consultant offered unsolicited advice that she thought I dressed “too young.” I think what most caught me off guard was that the comment wasn’t followed up with any advice on what she thought would be suitable for the workplace.
My company’s dress code is business casual so I normally I stick to dress pants and a solid color button down shirt, throwing in some different accessories from time to time. If asked to critique my own workplace wardrobe I would say I consider myself fashionable but not “too young.”
The entire situation got me to thinking. What is the best way to handle unsolicited advice?
Considering my manager had never approached me about my attire and confident in my own abilities to dress myself as a grown woman, I decided to not put much merit into the consultant’s comment and not let it get me down.
During our careers we will all receive advice, feedback and criticism and some of it may very well be solicited and constructive. We shouldn’t be afraid to receive advice from others as it could play a part in helping us to grow as a professional. On the other hand if, and when, you do receive a piece of advice that you question, ask a valued colleague for their opinion on the matter. Finally, trust in yourself and have confidence in your own capabilities knowing that you made it this far in your career through hard work, experience and dedication.
And, when it’s all said and done, it’s your opinion that really matters most of all.
Photo credit iStockphoto
Months ago, fellow contributor Debbie J. Brown wrote about her role model and the difference it made for her having one. I think it’s awesome that she has someone that she can look to for inspiration, however, that’s not always the case.
We’ve talked a lot about mentors and role models on this site, (here and here for example) and I think there is a reason why. Even though women now have a slight majority in the workplace, we are still vastly under-represented in executive level/management/leadership roles. I’m confident that will change, given time, but I think it is also clear that we keep talking about role models because, as women, we feel we need more of them.
Here’s the problem though: we already have plenty of role models.
They are everywhere - at work, in our families, on the television, and in our communities. Every woman in our lives is a role model in their own way. We can’t help but be influenced by them and learn from them.
The real question we should be asking ourselves is not, “Who are our role models?” but “What kind of role models are they?” Do the women around us encourage our development? Do they want us to succeed? Do they provide us with the right kind of examples to emulate? In what areas of our life do we actually want them to influence? And maybe more importantly, if our role models are the women around us, then aren’t we role models to them as well?
What kind of example are you providing to others?
Personally, I don’t have any one woman, or man for that matter, that I can point to and say they were my role model. So many people have helped shape who I am, in many different ways, for good and bad. Some have been role models if only to know what i should NOT do. And that’s ok. Role models are like the advice they provide - take it all with a grain of salt knowing that no matter their intentions, you need to do what is best for you in the end.
Trust yourself and your own judgment. And if you find yourself not liking the role models that you have, go find some new ones. You’re influenced by them more than you think.
I have a confession to make.
I don’t always stick up for myself.
It’s not that I’m shy - anyone who has met me would attest to that. It’s not that I’m easy to bully - there’s no way I will put up with that. It’s just, well, I don’t know.
If I get bad customer service, unless it is truly egregious, I won’t say anything – I just won’t come back. Even though it is the first thing I advise job seekers, I was really anxious when I recently reached out to my network for my job search. And if my feelings get hurt by a friend? Well, if I know they didn’t mean it, I’m more likely to never say anything than to confront them on it.
I guess you could say that I am not a good advocate for myself.
Yet, I seem to have no problem being an advocate for others. Give me a person, company, or cause to get behind and I have no problem speaking up. A friend is looking for work? I will dig through my network to find them the right connections. My boss asks me to speak to managers about an unpopular policy change? Bring it on, I know what needs to be said. And so on.
And I know I’m not alone in this.
How many of you find yourself doing the same thing when you end up putting the needs of your kids, friends, job, whatever, before your own? Sometimes it feels like advocating for yourself is selfish when in fact it’s only natural – and necessary.
Now, we all know that women on average still earn less than men. I know, I know, a lot of stuff goes into that statistic. But it would be hard to argue that part of the discrepancy is not due to the simple fact that when it comes to pay, women aren’t good advocates for their own worth. In fact, women who work for other women tend to earn less than if they worked for a man. That is a sad statistic. If you are a manager, and you can’t even be a good advocate for your team, how good of an advocate are you for your company or even yourself? We are all worth so much more and deserve so much better.
So here I am, giving you permission to stand up for yourself. If you won’t, no one else will. And at the same time, I’m going to make sure I take my own advice too.
Photo credit iStockPhoto