Recently, I watched an Omega Institute for Holistic Studies live webcast “Strength, Courage and Wisdom” with TED icon Brene’ Brown and Zen priest Joan Halifax Roshi.
They were talking about finding your strength and how important it is to know your capacity and own it. I loved that Joan Roshi said, “Remember to take an in-breath.” Then she posed the question “How can you take care of the world, if you don’t take care of yourself? You must love and show kindness to yourself.”
“The female identity is being a care-giver or a do-gooder,” added Brene’ Brown. The conversation went on that it’s unfortunate that if a woman does take that in-breath, in our culture she is viewed as narcissistic. What I pulled from that part is that to have power, we also need to take care of our needs and not care how others perceive us. Sometimes you have to enlist the help of others and put down that do-it-all shield.
Talk is cheap, right? To really do this, you have to overcome your fear of what others think or any other feelings of inadequacy that you harbor. For women, it takes courage to take some of those “in-breaths” in our lives. And to really have power, you have to be your true self and speak your own truth. You have to speak up for yourself. If you have a supportive family and friends, it may be a little easier to do this kind of woo woo stuff in your personal life, but what about at work?
A report by Accenture “The next Generation of Working Women (2012)” finds women are less likely to speak up than men.
I think a lot of women are afraid to take those “in-breaths” at work. It’s hard to shift out of that do-it-all-myself mode or they are worrying about work politics and perceptions. When something needs to be done, even if it’s thankless work, I see women pick it up. As a result, I see a lot of really exhausted, frazzled women in high-tech – it’s no wonder they don’t speak up more.
But men do speak up. Early in my career I had a department manager who came to our remote office once a month. When he arrived everyone would line up at his desk and say, “I need you to sign my expense report, I need your input on this report, I need you to go visit this customer, and on and on.” This was his job. But one day half-way through the line he stood on his desk in our big open office and said, “You guys are so needy.” Then he screamed, “What about my needs!” He did this with humor, but he made his point.
After that people would approach his desk and say, “How’s it going? Can I help you with anything while you are in town? And would you sign my expense report?” It was a totally different dynamic. I actually got a lot more advice and input from him after this crazy episode, too. I learned that sometimes you have to speak up and state your terms.
Since then, every time I want to speak up, I stand on my desk (in my head, because I wear heels a lot!) and scream (also in my head) “What about my needs!”
While I’m in this ridiculous position, screaming in my head, my fears seem a little ridiculous too. It gives me courage to be true to myself and state my terms. And when I think about it: nothing terrible has happened. More often than not, I do get what I need!
The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.