When “Lean In” No Longer Applies
As women we are surrounded with messages about female empowerment, we scream from the rooftops that we can do ANYTHING. And that we can do it better. We are told we can have all the success we desire if only we just “lean in.” If we push harder, play bigger, manage our emotions, keep our personal lives well, personal and honestly—play like a man.
While we could debate if even these tactics level the playing field for women in the workplace we need to get real for a second; why should we have to play like the boys? We don’t lead like them, we don’t manage like them, and I don’t believe we should have to compartmentalize our lives into a neat box so we can sit at the same table as them. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a proponent of being a strong woman—I like to think I am one. I speak my mind and I am not easily intimidated by others opinions or influenced by their agendas.
So what happens when a strong, driven woman, like me, decides she doesn’t want to play by someone else’s rules anymore? That her career is important but her family comes first. That her happiness and well-being is worth more then any paycheck attached to late nights, weekends or a toxic work culture. As much as we would like to pretend there isn’t, there are still a lot of stigmas around moms and working. You are viewed as selfish because you choose to work and spend to much time away from your kids. Or you are judged for not working. For being just a stay at home mom (which we all know is some of the hardest and most important work there is). Everyone has an opinion.
We talk so much about empowering women but the reality is we have a specific vision in mind about what that empowerment looks like, especially as it relates to women in the workforce. We want them to lead, to get ahead, to have a seat at the table. In reality empowerment is about having the power to do something. Anything we want, in fact. But the support for women whose choices are unconventional or fly in the face of what we think empowerment should look like is lacking.
Is this why many of us feel so powerless to choose what is right in our own lives? We spend our time and our energy worrying about what other people will think of our decisions. We obsess over worst case scenarios and have little faith in our ability to innately know what is right for us. Especially when faced with a chorus of negativity from our peers.
The reality is you don’t have to answer to anyone else’s agenda. You are not living their life and they certainly are not showing up to stand in for yours. Stop trying to build the life they want you to have and build the one you want. It is ok to say that you’ve had enough. It is ok to say you want something else. It is ok to feel you deserve more. This is what empowerment is. Empowerment is making the decisions that are right for you. Not the decisions that are “right”
When we stop trying to meet other people’s expectations, we open ourselves up to seeing all of the opportunity that is out there. To the understanding that we can do anything. And that ‘anything’ doesn’t have to be a 9 to 5 (or an 8 to 7!) or a career at all. You may be well on your way to climbing that straight corporate ladder but that doesn’t mean you can’t choose to get off any time you want. Everyday we choose how we show up, in our lives, in our jobs, for our families and our ourselves. Absence of active choice is not absence of choice. In other words, we can always choose differently. When we do nothing and stay the course, that too is a choice.
To often we stay in situations that no longer serve us because we have built up a narrative around what we must do. What we need to do. We can’t possibly believe that there are other options. Because we have held on so strongly to these limiting beliefs, we can’t see the opportunities around us. We are unable to take stock of our lives objectively and our ability for creative problem solving is stunted by the cant’s, must’s, and should’s running on loop in our head.
Your job does not define you, your career does not define you. Most importantly, other peoples’ opinions do not define you. Don’t turn their opinions into facts and don’t get derailed chasing someone else’s dream. Expectations are a powerful thing. They can keep you stuck in a job you hate, they can cause you to pursue a career you never wanted, to make decisions in your life based on a should instead of a want. Conversely expectations can free you. An expectation is the belief that something will happen or be the case in the future. If you expect to find joy in your life your belief that it exists will make it more apparent to you. If you expect you will succeed your belief in yourself will drive you to make it so. If you expect more from your career and your life your belief that it can be done will open you up to a world of possibilities.
Spend your time building a life you love. Let go of the things you think you should be doing. Let go of the opinions that don’t matter. Stop comparing your journey to someone else’s. Stop considering everything less then perfection as failure. Don’t spend your entire life on a path that’s leading to a place you don’t want to go. You have the ability to choose differently, to change the course of your life anytime you choose. Time is precious. However you choose to spend yours, spend it with the people you want to be with, in the places that feel like home, doing what you love. Whatever that looks like.
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