Tag Archives: Leadership

Are you true to yourself?

How often are you doing or saying something that does not feel quite right? As if you are saying someone else’s words or just doing something because others would expect of you? Or have you ever felt you are playing a role, or felt that you are a fraud?

If any of these examples ring true for you, then you were not being true to yourself.

Compromising our authenticity can lead to stress and unhappiness

Our society and culture still tends to expect women, in particular, to fit in, to compromise, to satisfy other people’s needs, be it their spouse, children, colleagues or parents. Trying to satisfy all those demands of people around them, women often compromise their true self, their authenticity, and often without consciously realising it.

When we are not being true to ourselves, we feel fragmented and lose confidence and trust in ourselves. It can lead to stress as our own needs remain unsatisfied. Women also find that in the long-term their health and fitness suffers, and they become increasingly unhappy and dissatisfied. In fact, in a recent Guardian article  ‘not being true to oneself’ was cited as the top regret by people close to death.

When we are true to ourselves we feel satisfied and happy. We are brimming with energy, confidence and motivation; in short we feel good about ourselves.

Being true ourselves …what does that mean?

There are a lot of authors who have written about authenticity and being ourselves. Personally, I like the three components of authenticity put forward by Goffee and Jones in their book: Why should anyone be led by you?. They fit well with the NLP and other self-development processes that helped me and my clients.

In my view there are three steps to being true to yourself:

Being self-aware and conscious of your own feelings and needs

When asked whether they are self-aware, most people nod and say: Yes, of course!. But, a good number of us are not as self-aware as we think we are. Especially we women are very good at ignoring our feelings and needs in favour of those of others. And, habitually putting others first, leaves us out of practice being in tune with what we feel and need, let alone giving it a voice.

If the above resonated with you or you know a friend or colleague who falls into the others’ first and my needs are not important category, here is an easy way to raise your awareness of what you feel and what you need to be yourself:

  • Ask yourself: “What am I feeling?” Name the feeling(s), and acknowledge them. Be gentle with yourself.
    If you do not find it easy to name your feelings, check out this classification of emotions
  • Then ask yourself: “What do I need? Name the need or needs, and whatever they are, acknowledge them.

My top tips are: 

  • refrain from judging and analysing your feelings and needs. What ever you feel and need it is right at that particular moment.
  • Once you have named and stated them, consider how you might be able to act on your feelings and needs[1]. Sometimes it is all about saying ‘no’ to things next time or stating what you want instead.
  • Also check out my article on What’s your self-care strategy? for further inspiration.

Being grounded and comfortable with who you are

This is all about knowing and being in tune with who you are and what you stand for. You know and are proud of where you have come from and who you are now. You are comfortable in yourself and as a woman. Not being grounded means that you constantly feel the ground is shifting beneath you, and you feel unsettled and ill at ease.

If you are not already grounded in yourself, take some time to find out about yourself. Go on a fun journey of discovery allowing time for yourself to get to know who this wonderful woman, that is you, is. Questions that can help you the story of YOU , are:

  • What is important to me? (ask yourself this question a number of times and for different areas of your life)
  • What do I stand for?
  • What is my story? And, how comfortable am I with that story? (where do you come from, you origins, how did you get to where you are now?)
  • What is my identity as a woman?

To make this journey even deeper and your story more meaningful to you, consider journalling or unconscious writing. Both work best after a meditative practice. If meditation is not for you, consider putting some lovely music on after a pampering session and take some deep breaths into your core, to centre yourself before asking yourself the questions above. And, just keep writing until your inspiration rests.

Knowing and fully embracing who we are, grounds us in ourselves, and helps us to be true to ourselves and lays the groundwork for being consistent in what we say and how we act.

Being consistent and standing up for your needs and who you are

Do you say what you do and do what you say?

This equally applies to our interactions with others and our relationship with ourselves.

When we say things we don’t mean, and do not follow-up what we say with actions, others start to mistrust us and lose confidence in our abilities. Guess what, the same applies to ourselves. When we say we will do something for ourselves, and not do it, we lose confidence and trust in ourselves. Putting ourselves last signals to us, that we are not important, even if we are trying to portray the opposite to the outside world.

The first steps to being consistent are self-awareness and being grounded. Once you acknowledge what you feel and need, what is important to you and what you stand for, you can take action.

Let’s take an example: if you feel slightly stressed that your colleague comes to again just before your need is to focus on your own deadlines (going home, to lunch or project deadlines), and what’s important to you is being friendly and supportive, you might consider stating your feelings to your colleague and suggesting someone else as their contact point this time. It is helpful to run through these kind of scenarios, especially if they are repetitive situations, beforehand, so you already know what you are going to do and say next time the situation where you want to be true to yourself happens.

Consider the following questions:

  • How do know you are being xxx or have xxx? Substitute xxx for the quality, value, need or characteristic that is important to you or you stand for. It can also be a quality or value you want to embody from now on.
  • What does it mean when you are being xxx or xxx?
  • What will you see, hear, feel or say, or do when you are being xxx or have xxx? (do this for any scenario where you were not true to yourself in the past and want to change how you are being)

Being clear about what it means be you, will help you to be consistent, and it will help to avoid some of those ‘wish I had not done that/said that’ episodes. 

I invite you to do this practice as often as you can. It does not take long, maybe a just a few minutes every day to centre yourself in your true self – our needs change, you change and you experience different situations daily, and different things are important at different times.

Allow yourself every day to be true to yourself – like everything else it just takes a little daily practice.

Enjoy being your true self.

[1] In an ecological way, which means in a way safe and has a positive and evolving impact on our lives.

The famous Glass Ceiling – how real is it?

Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A recent study by the ILM discovered that 73% of women  believe a glass ceiling (obstacles) is preventing them from reaching senior positions. The ILM survey identified that women are held back by lower confidence and lower ambitions and hard factors such as maternity and child
care related issues. Some articles even go so far as to say that the glass ceiling only exists in women’s heads. Fact is, fewer women than men aim for and/or reach senior management positions.

When I researched this topic, I was reminded of Henry Ford’s
famous quote: “Whether you believe you  can do a thing or not, you are right.” Whether the glass ceiling is real, a  collective myth or a figment of a woman’s imagination does not really matter.  For the women who feel that it exists, it is very real and influences their  career and often life decisions.

For each woman the glass ceiling is likely to be slightly  different. Each woman has her own set of limiting beliefs (e.g. how ambitious  she can be, how much she is worth) and her own external obstacles depending on  the environment (e.g. company, chosen career field, country) she lives and  works in.

In this and the following article I want to explore what we  as women can do to break through our glass ceilings, external or internal, real  or imagined, and achieve the success we want in your chosen career or life  path.

In order to deal with our glass ceiling we first have to  identify and get to know it.

So, what or where is  your glass ceiling? What is holding you back?

This is not an easy exercise to do and takes a bit of time  and effort. Ideally, write down any thoughts that come to mind when you ask  yourself the above question. I invite you to review the area of your life that you feel most dissatisfied with. It can be in your career, your studies, your  home life, your fitness, or any other area of your life. What are you telling  yourself about this area of your life? Listen out for any phrases like: ‘I  can’t go any further because’, ‘I am held back by’, ‘there is no point,  because’, ‘I am not’, ‘it is very hard for me to’. If you can write all these  down and really get to know your glass ceiling.

One of the findings of the ILM survey was that a lot of  women did not want to become managers. Therefore before we deal with the glass  ceiling we need to be absolutely clear on whether we really want that next management position or not (or any other goal beyond our glass ceilings).

How important is  ‘breaking through’ your glass ceiling to you?

To achieve our goals we need to dedicate time and effort. We  often have to be prepared to sacrifice other activities in the short or long  term. The same goes for breaking through glass ceilings. So if all your real  and perceived obstacles were no longer there, and as if by magic the glass  ceiling would disappear, and you had that next promotion (or substitute here whatever your glass ceiling is), what would that be like? Imagine yourself having achieved it and being that senior manager (or having moved beyond your glass ceiling). Would it be worth it? And what other areas of your life (if any) have gained or suffered?

If you totally and utterly want to move beyond your currently perceived glass ceiling, then there are a number of things you can do to either break it or at least start getting it to crack in places. Some ideas I want to offer you are:

Break or put cracks into your glass ceiling

For each statement you wrote down earlier on what is holding
you back, do the following:

  • For each obstacle, write down what it would or
    could take to get rid of it, put a crack in it or move beyond it.
  • Ask yourself, what belief would be more useful
    to have instead or what would your ideal scenario be? And what evidence would
    you need to support this?

Be as creative as you can and accept any thought that comes to mind. If you find this difficult, imagine a friend wrote down all those obstacle statements and she asked you to help her find ways to deal with her obstacles or glass ceiling.

Now consider the following, if the glass ceiling was not there, how would act differently right now, today, tomorrow, next week?

Sometimes, it can help us to just mentally move beyond our obstacles. Pick just one of your obstacles and imagine the opposite was true (or your ideal scenario). What would that be like? What would change in your behaviour as a result of the opposite of this obstacle being true? If you can, try it out in practice and act differently and see what happens. You might be surprised by the results.

As this is a topic that is affecting a lot of women, we will come back to it next week with some hints and tips how to break through, smash or at least get some cracks into that glass ceiling.

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

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