That’s how most women feel when we reach for a higher rung, take a risk, put ourselves out there. Some little voice inside is sure that the world is about to find out that we’re not who we pretend to be, that we don’t know enough, that we don’t have the right to share our educated opinion or present ourselves as an expert.
There are lots of reasons why women have this reaction, including eons of cultural conditioning, and It’s one thing to contend with outside pressures, but it’s really a problem when we internalise it and believe that we don’t have the right to speak up, that we don’t have experience or validity.
One reason that researchers have found is that women think they have to know everything about a subject before we can claim expertise. While men, when offered a job, tend to believe that if they know 40% of necessary skills, they are ready to take on the challenge of the new position. They figure they will learn the rest as they go. Women, on the other hand, tend to believe that they need to have already-demonstrated experience in at least 97%. That means women don’t try for promotions nearly as much as men, and they miss the opportunity to grow by believing themselves unqualified.
Then women, rather than being confident they’ll learn as they go, have that awful worry in the back of their minds that someone will find out that they’re just faking it and they’re not the best person for the job.
Another reason is the mountain of negative reactions when we do speak up (why is Hillary bitchy and dishonest, while Bernie and every other male politician are forceful and passionate?). Women attack other women who show leadership as a competitive gesture. Men seem to need to take down the upstart who won’t stay in her place. Both sexes have been trained not to trust a woman in power, to see women in positions of authority as discordant – outside the bounds of what should be. It makes many people, even if they don’t realize it, feel a jolted.
And when there are that many negative reactions, there is not a lot of visible support, which makes taking a stand lonely, dangerous, and seemingly more doomed.
Then there’s the fact that women are trained to worry about what others think, to feel responsible for relationships, and to want everyone around them to be okay.
Women are taught to put everyone else’s needs first, and, if they’ve had children, they know how to do that really well.
But all of these reasons are not reason enough for women to hold ourselves back. We’re incredibly brave, intelligent, strong, caring, and dedicated. Plus, we see and know in ways that the world desperately needs. We offer wisdom and expertise in all areas – health, the environment, medicine, government, healing, the arts, technology, scientific discovery. We are vital to the understanding, maturity, and diplomacy needed for the people of the world to learn to talk to each other and care about each other, rather than posturing and threatening.
So how do we move beyond all the pressures that try to hold us back, both the external forces and our hidden voices within ourselves? It takes developing new strengths, learning to negotiate the work world in ways that honor our knowing and deal with others effectively. It takes identifying our hidden self-defeating beliefs, releasing them effectively through our energy systems (where all things are created), and developing empowering new ones. It means shifting our view of ourselves in relation to the world around us, so that we embody a centered empowerment, a confidence, and a joy in challenge, in risk, and in discovery.
What would the world be like if women were able to claim our creative energy and our true leadership capacities?
What do you think?