American women today represent more than half of the workforce in management, professional and related occupations.* Despite the fact that we collectively hold more power than any time in history, many of us feel invisible – unseen and unsatisfied.
The emotional dissonance of this paradox — that we ARE visibly powerful, yet FEEL hidden and that our fullest potential remains unexpressed — is the place we need to investigate if we want to tap our full power potential and create change in our unique spheres of influence.
Addressing this paradox gives us an opportunity to learn and embrace a new truth: we can never fix the outer world enough to change our inner-world. Each woman who integrates this new truth, sets off a chain reaction of healing across our planet.
The principles below have guided me on my path from invisible to invincible. If they resonate for you, we’re probably a good fit to work together.
1. Pay special attention to your discontent. Whether with yourself, your relationships or your work, your dissatisfaction is the door to your untapped power. Every goal you’ve ever had is an attempt to solve discontent. Yet there’s only been one reason for your goals – ever. You were chasing a feeling that you thought that goal realized would provide. When you observe that the achievement of your goals has rarely provided any lasting satisfaction, you become open to discovering where your fulfillment truly lies. That feeling you’ve been chasing is your power. And your power can never be found in external achievement. It can only be found within.
2. Understand that if you feel invisible it means that at some point you agreed to hide. The problem with feeling invisible is that you likely think another person has to see you in order to feel visible. This thinking, in turn, gives the other person all the power and you none. When you realize that you can only be invisible if you agree to it, then you can begin to reclaim your power to be seen.
3. Turn your relationships over to their rightful owner: your society. They do not belong to you. Your relationships are your legacy and the footprint you leave on the world. Everything about how you live your life impacts every relationship you have. And each human being you encounter then goes out into the world influenced by you in one of three ways: they are empowered, they are hurt, or they are cheated of the difference you could have made. One of the casualties of feeling invisible is that you get fooled into thinking you don’t matter. But you matter more than you can ever know.
4. Nurture your feminine soul at work. The American workplace is starved for it and doesn’t even know it. Our foremothers sacrificed much to forge a path of visibility. They staked their claim to equal rights and opportunities in male-dominated arenas, and leaned upon a male power model. This was the only visible and valid framework at the time. Unfortunately, that model has cultivated an entire population of women with highly developed masculine sides (and conversely, malnourished feminine sides). Our work environments reflect the same. There’s a female power model that’s yet to be fully revealed at both individual and institutional levels. As we embrace our curiosity and reveal this new framework, balance between the sexes will return and a new kind of partnership will generate new opportunities.
5. Accept that you’re a leader. You are whether you like it or not. Leadership doesn’t require an official role or title. Leadership is about knowing that you do indeed matter and have an impact on those you touch everyday. Even — and especially — as you lead your own life. To believe you don’t make a difference is the same as consciously choosing not to own your power. As you become willing to truly see how you affect (e.g. lead) the people in your orbit, you become more and more visible to yourself and the world.
6. Be a woman who champions other women. For the world to return to it’s fullest potential we, as women, must come home to each other. For this to happen we must heal the places we have hurt each other. While our power as leaders comes from a willingness to visibly stand for what we believe in, our strength as leaders comes from knowing we are supported by each other. When other women hurt or betray us, it can feel close to impossible to extend the olive branch of forgiveness. Yet a higher purpose — one that serves the wider community — can motivate us to rise to the occasion. Remembering the needs of the world can eliminate the illusion that we have the option to hold grudges.
7. Open your arms and hearts beyond the comfort zones of your cliques. Culture, religion, race, socio-economics, sexual orientation and gender identity can act as lines of division. We come together one woman at a time – one smile, one hello, one handshake, one moment of open-hearted curiosity at a time. Every woman has a light with which to brighten the communities she touches.
8. See past gender stigmas. Masculine and feminine qualities are not sex or gender specific. Embrace the full spectrum of these qualities as valuable and essential to experiencing and expressing your untapped power. The fight for equality produced distortions that cause women and men to judge, blame, and reject valuable aspects of themselves. Whether rooted in the metaphysical framework of the yin-yang symbol or the study of hunters and gatherers, understanding polarities and celebrating the full-spectrum of human expression helps us to contribute to our fullest potential.
9. Cultivate productive relationships with men. Collaborative partnerships are essential to our future in every way. In our pursuit of equal rights and opportunities, we tend to see men as the ‘haves’ and women as the ‘have-nots’. Whether or not we dare admit it, this simplistic view fuels an adversarial dynamic between men and women. By definition, in an adversarial relationship, the best we could ever hope for would be a win-lose scenario. If, however, half the planetary population loses, everyone loses. While inequality still exists in certain arenas, we have outgrown our original strategy for progress. It’s time to shift from fighting for our rights to standing for the common good. Our strength as women is rooted in our passion for relationships.
10. Understand pain and fear as a non-negotiable call for courage. The root of all invisibility is fear. We need not look far to find evidence that taking a stand and being seen can be a threatening proposition. Once we understand our part in agreeing to hide, we face our next invisibility hurdle: dealing with the fear of being seen. This fear — if we give into it — makes us part of the problem, not the solution. As long as we dare to own our power, fear will be a recurring visitor. As we accept fear, and transform our relationship to it, we come home to our invincibility.
The desire for a better life and a better world is universal. What is unique, however, is what we do with this desire. Many of us have directed this yearning to produce practical and impressive outcomes. But outer world strategies can only take us so far.
While we have achieved great things, unfulfilled potential gnaws at us. And a persistent inner voice whispers, “You know you’re bigger than this.”
My inner whisper became so strong that it summoned an external voice I could not ignore. It came as the voice of the Dalai Lama. “The world will be saved by the Western Woman.” His words pulled me out of hiding. If you’re ready to join me, please comment below.
And if you leave near Salem, Oregon, I’m teaching a workshop on June 13th entitled, REVEAL – A Professional Woman’s Path from Invisible to Invincible. I’d love to see you! For more info go to: bit.ly/reveal-workshop (At the time of this posting, 19 seats have been taken and space is limited. If this speaks to you, let your inner whisper guide you.)
*Department of Professional Employees, AFL-CIO, Fact Sheet 2015, “Professional Women: A Gendered Look At Occupational Obstacles And Opportunities”
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