I was listening to Pharrell’s Lemon video when I heard him so eloquently state: “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” Not too long ago I stumbled across the following words that sparked an immediate eye roll before acknowledging while the truth sometimes hurts; it’s still the truth nevertheless. Here’s what I read:
Women are their own worst enemy. Research shows that women are generally kinder, more nurturing and empathetic to others than men. At the same time, they’re meaner, more dismissive and critical of themselves. Women are hard on themselves. We are self-critical, we cannot take compliments, we always focus on our failings and we have a knack of blaming sexual evolution for our problems. A well-known saying is show me a woman who doesn’t doubt herself and I’ll show you a liar. Whether it be our looks, our thoughts or our performance at work, there is always something that we are not happy about and that we would change if we could.
Is this entire sentiment factual? No. Is this true for all women? Of course not. Have I experienced some of these undesirable traits? Yes. Do these characteristics show up in our careers? Absolutely.
It’s imperative that women transition from being their own worst enemy to their self-proclaimed best advocate. In doing so, there is an opportunity to manage your energy and your expectations of self.
- Energy: Physics defines energy as the capacity to work, however energy stems from the body, emotions, mind, and spirit. In October 2007, Harvard Business Review published “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time” by Catherine McCarthy and Tony Schwartz. Based on a study of Wachovia employees ranging from senior leaders to lower level managers, the results concluded 68% had a positive impact on their relationships with clients; 71% observed a noticeable or substantial positive impact on their productivity and performance. While managing your energy consider:
- Identifying rituals that build and renew your physical energy (body)
- Understanding your triggers, especially as they relate to fight or flight responses which cause you to react impulsively vs intentionally (emotions)
- Managing distractions and focus on activities that yield long-term leverage (mind)
- Considering your values as well as what gives your life a sense of meaning and purpose. Simply put, do something every day that matters to you (spirit)
- Expectations: Understand and acknowledge that your standards and expectations are not one in the same. A standard is a baseline for quality while an expectation is a strong belief that something will happen in the future. However, both expectations and standards are influenced by the mental narrative we replay over and over again. When managing your expectations, assess your thoughts according to the anticipated goal or outcome. If there’s a contradiction between what you’re thinking and what you intend to produce, upgrade your thoughts. For example, if my goal is to expand globally but I tell myself how unprepared or unqualified I am, I’ll prioritize my actions based my deficiencies not my expertise. My expectations are then subconsciously downgraded during the process only for me to question why I’m challenged in my attempts to achieve the goal. Your thoughts and outcomes must be in alignment as you manage expectations of self, otherwise clarity will continue to evade your intellect.
Between inequities and microaggressions, women consistently face organizational sledgehammers in conjunction with institutional mindsets that hinder their professional progress. Bare minimum, we must begin to manage our energy as well as our expectations so we can own the inside work that moves us from self-sabotaging to self-advocate; from a focus on unequal access (opportunities, hot jobs, etc.) to a workplace authority/subject matter expert, and from critical “what do I need to change now” to confident “I’m not perfect but my performance is valuable to this department and organization.”
Ericka Spradley is the President of Confident Career Woman which is the premier consulting firm for corporations and the mid-career professional woman who wants to advance, better manage her career, and go further faster. Ericka is an advocate who partners with clients to help women ditch perfection, play bigger and make PowHer Moves by: identifying their next role, creating a career strategy, offering ongoing career guidance, and coaching clients to master interviews. For additional information, visit: ErickaSpradley.com