On Thursday, I wrote about women’s increasing economic and professional power as well as the backlash from the patriarchy in the form of assaults on women’s rights and bodies and a resurgence of the old boy’s club in corporate America. The answer is to bypass the current system. How, you ask? We must recognize that power and use it boldly.
So what’s stopping us? Surprisingly, it’s not the outer patriarchy that does the most damage. It’s the patriarch we all have inside that limits us.
That voice that bellows, “You won’t be taken seriously. You can’t do this. Don’t make waves!” For women at midlife and beyond, the voice gets particularly nasty: “It’s too late for you. You’re not credible unless you are young and beguiling! Haven’t you got that yet?”
Shaming and guilting us, the voice hits every nerve we have, plunging us into self-doubt. We can’t be successful without abandoning our families. We aren’t strong enough, smart enough, savvy enough for that promotion. Or we’re just not ready.
Virginia M. Rometty, recently promoted to chief executive at IBM, remembers how, early in her career, she was offered a position she didn’t feel she was ready for, so she told the recruiter she needed to think about it.
That night, her husband asked her, “Do you think a man would have ever answered that question that way?”
“What it taught me was you have to be very confident, even though you’re so self-critical inside about what it is you may or may not know,” she said at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit this month. “And that, to me, leads to taking risks.” (“For Incoming I.B.M. Chief, Self-Confidence is Rewarded.”)
Stop waiting until you are perfect before you seize an opportunity—or better yet, create one. Start from where you are and take the leap, learning as you go.
Stop listening to the voice that tells you you’re selfish if you care about money, or that there’s just not enough to go around. That you can’t be successful without being a bitch or a whore. Or, most insidious because its so ingrained, that you are just not good enough and never will be.
This voice seeps into the words we use in our thoughts, speech, and writing, and those words become a self-fulfilling prophecy: Women are never successful in this field. It’s just too hard to balance everything in my life. I can’t make a living and do something meaningful. It’s just not realistic. My business idea can’t succeed in this economy.
Michael Port has an excellent blog post on this idea. One of his examples is spot on when it comes to success: “If you generalize that, ‘All rich people are snobs,’ how are you going to see yourself as a wealthy person so that you can improve your professional and financial status?”
Right now, especially, with the top 1% being considered synonymous with unethical, greedy, and criminal, it’s difficult for us to strive toward the wealth we need to make our visions a reality. Of course, some, and maybe even many, of the 1% are unethical and even criminal, but certainly not all. The more successful you are, the more resources and power you have to make a difference. It’s how you choose to use your money, and how you choose to earn it, that is important. Having money itself is not evil.
We need to start being more careful about the words we choose, particularly when speaking to ourselves. We need to consciously replace that inner patriarch with the voice of our inner visionary. The visionary tells us, “Take your attention off other people. Keep focused on your goal. Everyone’s vision is worth the same! You know what you are doing. Go for it!”
Replace Women are never successful in this field with We need more women in this field to reinvent it and improve it. The field needs ME.
It’s just too hard to balance everything in my life with I can choose what matters most to me and not waste time and energy on other things, especially living up to other people’s expectations.
I can’t make a living and do something meaningful with The world craves people and businesses who live and work their values, who can make a real difference, and people will pay for it, now more than ever.
My business idea can’t succeed in this economy with How can I make my business idea succeed in this economy?
Perhaps most important, replace It’s too late for you. You’re not credible unless you are young and beguiling! with My experience, my talents and intelligence, and my unique perspective make the timing perfect for me to act now. I know how to focus on what really matters. All great visionaries have wrinkles.
Start paying attention to your words today and make a conscious effort to change them, for only by doing so can you transform yourself and the world.
What negative messages does your inner patriarch say to you? What could your inner visionary retort?
Image credit: Photograph by John Evans