I spent an extraordinary amount of energy in my professional life “keeping it all together.” I had gathered the impression in my life that I couldn’t be “too” anything and still be accepted as a professional.
I couldn’t be too opinionated, too loud, too vibrant, too feminine, be too goofy, too playful, too emotional, make too many mistakes, ask too many questions, etc. I felt a deeper fear of being judged as not qualified to hold a powerful position if I was too much of me. So I embraced the masculine sides of myself that were more controlled.
I know many women feel this way in the world of business. They are also holding themselves to standards that define how they “should be” in their role and they leave the other parts of themselves out. When they put on their work attire for the day they also create emotional containers around themselves that limit what they will tolerate from themselves at work.
Weighing out what we do in any situation is a huge part of being a professional. So yes, we must be self-aware. But many women are actually not in a state of self-aware, they are in a state of vigilance and anxiety when something becomes “too much.”
We get to this place from conditioning and messaging from family, society, colleagues and we strive to be “balanced” and stay in our containers so that we are accepted and valued.
The other place I see this is the conversation for women around “having a balanced life.” Balancing work, children, play, friends, social outlets. Don’t give too much but also watch that you don’t give too little. “Fu*k balance” is what I hear in my head whenever I am reading some magazine article about women balancing their lives to stay healthy. Blah. Blah. Blah.
Balance is another form of controlling ourselves so we are expending a bunch of our energy making sure we aren’t “too” anything.
A passionate life is more of what I advocate for. When we are embracing the moment of strong opinion, interest, activity, idea we generate more energy for ourselves. Embracing the desire to relax, rest and rejuvenate by allowing it 100% of our focus is how we generate energy. This creates a state of ease rather than an effort to stay balanced.
Women who are powerful and attract me the most are the ones who are “too” anything. I don’t always have to agree with them but I deeply appreciate that they awaken me and make me think and feel.
I used to strive to tamp down parts of me that might lead to judgment … and truthfully at times I still struggle with this. Changing habitual reactions takes time. I have a practice of being aware and I catch myself sooner. So when that feeling in my stomach arises and that voice starts telling me to quiet down, or that I don’t want to rock the boat … I watch it, hear it and then make a decision to move forward.
And it continues to fascinate and invigorate me that people are way more interested when I am unleashed, vulnerable and real.
The quote I often see on bumper stickers just came to my mind “Well behaved women rarely make history” by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. I know that most women don’t actually care about making history but the quote always triggers images of creating big and feeling fully engaged, of playing full out and creating a ripple effect in other people.
And since work and life are just parts of this big experiment called life – why not play with the results you get when you are “too” something. It is more likely that only you think you are being “too much” when really others are feeling your passion and your presence.