It’s all in the mind, I truly believe in that! I would like to share my thoughts on some of the mental barriers that, in my opinion, hold working women back and limit them from realising their full potential!
Years of childhood conditioning have glorified and celebrated qualities like ‘sensitive’ ‘accommodating/ ability to sacrifice’, ‘selfless’ and ‘soft spoken’ in the girl child. These very ‘virtues’ get so ingrained in our mindset that once women start working, these virtues can limit rather than lift them at the workplace. I have experienced this in my career as well. However, the good news is that self awareness is the first and most important step in the road to evolution and growth. So let’s drop this self-limiting behaviour; it’s never too late to change!
She is so ‘adjusting’ as if we are elastic bands and nothing more! She has sacrificed this and that and more. This very ‘virtue’ fills a woman with guilt when she has to say ‘no’ to a school event or family function in order to prioritize a work meeting. It limits her ability to ask for help and support. I always quote that women are super at time management but terrible at guilt management.
Learning to say ‘no’ to people and unproductive demands and not being accommodating all the time is a must for a working woman who has to do the super human task of genuinely balancing multiple roles in our society. Guilt depletes one and limits one from being their productive best. In fact it is good and essential to be selfish at times, ask for help and take that time off to take care of their own needs and priorities.
2. Soft spoken
Being humble is a very important trait but even the most humble leaders can be assertive and demanding when they are committed to their project at hand. Women need to be tough as nails and speak up in today’s corporate world and not be apologetic if it gets ‘loud’ in meetings. They need to internalise that this stems from their passion and it is ok to be ‘heard’ in whatever manner that helps.
Girls are complimented for being very sensitive and fragile. While this can translate into empathy, a much-needed quality in a leader, very often I have seen this surface as a massive weakness. One important example, very often I have seen managers apprehensive of sharing important critical feedback with their women employees due to the extensive crying during and post feedback!
How is this in any way helpful for the company or the women employee? Crying is not something to be ashamed of but it shouldn’t limit your ability to learn and develop. And if being sensitive limits your ability to grow, it is time to practise discipline and self control techniques through various self-help books or a counsellor.
4. External validation
We live in a society where ‘well meaning’ relatives and neighbours give ‘friendly’ advice on making our girls perfect daughter and daughter-in-law material. This constant barrage of ‘advice’ gets so deeply ingrained in our system that along the way, women lose their independent voice and let societal biases define their journey, goals and self worth. Feedback is important, validation isn’t; don’t not let your self-esteem be the subject of others’ opinion.
I was raised in a very conservative Gujarati family in a relatively traditional city like Pune and have gone through all above self-limiting virtues first hand. What has helped me evolve is finding good mentors (both male and female) to help me think through my issues. What has also helped me is quiet time where I can self talk and listen to my inner voice which guides me towards my deepest ambitions and desires. Scheduling this in our over stretched calendars is as important as scheduling time for other daily chores!
Women’s movement in India is still in its nascent stage but ‘it’s all in the mind’ has never been truer and more relevant than today and it is critical that we overcome these mental challenges and truly get our place in the Sun!