Read an article last week about the negative behaviors of professional women that made my eye twitch. 🙂 The article struck a chord because although the behaviors may have been true in some cases, the article was written by someone who had not achieved the level of success of the women that were being judged. Many professional women carry high levels of stress and anxiety, and article from other women attacking their character displays poor character and taste.
T.D. Jakes said, “When people haven’t been through what you’ve been through…their advice is corrupted with the arrogance of their inexperience.”
There is no right or wrong here, it’s all about perspective. I would like to offer insight from the perspective of a former high achieving workaholic in an effort to educate and inform.
Display Masculine Behavior
To “assimilate” is to conform or adjust to the customs, attitudes of a group, nation or the like. In some instances, in order to be successful, taken seriously and considered a like counterpart, some women consciously and unconsciously assimilate into the culture of the majority; which is that of men.
High performing women are typically the only woman in a boardroom and can be one of 10 at high level conferences with over 200 attendees. We are expected to hold our own and not shrink at any point; or even notice or acknowledge that there are a low number of women in the room.
Mean and Ruthless
Paraphrasing the words of Napoleon Hill…people who are known as cold-blooded and sometimes ruthless are often misunderstood. They are those who use will-power and persistence to fuel their desires to ensure the attainment of their objectives.
High performing women are goal setters and strive to achieve what we set our minds to. In our persistence to achieve, a number of people think we are competing with them, but don’t realize we are only competing with ourselves.
High performing women carry enormous amounts of stress and anxiety from playing psychological mind games, fighting to be heard, fighting for a seat at the table, being undervalued no matter the output of work and the snickering comments from people who don’t understand our drive and passion. This creates conflict in how we view ourselves and can lead to depression.
What people misinterpret are the wounds we carry. Some women who have fought endlessly for their position can get caught in a vicious cycle where we don’t know when or how to stop fighting. It’s easier to dismiss people who question our demeanor than defend our open wounds.
We don’t publicly display emotions, but that does not mean are emotionless. There is a time and a place for emotions and the workplace where we have worked hard to earn our seat at the table and genuine respect from others is not one of them. Stress and anxiety are replaced with a straight face or a smile.
Treat Counterparts as Enemies
In my previous position, new clients would dismiss me to talk to the men in the room. When they realized all the men worked for me, and I was the one making the final decisions, the meeting became very uncomfortable for them.
Because we are typically one of a few women in the room, we have likely endured comments from men that question our qualifications and credentials on a regular basis. We spend years fighting for a seat at the table and once we get there, we have to defend that seat every day, every conference and every time visiting clients come to the office; so we are always armed for battle.
If you operate in an environment where your value is not perceived or recognized, at times it’s hard to recognize friend from foe. Time has to be invested to build trusted relationships. The people who invest the time benefit greatly.
High performing women that give 120% on a daily basis and sacrifice their personal time, family time, and everything else for their positions can get caught in a cycle that’s hard to get out of. Because we become ingrained in the fabric and culture of the organization, it’s easy to get lost in the assumption that the organization can’t survive if we leave. However, there are also people within the organization that hold us to this standard, which can add to misperception.
When I considered resigning from my former position, there were numerous people who opposed, citing the loss to the organization (regardless of my desires). A friend said, “You can’t leave because you’re the one that’s supposed to break barriers for African American women.” I said, “Yeah, but I work so much, I feel like I sacrificed everything for my job. You left 10 years ago to live your dream as a Podiatrist and you’re married with four kids.” He responded, “Yeah, but you are the CHOSEN ONE, so you’re meant to sacrifice your life for the cause.” I hung up on him.
We don’t view ourselves as victims or say that we can’t achieve something because of our gender. We would rather spend our time with others in the battle making progressive movement than to listen to others complain about why women can’t move forward. We are social, just with people of like-minds.
We also mentor a number of women and men, and because our time is valuable, we only work with people who earn our time. We work hard to increase the number of qualified women in the room, and to educate men on some of the unconscious barriers they set up. This not only increases our workload but it also can deplete our energy, and lead to stress, anxiety and depression if we aren’t being properly nurtured. We need to be given just as much energy and care as we are giving out to others. This is typically not the case and causes burnout and exhaustion.
Looking back, the credentials and accolades I achieved in a short period of time were in a full effort to prove the naysayers wrong. Even after earning the credentials, the battles became fiercer and in some part pettier. It then dawned upon me that I was fighting to seek value from outward sources and that was a misstep. When I chose me, my whole life changed.
If you haven’t attained the level that only a few women have achieved, then you don’t know what was endured or sacrificed to get there; or what their driving force is for that level of achievement. High performing women break barriers, build bridges and create lasting impacts that benefit others. Instead of making comments, judgments or other menial statements about these ladies, you should offer a compliment, buy her flowers or even a gift certificate for a massage. It will bring sunshine to her day.
Christy Rutherford, an Executive Leadership Strategist, trains leaders on long-standing leadership principles to assist them with realizing their full potential and increase productivity. She also coaches Type A leaders who are suffering from burnout, which impacts their performance at work and home.
Download your free workbook: “Success Roadmap – 7 Powerful Ways To Get Clear On The Results You Desire” at www.christyrutherford.com
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