In my last blog post, I wrote about my own experience with disempowerment, and the relationship between this and a hypervigilent or “inner critic” way of being that can limit potential for women. In this blog post, I’ll flesh out the hypervigilent way of being: how it shows up, and what to do about it.
Leadership, entrepreneurship, and general “success in life” are often associated with courage, risk, and assertiveness. These qualities are necessary for growth, for inspiring action and for change.
And what kind of mindset is required to take risks, to be what we tend to call “courageous,” and to be healthily assertive?
I mentioned in my last blog post the difference between two different mindsets that Tara Mohr calls “inner critic” versus “realistic thinking.” She differentiates the two by a set of key characteristic differences.
The inner critic mindset tends to: see how things aren’t working or won’t work, generally focuses on problems and areas of lack, speaks in an anxious tone, is overly self-critical, and tends to see things in black or white (it’s this way or it’s that way), while at the same time, tending not to see things objectively (i.e., forming judgments pre-evidence).
The “realistic thinking” mindset, in contrast, is open-minded and exploratory. It’s curious, and comfortable in ambiguity – in navigating grey. It asks what’s possible, and is appreciative: “How might it be possible? What part of this looks possible?” It feels comfortable taking risks because it, fundamentally, believes in it’s ability to navigate what arises. It speaks in a calm tone.
One mindset tries hard to keep things the same, the other handles change and chaos well. Which one thrives as a leader or an entrepreneur? Who can thrive in the chaos of life better?
A friend and social equity professional, Therese Boullard (who is also my running partner!) recently told me of a statistic that women often only apply for jobs where they meet 100% of the criteria, whereas men will generally apply for jobs where they meet only 60% of the criteria (the finding comes from a Hewlett Packard internal report, and has been quoted in Lean In, The Confidence Code and dozens of articles).
Who’s the optimist in the job application situation? The men who apply despite the criteria, or the women who don’t because of them?
Who’s assuming they have a good probability of a positive outcome?
And who’s more likely to create a positive outcome for themselves as a result of assuming that there will be one?
Tara Mohr writes about how women are the reliable doers in organizations – rather than the risk takers and innovators.
***How do we turn this around and become curious and relaxed enough in ourselves that we are able to take the risks that we need to take – to have the influence that we want, and respond to what is calling us?
I recently came across an addition to the Myers-Briggs personality typing system. The addition of another type choice that runs throughout the 16 personalities as an additional possibility: turbulent or assertive personalities. These types are somewhat parallel to Tara Mohr’s “inner critic” versus the “realistic thinker.”
Turbulent types are more likely to be self-conscious perfectionists, concerned about their abilities or about how others perceive them. That is, they don’t feel safe and assume that the world will support them – they feel they need to manage how others perceive them, and evaluate and re-evaluate how they can perform better. That means they’re risk-adverse – because they’re keenly aware of failure. My other blog posts have discussed why this is (esp. Smart Women and Assertiveness) – however a synopsis is that women have good reasons to assume that they are at the mercy of others’ judgments (i.e., they are breaking the status quo simply by being female and leading), and that their environments won’t necessarily support their leadership. That they will fail if they do not proactively manage others expectations.
So higher risk of failure for women = more anxiety around risk = a risk adverse mindset = less risks taken.
And then we miss out on the potential, the entrepreneurship, and the leadership and success we want to embody.
So how does a woman integrate more toward an assertive/“realistic thinking” personality?
***How do we feel SAFE ENOUGH to risk???
I referenced InSead’s Faculty and Research Working Paper: Taking Gender into Account: Theory and Design for Women’s Leadership Programs in the Smart Women and Assertiveness video blog mentioned above. Amongst other things that the article mentions, it recommends that for women to shift the forces that don’t serve us, we need to participate in female only spaces to experiment in more “fail safe” environments. A space to take risks, and to be positively supported to create a new pattern for ourselves where we are encouraged and supported in taking the risks we need to take to move our lives forward with other women who are doing the same. And so, it becomes normalized. A re-patterning takes place. And that network carries us and supports us into less safe environments where we have been given enough support that there’s a tipping point – and our assumptions about what’s possible for us change – even if it hasn’t yet for the environments that we find ourselves in. We lead. We demonstrate what’s possible. Because we’ve changed.
*** This is why, along with the fact that women tend to be more relational, I’ll be offering an online group coaching program for women again this Fall, which is an iteration of the Step Into Your Sovereignty group coaching program promoted this Spring.
Watch for the Step Into Your Sovereignty 2.0 program launch in my next post in two weeks time!
As always, comments welcome below.