You’ve likely heard of the glass ceiling metaphor, which commonly refers to the external barriers that unfairly block women from advancing their careers. Last week we witnessed the shattering of the proverbial glass ceiling with the first female, first black and first Asian-American US vice-president.

Whether she was your candidate or not, I hope you can pause for just a moment to recognize that women are rising. We are rising above a barrier that can be unintentional, the cause of unconscious bias, and intentional in the form of overt discrimination and “power play.”

The bias against women is shifting, but what about bias towards yourself?

Let’s be honest…women judge other women and we harshly judge ourselves – a truth that is hard to swallow. However, these judgements, often triggered by self-comparison (conscious and unconscious), can provide guidance when embracing this wisdom: “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” -Carl Jung, Founder of Analytical Psychology

Shortly before Joe Biden chose Kamala Harris as his choice for Vice President, I read an article that negatively described her as a “pit bull”. I like pit bulls—they’re gentle and kind when cared for and fierce when threatened. I imagine Vice President Harris’s career carved out in a man’s world has been full of threats fed by biases, requiring the pendulum to swing towards strong behavior—the type of behavior that describes a man as tough with solid boundaries, and a woman as a bitch and self-serving.  

With every glass ceiling broken, with every unwittingly self-imposed barrier taken down, we move closer to a society that honors the value (and differences) of what men and women bring to the table, and you have an important part to play. Whether leadership is your goal, or a desire to be at ease with yourself and more present – every woman who commits to doing the inner work, that paves the path for releasing emotional encumbrances, becomes part of the fabric that affects change.

How do you break through your own glass ceiling? The answer begins with identifying your internal barriers formed from the social conditioning of women, that began the moment you took your first life-giving-breath.

Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

Six Steps for Identifying and Breaking Through Your Barriers

#1: Make a commitment to yourself to get curious.
What is the most common feeling that gets in your way? For me it was self-doubt and shame. Using the same methods I share when mentoring, I began to see clearly how insidious these feelings were in my life and took steps to shift what was holding me back. Stepping out of frustration and into curiosity supports ‘seeing things differently’ (getting unstuck).

#2: Be ever-so-mindful of your self-talk (aka thought-loops and doom-loops).
Judgement and negative self-talk fans the flame of self-doubt and self-comparison, creating invisible barriers to success and overall well-being, so even if you must pretend, please reframe your doom loop, into a positive—and ‘loop’ these thoughts over and over. Trust me – this works!

#3: Watch both your spoken and written modifiers.
Women frequently use modifiers that weaken our tone.
 “I think I might be ready for that job”, implies a different tone than “I am ready for that job.” Here are a few common ‘wiggle words’: just, maybe, sort of, sorry, perhaps, I think. What are yours?

Heads up – it’s uncomfortable to remove modifiers. Woman are taught to be humble and not straight forward, so experiment–how does it feel to drop your wiggle words? Explore what’s uncomfortable and why? Where does this feeling come from? How can you be more direct, while retaining your feminine gift of nurturing?

#4: Self Celebration. Men do it. We don’t. Let’s start.
I’m in the midst of a well-being hiatus while in treatment for a recently diagnosed health anomaly. My fatigue and body pain has been intense, but I tell you what (after a couple days of wallowing in self-pity) I turned up the dial on self-celebration. Instead of judging myself for what I’m not able to do right now, I’m cheering myself on for the littlest things. My belief is celebrating beats self-loathing and encourages healing. I’m all for that. Are you?

#5: The Practice of Prioritizing Self (Sacred Selfishness).
Breaking your glass ceiling is deliciously empowering. However, feeling happy, healthy, and energized once the ceiling is broken…this creates sustainability of both success and well-being. One does not work well without the other!

#6: Dreaming and wishful thinking.
A friend introduced me to the book “The Circle”, by Laura Day. It was just the book I was craving—one that reminded me how important it is to dream and that it’s okay to be wishful. There’s a saying, “without commitment, status quo prevails,” I believe without dreaming, status quo also prevails.

Allowing layers to peel and reveal what’s real and true to you, is how you break through your personal glass ceiling, and then if you choose–break through your professional glass ceiling too! I’m convinced that for every woman who courageously enters the barrier break-through process, another woman receives the message of “oh, I can do this too!”

Do you feel called to discover how social conditioning has informed your beliefs and actions? Reach out at: suzy@suzycarroll.com

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