One of the most powerful self-inquiry questions a woman (or man) can ask is “what has shaped me?”
November 10th is an important day for me, it’s the day I gave birth to my son. This year on his 29th birthday, my husband and I were far away on a tropical island and even though for my son, our absence on his birthday was no big deal, it was important to me to somehow honor this first day that began the ‘shape of him’.
My husband left to spend the day scuba diving and I spent hours on the beach, walking and then sitting quietly, allowing my mind to meander through 29 years of motherhood – the curves, hills, deep troughs, cliffs and mountain tops that formed not only the shape of my son, but the shape of me.
In honor of my son, I focused on happy moments – the cuddles, the smiles, the innocence, the ‘first’s, the proud mom moments, but then a deep pain grabbed hold of my heart. Try as I might, I couldn’t find my way around it. There I was on a beautiful beach, under a palm tree, with the warm ocean lapping at my toes and instead of feeling happiness, I was gripped by sadness and the tears began to flow.
Despite my best efforts with focusing on joy, my mind kept sticking on moments when I deemed myself a failure as a mom. Like my divorce and “ruining my son’s life” or the time when he was two and I was placing plants in the ground and he followed along pulling them out and I got mad. Or when he became the “young man” of the house post-divorce and took it upon himself to use the weed-eater to help. I thanked him and then proceeded to show him how to do it better. I’ll never forget the moment his proud expression melted into tears of disappointment. I recognized my error immediately and apologized profusely…but still, in that moment the glue of “failure” stuck hard.
As I sat on that beach crying my tears, what came to me was “I am so hard on myself (women are so hard on themselves)!” This pain I’m feeling are the moments I failed my son…or more truthfully, the moments I failed the rules I had made about who and what a good mom is.
Moments in time, whether from childhood, adulthood, or motherhood are like glue – a memory, or experience sticks and begins to form the shape of you. Sitting on that beach, I was struck by how these moments drove me to do everything within my power to be a “good mom,” “good friend,” “good wife,” “good daughter,” “good community member,” “good business owner”…good at everything—because anything less is failure.
As the path to the pain I was feeling began to reveal itself, the magic of this island we were on took hold and I remembered a forgiveness prayer I learned long ago. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?
Hoʻoponopono is a Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness. It means to make it right with the ancestors, or to make right with the people with whom you have relationships or as Aunty Malia Craver, a Hawaiian cultural practitioner said, it’s “a method to resolve family and personal conflicts and achieve peace”.
I used this prayer often – “I’m sorry, please forgive me, I love you, thank you” when I was struggling with frustration and resentment towards my mom for the years of emotional abuse I grew up with. But on this day of my son’s 29th birthday, I used the prayer for the relationship with myself – to release my unconscious (now conscious) self-imposed pain, that had stuck like glue.
Reconciliation with self, the releasing of the unconscious agreements and rules unwittingly adopted brings forth clarity with ‘self’ and with others. It’s from this place we’re able to access empathy, understanding and clear vision that fosters a higher level of engagement, leadership and ability to make healthy connections with ourselves and with others.
I encourage you to pause, or perhaps even journal about what has shaped you. And then contemplate the shape you wish to be.
Breaking the glass ceiling has become a common metaphor. It refers to the external barriers that unfairly blocks women from advancing their careers. This barrier can be unintentional, the cause of unconscious bias and intentional in the form of overt discrimination and “power play.”
Like you, I’m thrilled that “breaking the glass ceiling” and saying “no” to a bias against women (or anyone for that matter) is gaining strength. Women are getting louder, standing stronger and no longer putting up with biases from others, but what about bias towards yourself?
The glass ceiling will not truly break until we…the women…stop with the harsh judgement of self, by identifying our own internal barriers and reorient to living, speaking and being comfortable with confidence and inner strength.
This harsh judgement of self, often the result of social conditioning, creates invisible barriers to success, well-being, happiness, health, confidence and clarity. It is the barrier to breaking your own glass ceiling and sadly, this harsh judgement of self creates an energy of “walk all over me.”
Women across the board, struggle with self-doubt, feelings of “not enough”, self-comparison and guilt…we work extra hard at giving and pleasing in an attempt to prove ourselves. We go to great lengths (not even realizing what we are doing) to make sure our voice is peppered with language that won’t make us sound too strong or too confident.
I think you know what I mean, it’s just that, we don’t want to appear arrogant and I’m so sorry…I’m not sure what I’m sorry about, but I am…and I do feel guilty for not…well, I’m not sure what, but I do and that was so nice of you to say, but honestly, it was sort of just luck…and this old thing – I’ve had it for years.
Looking back on my life and career(s) I now see how I created my own mile thick glass ceiling built upon decades of worrying what others might think or that they wouldn’t like me, not wanting to appear too confident in fear of appearing arrogant and doubting myself at every turn and when I did accomplish something that I felt good about, it was quickly followed by “how will I top that”…raising the bar, again and again – or worse, completely discounting my effort and not once in my adult life (until recent years) did I utter the words, “damn Suzy, that was good!” Sound familiar?
So how do you break your own glass ceiling? By unveiling what is hidden, which always begins with awareness.
Here’s a few ideas to get started:
#1: Make a commitment to yourself that you truly want to know what’s getting out of your own way – without commitment, status quo prevails.
#2: Be ever-so-mindful of your self-talk – how are you biased towards yourself?
#3: Watch both your spoken and written modifiers – ”just”, “maybe”, “sort of.”
#4: Brag – yes, brag. If not to others, to yourself – turn up the self-celebration to loud (and dance too).
#5: Practice Sacred Selfishness: The Practice of Prioritizing Self – because breaking your glass ceiling is one thing; feeling happy, healthy and energized once the ceiling is broken…this creates sustainability of both success and well-being and one does not work without the other!
The ball is rolling, it’s moving into our court and now women have a choice to make – play by the same rules or play differently. Bringing empathy and intuition…the innate traits that make women beautiful from the inside out, to the table with confidence and clarity!
I sort of think I might just choose to play differently…oh wait – I AM choosing to play differently! How about you? Post in comments below!
EXCITING NEWS! My course “Calling in Clarity” will be offered online coming January 2020. Stellar Support for Breaking Your Glass Ceiling. Sign up for early notification here!
Several years ago, I was on a walk and bumped into a friend who was a marathon runner. I had never seen this man walk anywhere before and soon learned that all the years of running had worn his knee’s out. We chit chatted a bit and then he said something that to this day, has stuck with me – “I didn’t realize how much I missed when running.” He continued, telling me about sites in our small town, that he had not noticed before.
It wasn’t until a few years later when I began to consciously slow down my marathon lifestyle, that his words really hit home. I’m not a runner, but every time I went for a walk, it was for exercise. In fact, everything I did, was about accomplishing something, which meant my body and my mind, were always moving fast (and missing a lot).
One of my customers at my former nutrition store, was a meta meditation teacher. I was intrigued, so I gave it a try. I didn’t stick with it for too long, but long enough to learn three questions that I use when I catch my mind wandering into the future, or past.
- What do you see?
- What do you hear?
- What do you feel?
This is how it works…
One morning on my drive to work, with my mind already in high gear thinking about all I needed to accomplish and lo and behold, I remembered these questions – paused and began to take notice.
What I saw was a tree with leaves dancing in the wind. What I heard was the gentle hum of the engine, and what I felt was peace. That’s all it took to bring me back to the present and arrive for my workday relaxed, calm and peaceful.
By using these questions to short-circuit my monkey mind, like my runner friend, I noticed things I hadn’t noticed before. The color of the plants, the sounds of birds and a very old log cabin (20 years driving the same road in my small town – I had never noticed the cabin).
On a trip to New York City, feeling overloaded from an intense workshop and craving the stillness and quiet that my home in the woods provides, I learned a valuable lesson – it doesn’t matter what environment you are in – when you use these three questions, you can disconnect from tension and a mind running amok, even in the middle of a busy, noisy city.
As I wandered the city streets, the noise in my head dissipated. What I saw, as the sun began to set, was a beautiful orange glow dancing on the buildings. I felt a gentle comforting breeze warming my skin and then I heard music and followed the sound – a grand piano had been moved into to the center of Washington Park. Amazing!
Three experiences, that without these questions, would have left me stuck running in the past and future of my marathon mind – missing the present moment beauty around me.
Want to give it a try?
Right now – hit the pause button and ask…
What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel?
Do you think these questions will help you short-circuit monkey mind? Post your comment below.
I used to think something was wrong with me…my health – why did I get so tired from a day at school, or night out with friends or even when spending time in a crowded shopping mall? I even labeled myself as intolerant because certain people left me feeling mentally and physically exhausted. Again, what’s wrong with me?
A few years ago, I came across a documentary by Dr. Elain Aron about highly sensitive people which spun that statement “you’re too sensitive” right around!
I kid you not! When I left my position as Director of Advertising in print media and transitioned to owning a retail store, I often found myself saying to people “I’m so looking forward to having more time to volunteer and for myself.” (roll eyes).
However, as I would later learn via the school of hard knocks, I had brought along all my emotional baggage that I didn’t realize I was carrying and proceeded to forge ahead at full steam driven by the beliefs I wasn’t aware that I had.
So, take a word of caution from someone who’s “been there, done that”, before jumping, consider these 11 Unconventional Ideas for Taking Your Next Step in Life: