How to experience joy and growth – without trying so hard


By Homaira Kabir—

Do you ever feel like you’re putting everything in, but not getting the growth you want? Or that, despite your best efforts, you are not getting the praise and appreciation that others seem to get quite easily?

For many women, the second stage of the career path can feel like driving with the brakes on. They are past that earlier stage where their efforts were rewarded, progress was steady and they had time and energy for friends and fun.

Then something in their outside world changed. At work, many women face the classic “Double Bind,” where older women are disliked for being competent, and held back for being nice, both qualities that were once valued. Almost all of us have been told, directly or indirectly, that we are “bossy,” “abrasive,” or “too nice.” It is impossible to walk the fine line.

There’s also the other fine line called the “double burden” of being a mom and a manager. The second stage in the career path also coincides with a stage in women’s lives when their caring role increases dramatically – raising young children and/or caring for aging parents and in-laws – while also taking on additional responsibilities of managing a team. This constant attraction wears out many high-achieving women, and success rarely comes without the gnawing pain of relational guilt.

Lose confidence

Many of the women who come to me for coaching feel stuck, unhappy, or burned out because they are trapped in one or both of these paradoxical forces. They’re nostalgic for those earlier years when life was more manageable, they didn’t have to twist like a pretzel to fit in, and feeling unequal, inadequate, or less than, wasn’t the top priority.

“I used to have faith” they tell me. “Now I constantly doubt myself and feel like I don’t have what it takes to be successful.”

I know why their trust is at stake. Many years ago I decided to do postgraduate psychological research on women’s self esteem because I did it to see competent and conscientious women – the kind we desperately need in senior positions in our organizations and institutions – playing small, perfecting , pleasing and proving themselves in jobs they had already earned.

Here’s what I’ve found: There are two kinds of high confidence. And most of us have is “fragile” because it relies on success and approval in some area of ​​our lives. For many highly potential women, the field is work. Their inability to allow themselves a break, their extreme standards that can drive employees to burnout, their tendency towards micromanagement and control are all signs that they are desperately failing and avoiding criticism – including their own – because it points to a perceived inadequacy or shame.

Finding Authenticity

The good news is that optimal trust – the healthy version of high trust that fuels growth, success and satisfaction – is a buildable construct, not an elusive quality. It is also directly related to authenticity, and almost every woman wants the clarity and courage to be more who she is.

And so the way out of being stuck is the way to your power sources. It’s no more pushing, more perfection, more proof. Instead, it’s finding the sweet core of your being and the work that brings you to life, then building systems to pursue it more consistently.

So start today by giving yourself permission to notice what really matters. What fills your heart? What brings you into a state of flow? What feels energetic and where does perfection feel “good”? It is an indication that you are true to yourself because you strive for excellence.

You can go one step further. Grab a sheet of paper and make a list of all the things you would like to have in your life. Think about your energy, creativity, purposeful work, important relationships, community, spiritual life… Write down an ideal day that fills you with joy and meaning.

And when you hear that judgmental voice we all have making fun of what you love, or trying to convince you that your ambitions are impractical, put it aside for now. There will be plenty of time to analyze and balance your desires with what makes sense in your situation.

Listen to your heart for now. It’s an act of courage in this head-turning world.

Homaira Kabiri is a female leadership coach and the founder of the Goodbye Perfect Project. Her new book Goodbye Perfect will be released in March 2023. You can take her trust quiz here.


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