As a coach, it is my job to hold people accountable, so they accomplish their goals – giving them a push when they need it. When I challenge people, especially women, to act rather than just dream, they are often hesitant. I certainly am in no position to scoff at their hesitancy, because I’ve been there myself.
Far too often, I fear, this reluctance is born out of a feeling our ambitions, our dreams, our desires are somehow…dare I say it? Unladylike! There it is.
How many of us (especially women) have been told if we are putting our needs ahead of someone else’s we are being selfish? What could possibly be more unladylike than that?
Many women have been told they can accomplish anything they choose – they really can have it all. However, too often the unspoken corollary to that is, “As long as you are a good girl, and no one else is inconvenienced by your ambition.”
Can you relate?
I promise this isn’t a feminist rant about “What would a man do?” Rather, I’m asking we re-examine the risks associated with people-pleasing.
Over the past few months, I have had some wonderful, insightful conversations with Sharon Reed, the Founder of Global Girls Project. Sharon, a self-proclaimed ‘recovering people pleaser,’ has seen first-hand how we tend to forfeit our dreams in order to please others.
“I wish someone told me when I was little that every time you look to someone else for approval, you are increasing dependency on the other person and lessening your capacity to give it to yourself. Ultimately, this leads people to feel worse about themselves.”
This can, in turn, result in a fear of failure and a tendency not to take risks. What happens then? “If you are trying to please others, you can’t focus on your own strengths. Often we become so focused on the external for our sense of worth that we lose ourselves in the process.”
And that is how dreams die.
As a child, Sharon had the desire to be a diplomat but was afraid of failure. When you hear an amazingly strong woman admit she has ever been afraid of failure, it is…well, liberating! (Sorry Sharon.)
After all, we tend to think women such as Sharon have backbones of steel. The fact they too have had to deal with their demons, and have made huge strides to overcome them, shines like a beacon in the darkness for the rest of us. That ability to guide and encourage others is of great importance to Sharon, but she takes it a step further.
“I would tell a woman who is struggling to find the courage and confidence to follow her dreams that sometimes the first step [in achieving your dream] is to help others develop their vision for the future. As we stand up for others, we develop the skills and confidence to stand up for ourselves. That is so important!”
So what message are we sending to ourselves and our children – especially our daughters? “Girls start to lose confidence at about age 10. So, we have to model a more constructive response for them if we want to help them avoid that.”
This hit close to home when Sharon was going through a difficult period in her life. “My daughter told me, ‘Mom, maybe if you were less smart it would be easier.’ What she was telling me was that I should settle or ‘dumb it down’ to please someone else.”
When Sharon heard this, she knew it was time to take action. Thus, the Global Girls Project (GGP) was born.
GGP is an organization established with the ‘belief that every female, regardless of age, culture, religious or socio-economic status, is entitled to the basic human right to live her voice out loud and become a leader in her own life.’
“The Global Girls Project is not about whether you can have it all, but whether you can become your all. Success, in this context, is not defined by external labels of achievement, but by internal alignment of values and the fullest expression of who you are.”
I find it inspiring to talk with Sharon, because here is a woman who has had her own fears and self-doubts, just like the rest of us, and yet, she has used her own challenges to help make the lives of girls and women around the world better.
“This collaborative writing project began with a challenge, a conversation and an opportunity. It also began with the reminder that as mothers, we are our daughter’s first and most important role model for what it means to be a female in this world.”
The project is an opportunity for women of all ages from around the world to share their stories and learn from others regarding 16 principles of leadership, which “reflect core character traits that are central to the female experience and heart-aligned leadership.”
The GGP is “a platform of what it means to be empowered. I hope that women and girls around the world hear the stories and feel inspired to act and feel empowered. Maybe it will serve as a bridge into deeper dialogue, and, ultimately, peace.”
If you ever question the ability of one person to make a difference in the world, please remember Sharon who saw a hole and decided to fill it.
“It [GGP] is about my unwavering belief that when we are able to build bridges of understanding, courageously align our heads with our hearts, and boldly give life to our voice and ideas, we can begin to inspire others to make a lasting difference in the world – through innovation, communication, collaboration, education, empowerment and engagement.
“I am a curator of conversations and, at the end of the day, everything I do is to build bridges of understanding.”
Evidently, Sharon became a diplomat after all.
Rebecca Lacy is President of Pinnacle Management Group, Incorporated, a company providing leadership coaching, training, and consulting in the areas of employee engagement and leadership development. She is currently working on her first book. Contact – Website – Facebook – Twitter – Books