Over the past year or so, there has been an increasing focus on women and how women are treated at work. Whether that work is in Hollywood, or here in Kansas City, it is certainly a hot issue that needs to be addressed.
Courtney Thomas is the President and CEO at Central Exchange, an organization that supports and empowers women in the workplace. Courtney describes two issues that women face that impact their lives both at work and outside.
Issue 1: Confidence
Courtney says that the number one issue that faces women today is confidence. Because of issues with parity (equality in pay or in status) in the workplace, women often lack confidence. They are afraid to speak up or to share ideas because they worry about how they might be perceived.
Research shows that there are a lot of factors that lead women to speak up less, whether it’s at school or at work.
In her TED Talk, Amy Cuddy describes the idea “Fake it until you become it.” She explains that you can pretend to feel confident until you begin to really feel confident. You can start by standing in what Cuddy calls a “power pose.” She recommends standing like Wonder Woman with your hands on your hips and your feet shoulder width apart. If you’ve got a big meeting or presentation coming up, you can do this in the morning at home and you’ll still feel more confident when you get to your meeting.
Women have so much to offer and we deserve to be listened to. While you can’t control the reactions that you get, you can fake confidence until you embody it. Share your ideas, speak up, pretend you have confidence, and see a change in how people listen.
Issue 2: Boundaries
The second issue that Courtney discusses is setting boundaries. As humans, we set boundaries on our time, boundaries in our relationships, and boundaries with ourselves. It’s important to set boundaries so that we can live the healthy lives we want, and it’s important to respect our boundaries and insist that others do as well.
Courtney points out that it becomes difficult for women to maintain boundaries because of all of the demands that women face. It is difficult to set boundaries on our time when we feel expected to have a career, raise children, prepare meals, drive the carpool, exercise, and be a good wife or partner. All of those things make demands on our time, and sometimes those demands are unexpected. If we put a boundary on work, saying that we will leave at 5 pm everyday, we might find a month later that a big project has us leaving at 5:30, 5:40, and suddenly after 6 pm.
Courtney says that we need to set boundaries in order to include ourselves in the equation. Decide what is most important and what boundaries you need to set. As Courtney says, “Allow work to be part of your life, not your entire life.” With boundaries on work and all the other expectations placed on us, you can decide how you include yourself. What things or activities would help you enjoy your life more? Do you want to spend more time with friends? Do you want to feed yourself better food? Do you want to exercise more?
After you’ve decided on the boundaries that you need and what you want to do to enjoy your life more, you will need to discuss your new boundaries with the people in your life. Your new boundaries will probably require discussions with your family and your employer, and might require discussions with a few others. Each of these discussions might require confidence, but remember that you are worth it.
Connecting Confidence and Boundaries to Energy
What do confidence and boundaries have to do with the Energetic Quadrant?
Courtney describes confidence as “finding the bright light inside.” As we’ve discussed energy, we’ve called it a variety of things including life-force and qi. The bright light inside certainly fits as another name for energy. Without confidence and boundaries, our bright light dims and shrinks, and that is our energy dimming and shrinking. To have our full life-force, we need to live a life that we enjoy and fully participate in it.
Although our discussion today has focused on women, men are not immune to confidence and boundary issues. I invite men to join this conversation as well, and to set boundaries in their lives and act with confidence, and to help the women around them to set boundaries and act with confidence as well. Making small changes together can shift all of our lives for the better.