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Women: It’s Time to Change the Way We Talk to Ourselves

You’ve probably recently seen my bold statement that I’ve made my life’s mission to get more women in the C-suite.

As I’ve made this sweeping declaration public, I thought I better ask myself…well if I want more women in the C-suite, what’s keeping us from getting there?

Yes, there is bias and prejudice in the system, and every woman in the workforce today has grown up in it. But to me, breaking the glass ceiling will not result from prescribing how women should behave in the workplace—lean in, but don’t step on toes; speak up, but not too loudly; be like the boys; but better yet, lead with femininity; develop your presence. These are prescriptions for addressing the symptoms, behaviors, and not the big, complex, thorny issue at the heart of it all.

We as women have to change the way we talk to ourselves. We have to change the patterns of thinking and feeling that have us working in ways that aren’t working well to get us to the top—overcome our own self-doubt, silence our inner mean girl, challenge the distorted beliefs we have about ourselves and our place in the world. Because what’s even more damaging than the broken system itself is what growing up in the broken system has done to our inner narrative.

I've worked with hundreds of professional women to help them excel and advance in their careers. They don't come to me because they have a confidence problem. They come to me because they're overwhelmed, struggling with something at work, or they're just not happy with where they are or what they're doing. What is almost always underneath it all is one thing: fear or anxiety related to doubting themselves in some way.​They fear being "found out" that they really don't know what they're talking about, or worse that they shouldn't really be there. They worry about putting themselves out there and getting rejected. They worry about dropping the ball on something. They are overwhelmed and frustrated with work life.

Self-doubt makes it harder to do some basic behaviors that lead to workplace success and career advancement. It puts us in a defensive position, a threatened position and fight-or-flight hijacks our better selves.

We hold ourselves back—we don’t speak up in the meeting, we don’t imagine the big possibilities, we don’t ask people for what we need. We stay mired in the details—we get sh*t done, dammit—and that makes us the best right-hand-person to the boss, but then one day we’re up for a promotion and someone says we’re not strategic enough. Because out of fear that we’ll make a mistake with disastrous consequences, we don’t trust other people to get it done—disempowering them and leaving us with no time or space to think (or breathe). We have something to prove. And when we feel like we have to prove our worth, we push our point of view, fighting to the death for “our way,” we don’t listen. We make mistakes because we haven’t considered all input, and what’s worse, we can cut others off at the knees.

For almost every professional woman I’ve worked with, these patterns of thinking and feeling initiate in childhood, in the way adults talk to and about girls and boys. Things that we begin to believe about ourselves—that to get to the top, we have to do more than the boys, work harder, be smarter, faster, better. Oh and by the way, look pretty and don’t be a bitch. Have it all, do it all, and do it all perfectly. These engrained messages over the 30, 40-year course of our education and career fuel an inner critic that says, “you are not ________ enough.”

Women, to rise up to being our best selves, living our best life and bringing the best of who we are to the workplace, YES we must continue to insist upon an inclusive work culture. But we must also truly believe in ourselves. Believe that what we bring is enough. That WE are enough.

This post was originally published on Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/women-its-time-to-change-the-way-we-talk-to-ourselves_us_5888d0b1e4b04251e621fadb​