There's a great emphasis right now on women "leaning in" to break through the glass ceiling. That means to throw your weight behind becoming a corporate titan who can be forever youthful and gorgeous, raise a happy family, cook amazing meals, run a fortune 500 company and have enough time left over to write a book, make appearances as a speaker, and vacation in Bali.
This is an important movement in the evolution of women's liberation, no doubt. And, like all movements, the solution it proposes is not one-size-fits-all. "Leaning in" is important and necessary. But, for each person, what we lean into and how far is as unique as our fingerprints. To the new mantra "Lean in," I add "to what makes you happy."
Sheryl Sandberg was born and bread to be driven. That makes her happy. Very likely, the life she is living is the life she envisioned as a young girl and strove toward with every decision she made growing up. To all the Sheryl Sandbergs of the world, I say, "You Go, Girl!" But not because you're the CEO of Facebook, but because you had a dream and you went for it.
For the rest of us, our dreams are just as valid, even if they're not about becoming the one who is at the top of a hierarchy, running an amazing business. I've read blogs and articles from women who are put off by the notion that if you're not driving yourself hard to gain status, make tons of money and topple sexist barriers, you're somehow less than. If you're one of these women, your Holy Grail is probably not a NY Times cover story that's all about you. For you, power, position and prestige are not your thing. Perhaps being the kind of mother, daughter, friend or employee you can be proud of is as important to you as another woman's desire to develop and launch the block-buster product that sends her company's stock price into the stratosphere.
Whoever you are, wherever you stand, figure out what makes your heart glow, and lean into that. For women, that can be hard because, whether it's nature or nurture, we tend to put others first and ourselves last. But here are some ways you can lean in and create your happy life.
1. Unearth what makes you happy. You've probably buried your happiness triggers so deep beneath what makes others happy that you'll need Indiana Jones to mount an all out search. Start by identifying and reconnecting with the things you did well as a child, the activities that felt natural and gave you great pleasure. There in lies your passion and true gift, the seed to nurture and grow into your authentically happy life.
2. Learn to speak up for yourself. Stop apologizing. When you feel "I'm sorry" about to pass through your lips, STOP! The Pantene ad "Not Sorry" that went viral shares an awesome lesson. "I'm sorry," SPOKEN REFLEXIVELY, doesn't open doors. It actually closes them. Those two words CAN rob you of your sense of self-importance. If you don't think you're valuable, and have the right to succeed by learning from your mistakes, you carry yourself that way. You can always gauge what you're putting out by noticing how others treat you. They're your mirror, reflecting back to you what you put out into the world.
3. Don't fall into the it's-about-the-money trap. Although having money is way better than not, our decisions about happiness are multi-faceted. Some of the happiest rich people are rich because they're doing what they love. Chasing money for it's own sake is dangerous and deadening. If you have the money, but hate your life, your job, your self, what's the point? Having enough money to do what's important to you is a worthy goal. Think twice about selling your soul just to have more stuff and status.
4. Hear and honor your own voice. There are ways to cut through the clanging voices of media and well-meaning friends and relatives. It starts with separating out the LIES (Labels, Illusions, Excuses and Stories) that make up your current life's script. We travel through life making decisions every minute of every day. At some of those junctures, ask yourself, "Am I doing this out of conscious choice or am I operating out of habit or a desire to please others?"
5. Chip away at your mask. Like the perverbial "thick skin," your mask works to protect you from hurt by the flying debris of life. It's a coping mechanism. It is not who you really are. Your mask hides the real you from others, and even from yourself. It's the pretend you. The you that you think you need to be to gain acceptance, love and status. For genuine happiness, the real you needs to go where ever you go. The real you is good enough to be accepted, loved and achieve your heart's desires.
Someone once asked me, "What if the real me is a mean, selfish bitch?" To that I answered, "No one's core self is mean, selfish, or a bitch. That's a mask and built up negativity designed to keep others at bay." Sometimes, the mask is required. But, if you can call on it when necessary rather than default to it, or reflexively respond through it, you give the real you a chance to be in control. You'll change your life for the better.
"Leaning in" is an important, self-empowering message for women and men. Just remember, choices about what you lean in to are infinite. Find your truth, your passion, your unique path. Then and only then, lean in, fully committed to what satisfies you.
Learn more about uncovering the your authentic self. Pick up a copy of my book, "LIES That Limit: Uncover The Truth Of Who You Really Are." Now available for only $5.95.