"Is it just me, or is the world going crazy?"
I was talking with a group of women and this was the icebreaking question. As we chatted, we began to bring out the real thoughts that were plaguing us. We quickly zoomed into the treatment of women.
"What's happening in the mainstream media? Does anyone see the unfiltered and antagonist attitudes toward women?"
"What's going on in the workplace? Does anyone feel like women are being pushed out of the boardroom (if you were even there to begin with)?"
"What's happening in our homes? Does anyone sense the undertones of "you can do what you want as long as you do your womanly duties first"?
We came to the truth in a matter of minutes: Women are feeling the effects of going toe to toe with stereotypes. They are also trampling on the socialized behaviors that have historically been ascribed to them. Movements like #MeToo and evidence of blatant discrimination have officially sparked a passionate outcry that screams:
YOU WILL RESPECT WOMEN.
Bottom line, women are speaking out, but the challenge is this:
How do we change the deeply ingrained behaviors we've adapted that perpetuate stereotypes around women?
In my book Compose Your Soul: How to Turn Your Daily Chaos into Calm Control, I share an experience in which I was volleying between motherhood, wifey duties, and being the CEO of my own company. I learned that my family had certain expectations around my role, which included food, attention, dog care, breadwinner, and housekeeping. These were all priorities for them, AND I still needed to bring home a paycheck to support our lifestyle.
When my business grew and started bleeding into the rest of my life, the family voiced their displeasure of it's impact to their expectations. I stopped cooking so much, I was gone more often, and my office time moved beyond the boundary of 4:30. The house was messier than usual and I didn't go to the store anymore.
I was forced to let everyone take care of themselves. Wearing multiple hats caused me to be overly productive and overwhelmed, and they simply needed to share in the load.
It was uncomfortable, but needed.
After a two week experiment where I tried to be all things to everyone and still accomplish everything, I found myself considering Depends diapers. The act of squeezing all of my roles into a 24 hour period so that I could live up to the stereotype was not going to be possible anymore.
It was time to break free from the socialized behaviors I had taken on. It was also time to win the war of respect; not just for myself as a woman, but respect for WHO I AM AS A UNIQUE PERSON.
Each of us has a unique natural algorithm- a certain way that we personally like to operate in life. In order to live in alignment with it, we have to address and reset the expectations of the people around us.
There are three steps women must take to win the war on respect:
1. Respect yourself first, then others will begin to follow suit. This is a big challenge, mainly because we haven't really learned how to have respect for ourselves first, and most of us aren't used to being first. The mythical mindset to overcome is that you are being selfish. Selfishness is about think of ONLY yourself and not other people.
Imagine being on an airplane. Respecting yourself is about putting on your oxygen mask first so that you can help the person put on theirs.
2. Establish the boundaries that you know are most important- and protect them! How many times have you said, "I am not going to let this person run over me," then as soon as you are faced with that person's insistence, you give in?
Prepare yourself to stand strong around this boundary by planning your response. Write down and affirm why this boundary is important, and the consequences of running over it.
3. Firmly demand respect when someone is disrespecting you. This is a hard one because most women I know hate conflict. Many would rather be silent and withdraw, and others go overboard by yelling and becoming overly emotional.
The key is to remain composed, sober minded, and accepting of your own femininity. For example, if someone makes a feminist joke or tells you to go home where you belong and get to cooking, don't let it go. An appropriate response would be, "That comment was inappropriate. I would appreciate your respect so that I can respect you as well."
If women want to start breaking into the boardrooms and breaking down barriers, WE are responsible for speaking life into respect. It will not be handed to us, and it will not come easily.
Men have just as much power to support this effort as well. Be an advocate for women when you hear others bashing them or referencing them in a negative fashion.
If you would like to learn more about overcoming the overly productive person syndrome and respecting yourself, check out my latest book, Compose Your Soul: How to Turn Your Daily Chaos into Calm Control.
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Angela Nuttle is an author, speaker, talent remodeler™, and consultant in talent and organizational development. As founder of The School of Executive Presence, she teaches business people how to show up with executive presence. She also works directly with CEOS, Business Leaders, and HR Teams to develop people, potential, and processes that create productive and profitable business environments.
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