The Self-Worth Epidemic

I recently re-watched a powerful TED talk by Reshma Saujani - founder of Girls Who Code - called "Teach girls bravery, not perfection." This talk nails the 'bravery deficit' found in our society's women these days, and how it's happened. Here are my personal thoughts on the matter ...

Most girls/women grow up having been rewarded for “perfectionism." Good grades, pretty face / style / weight / skin / hair / prom dress / wedding etc, etc. Women/girls were not always encouraged to be courageous, brave, take risks or weren't taken seriously as creative problem solvers by thinking outside of the box. This is the opposite of how most men/boys have been raised.

Boys are typically rewarded for being fearless, pushing limits & being courageous. Even when boys act like goofballs, don't listen to the rules or choose to chase their own dreams, they end up being propped up as the hero that overcame adversity. They are absolutely rewarded for thinking outside of the box & being brave.

Why don't we {women} approach more challenges with bravery? We can learn a thing or two about self-worth - and eliminating our ridiculous thoughts of self-doubt - from the men around us.

Ultimately the long-term results of these early (gender-biased) teachings have a very different trajectory when it comes to self-worth & self-belief (or lack thereof) in adulthood.

Perfectionism is an unhealthy (& rampant) epidemic that is based on a foundation of fear-based & limiting beliefs about ones' own value, worth & capability.

Perfectionism has a way of using a magnifying glass or tunnel vision to focus on what is seemingly 'flawed' in us, putting all of our attention & energy there - all while we fully ignore, reduce or even throw away the beautiful gifts we actually have to offer. It's created a world where women have fallen behind, and in a time when the world, our communities and our children need us to step-up the most.

Those that suffer from perfectionism are great people pleasers, rule-followers & over-achievers when given a list of tasks & asks, with a strong motivation to stay thinking within the box, because of the constant chase of outside acceptance by doing so really, really well.

These women have never been encouraged or made to feel safe when making decisions from their intuition, desires or inner compass. {Yet in my experience, our intuitive ability is every women’s greatest super-power -- but I'll save that for another blog post} The box of guidelines & checklists keeps them feeling safe & accepted, but also most times feeling trapped in inauthenticity, secret unhappiness or unexplained misery.

Women who were encouraged toward perfectionism in childhood also need to beware of attracting men who equally expect this level of perfectionism in them, as any deviance from “the box" may have abusive or power-shifting reprecussions.

Many of the brilliant, generous & successful women I speak to, support & work with struggle with self-worth in so many detrimental ways. I mostly see it manifesting in how their fear, stress & anxiety-levels go through the roof at just the thought of:

  • (re)negotiating the salary they are worthy of and really deserve

  • going after the rewarding career, work/life balance, business idea that they are totally dreaming about, capable & deserving of

  • taking a beat to acknowledge & appreciate the skill-sets, strengths & value they bring to the table (what would their boss/family/friends/community actually do without them?)

  • using their voice to set stronger boundaries when feeling taken advantage of, then holding others accountable to those boundaries with consistency

  • asking for help or setting the treatment standards they really need & want in order to thrive in their relationships, career & parenting life

  • walking away from unhealthy, one-sided relationships that drain the life-force energy out of them

... the list of unhealthy sacrifices goes on.

Most men can do all of the above in their sleep & with ease and grace, they were raised to. While most women would rather dim their own light, sacrifice their own needs / dreams / desires, convince themselves (& others) that they are broken, or feel the need to play small out of fear of messing up the status quo or not wanting to rock the boat.

Sound familiar? > > >

I completely know the feeling. I am a survivor of this kind of thinking & being. For much of my adult life, I left the brave spirit I was actually raised with behind & lost myself in the abyss of my own perceived perfectionism. After a series of small-to-large challenging life events, losses & let downs, I found myself propelled & motivated by constant fear: fear of loss, lack of acceptance, being judged &/or abandonment. It made me a perpetual people pleaser. Analysis paralysis. I followed societal rules & checked off a list of "accomplishments” that always felt ‘off’ but that I ignored. I chose feeling trapped in some areas of my life that I didn’t align with, instead of making my own rules, listening to my inner compass (true self) & following what brings me joy. I felt stuck, making fear-based decisions, ignoring behaviours in others that set the {low} standard for some questionable relationships & some past job choices. Because my intuition was trying to speak out but was being muzzled (by me), I second guessed myself constantly. I felt like I had to fix everything & that it was my job to "stick it out" for the sake of others. I felt powerless, was scared to speak out & settled in some areas of my life. I was in both grief & in healing, so it was really hard to know how to change my circumstances or even know what how to flip the switch.

I take full responsibility for this time in my life. I now know that these decisions to remain stuck & unhappy were mine, and they were chosen based on my heightened levels of fear & low levels of self-confidence; they were in symbiosis. I'm telling you, it doesn't work.

After situations & life lessons kept repeating themselves, forcing a mirror up to my unchanged actions, it finally dawned on me that it was time to dust-off my brave spirit, take a hard look at my blind spots, and do the work to make some important shifts toward a better feeling present & future. I can honestly say that I will never go back to living with such {illusive} perfection-seeking & fear-based beliefs again. I have the tools to recognize when I'm slipping back into those old, reptilian-brain mindset patterns & I am in the work daily on honouring my wholeness as best as possible.

As a kid, my Dad would always say "feel the fear & do it anyway," which to me is truly the ultimate definition of bravery. Acknowledging the fear and pushing forward despite it, is an act of courage in itself.

The results of making these shifts have been pretty great. Working in the {male dominated} tech industry has never felt better for me. I no longer feel the need to play small, hold back & feel like a resentful victim living within a broken system.

My courage levels now match those of the guys' I work with & I'm now an influencer in building new, more calibrated systems. Our combined strengths (including the use of my ultimate intuitive super-power) balances each other out & we rock together to get programs in alignment & high-priority projects out the door.

My friendships, work tribes & sisterhoods have never been more quality.

My inner compass has never been louder & more discerning, yet my heart for those who value my gifts has never been more open.

I show up now as a valued equal, no longer as a "lesser-than."

> > >

Showing women the way out of their limiting beliefs & unexplained sadness through empowerment & self-worth boosting strategies is what I do. It’s what I’m most passionate about. Being there to support them reaching in, pulling out & getting to know their bravery again is game changing and life-enhancing for them ... & for me to witness.

Ladies: the only way to get to "brave" is through it. And on the other side of brave is joy, self-acceptance & unlimited amounts of inner peace.

As Leonard Cohen would say, "the cracks are how the light comes in." Drop the perfectionism. Our cracks are meant to be embraced.

Focus on & acknowledge your PROGRESS & all the COURAGE you already exude in showing up for each step of the way.

Believe in the wholeness of yourself & your dreams. You're totally capable & fully worth living your best life.

And this way of being can light you up & will change the world for the better.


TED TALK: "Teach girls bravery, not perfection" by Reshma Saujani,

the founder of Girls Who Code

#selfworth #selfconfidence #perfectionism #bravery #courage #TEDtalk #career #relationships #authenticity

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