I really like this article (click the link above) from Roffey Park Institute about how to break through the glass ceiling. Its first point is for women to get comfortable with ambition. I like this idea and so want it for myself and all of my women friends and colleagues. It made me wonder, what is it, that holds us back from fully engaging with our ambition? Funnily enough, I had the exact same conversation with my own coach this week. I had business ideas, plans, a mentor who was ready and willing to pour all of herself into me. And yet, my whole body seemed to be resisting this idea of pushing forwards and upwards. It felt very discombobulating! My mind was totally on board with what I thought I should be doing (mostly implementing other people’s ideas!), and that part of me felt raring to go. But my body was not fully on board, it was resisting, and it felt like a game of tug of war.
What do I mean by that? Well, in my body, I felt knotty, tight, tense, uncomfortable. Not raring to go. And every time I tried to take a step forwards, it was like walking through treacle. I was literally holding myself back. Something was not right. I felt it in every part of me. My head and my body were strangely misaligned, and it was really confusing. If I were still working in the corporate space, this could have caused me quite a lot of anxiety about how to work towards that promotion with prowess, when I felt quite literally paralysed.
What to do?
For me, ‘what to do’ is part of the problem, which my coach, who knows me well enough by now, was able to point out to me. When I’m uncertain, or don’t feel fully in control, I think ‘what can I do?’ Or, worse, ‘what should I do?’ This can lead me down a path of hyper-activity, should-dos and must-dos, as I try to solve my way out of the issue. Some of this is helpful. I am a VERY action-oriented person, and actions have served me very well in the past. They have taken me to places I have wanted to go. Sometimes, though, I end up back where I started, because I wasn’t paying attention to everything that was going on for me. I was paying attention to my comfort zone and habitual way of being – which for me, is DO SOMETHING!
Today, I decided to listen to my body – something I have been practising and getting better at. It holds valuable information about what’s really going on for me, and when I get stuck in my head and am going around in circles, I find a quiet, undisturbed spot (when I can – this will be much easier after March 8th!) and breathe deeply and begin to move into my body.
What does that even mean?
For me, moving into my body means slowing myself right down, breathing deeply for 5 minutes with my eyes closed, and checking in with what is happening inside my body. I liken this to swimming around inside myself, taking a good look around whilst I am there, touching things I think I can see, noticing colours or movements or sensations. Some sensations I can’t actually properly name – I can only describe them with metaphors, similes or adjectives. And I do this with a fascination, or a curiosity. Never with any judgement, or questions about why, or any rationalising. Just noticing what I am feeling within my body. Sounds weird, right? Imagine trying to describe something without saying what is actually is, and you’ll get the idea.
Well, because I am not a being made up of separate parts – mind and body. I am one system, mind and body. A whole being, and my bodily reaction to something tells me A LOT about what’s actually going on for me. I just very often fail to pay it enough attention and assume that my head tells me everything I need to know.
Well, for me, something special often happens as a result. From the sensations in my body, if I give them some space and time, feelings sometimes emerge. Sometimes they are quite intense. Sometimes they hard to get a hold of. I can often come away with a better sense of what is going on for me in relation to my ‘problem’. And sometimes it can take me a few days of being with these feelings to understand more fully what might be going on.
When I spoke to my coach later that day, I was much more in tune with my feelings of anxiety, my fears, my doubts – these were the feelings that were creating the treacle effect when I tried to move forwards. I was able to explore these openly with her (because I trust her a lot), and try to figure out what was really holding me back. It was a difficult conversation, because I had to admit to myself that there are some things that still scare the hell out of me. And that I don’t yet know how to work through those fears. But what I do know, is that working through those fears is part of my process. Everyone has a process. It’s how we experience our experiences, what happens when we experience things in life, and it’s unique to each and every one of us!
What having a process means, is that the advice we are given is not necessarily right or wrong, good or bad (except when it clearly is!). It’s how we react to it that’s important, because that will determine what happens next.
It’s one thing to be told ‘get comfy with ambition!’ and start planning the hell out of your life, goal-setting here, there, and everywhere. It’s another to really feel able to do it with confidence and whole-heartedness. Part of me loves the abundance of advice available to women these days. The other part of me knows from experience that with each piece of advice comes a personal process of reacting and feeling. I believe that it’s working through these personal reactions and feelings that is particularly helpful, and, more importantly, really needs some attention in order for the advice to hold any value for that person. That’s how I believe we get ourselves out of the treacle.
So, the next time you feel a tug of war inside yourself, try tuning into yourself, your body, and your deep inner emotions about what that issue really feels like for you. For me, that’s where the work is, and that’s where the progress is made. And you don’t need a coach for this, by the way. You can do this self-attunement work on your own and then write down your feelings. Get a nice notebook and make a regular thing of it. Over time, as you look back over your notes, you’ll start to see patterns and insights, and eventually, changes (subtle ones!).