Welcome back my friend. How are you this week? Recently i was having a chat with a few women business colleagues about some of the finer points of being a female in business and learning to ask for help and receive support. One of the things i have heard coming up a lot for single women in business is the judgments that seem to apply to single women asking for support v's women in relationships asking for support. Have you ever noticed that society, or even the people around you seem to have a whole different host of perceptions of single women than they do women in relationships, and particularly single women vs partnered women in business and the working world? Upon closer inspection, we might also find that, on some level, we’ve taken them on ourselves. Is that effecting how we conduct ourselves in our work, or what we consciously or unconsciously believe we're entitled to receive? If this happens, it can hold us back from truly becoming who we’re here to be and keeping going with stepping into our full potential, in business and in leadership roles we play. So today, I wanted to take a look at three common judgments I’ve watched in recent times come up for single women in business and give you some strategies on how we can all overcome them, with love.
#1 You’re too independent
In one respect, we single women, and particularly, alpha, driven entrepreneurial women are now starting to hear this one a whole lot more. Wether we're busy loving the people we love, or busy giving our best to our clients and colleagues or the growing of the entity or offerings we are here to create in the world, we women get encouraged to be less independent, to stop trying to do it all ourselves and ask for help more from the people around us. In the self care side of things, its flipped to the other end of the pendulum swing that, if we don't now accept help, the new perception is that we are not sufficiently taking care of ourselves and allowing ourselves to receive all of the love and support that we could be in work and in life. If you're anything like me, there could maybe be some truth to this one. Aaah, wether were navigating healing from some past stuff or just navigating the usual Western rites of passage of this day and age, coming into our power is such an intricate journey of complexities!
How to overcome this eg coming back into balance:
Time for some self reflection for the single sisters in the house. If you’re hearing that you are too independent, maybe it's a projection. Maybe someone around you might be feeling a little neglected or abandoned and putting it on you. But is it possible that, for one reason or another, a bad past experience, or childhood experience, an internal remnant of an ancestral experience even, there might be a little bit of truth to the assertion that you may not be reaching out to others, or not accepting help from others as often as you could?
And why might this be? Are you remembering that there is the possibility of delegating the tasks you don't want to do or don't have time to do?. Are you trusting those around to get the job done if you do? Are you trusting the support to be there? Are you seeing the support that IS there? Or might there be some reason that you might be fearing that it isn't or wont be? Such reasons can leave us afraid to let people and the support in. But then sometimes we just don't see it. Sometimes we’re actually surrounded by it, but if our past experiences and beliefs prevent us from seeing or being open to receiving it, it can’t get into our conscious awareness or our physical experience.
How do you overcome this? Declare to the world that you’re willing and open to seeing and receiving support. And then when it comes, practice saying yes my friend. And if it’s not it, if its not the right kind that comes, or your needs change with experience, just as I was saying last week, you get to discern when you're also allowed to say no and call "ok universe, next possibility?".
The flip-side: Where Independence is needed
Kate Northrup talks about the female journey to financial independence every Western Woman has to navigate as a right of passage into adulthood in her book Money: A Love Story. In this day and age, there is a time in life where every young Western woman, in order to grow fully into adulthood, has to choose to let go of her Mothers/Father’s/Providers hand and the reliance on them to provide or fill the financial gaps for her and start to trust in her own abilities to generate an independent income for herself. Like a bird first leaving the nest, there’s really only one way to do it. Feel into what you’re here to do, formulate a transition plan, jump out of the nest and have a shot at flying. The thing about learning to fly though is that, while you can certainly have an instructor and a support crew, nobody else can do it for you. Every body must let go of our hand in those moments in order for us to be able to achieve flight. There are times at which we will nail it and then there are times at which we will start to lose altitude rapidly, flurrying and flapping madly until we work it out. At times we will simply, unfortunately hit the ground. Nobody particularly enjoys those moments. But as they say, when they happen and as I was talking about on my Facebook page recently about little 15month old people like my nephew, the key is to get straight back up and keep going as quick as you can.
Only you can be who you’re here to be, only you can set your values and how you want to lead, only you can create and deliver your magic as you’re here to deliver it and only you can decide what you’re prepared to be paid for it (regardless of what anyone offers or what is “the norm” for that) and the only gateway into your independence is by giving it a shot, nailing it. And as you nail it, you come to understand that you really ARE capable of what your inner intuitive GPS told you you were. Which then progressively makes it easier to fly in your business and life purpose to the heights of whatever financial or material success you aspire, time and time again.
Where this journey can get held up:
Once a young woman has a go at this in her career, or in her business and simultaneously attempts to navigate relationships, at some stage, particularly if pursuing long term partnerships, she will come face to face with the possibility of having another potential provider in place of her parents. If she already nailed flying within her work or her new business and navigating the practicalities of that space by then, then any additional support becomes an added bonus she can choose to receive. BUT if she didn't fully take her leap out of the nest yet, if maybe she keeps calling out to her parents on the way for a rescue (and they keep complying) or she didn't quite nail it, and is still not quite yet confident in navigating the drop offs in business and rolller coaster moments, if she's still doubting and not fully trusting and backing herself, she can also find herself hiding in the support of any new providers, rather than getting courageous and taking that chance on successfully creating her own thing. That's when you might cop no 2:
#2 Single women receiving support is dysfunctional, needy and co-dependent
Then there is the other extreme at the other end of the pendulum swing to receiving no support, which might be called "excessive co-dependence. A woman who hasn’t fully yet stepped into her trust in herself, into her ability to fly in business, in public presentation or leadership, who is still holding doubt in herself and not yet fully trusting and backing herself can then find herself sitting in the Princess chair of experience, manifesting a dozen Princes, whether romantic partners or business partners, or substitute parent figures, who also grew up on a diet of Disney, who’ve learned to pride themselves on their rescuing ability and have built their self esteem, their ego dependent upon their success in doing it. Especially in the human services and helping industries. Rescuing is actively praised, rewarded and publicly at that. But that’s not to say that all support of this kind is "negative". Sometimes it is needed...
How to Support a Single Business Woman in her learning to fly moments:
So, for those of you reading this who aren’t a single woman but know single women, or women full stop in business you'd like to support, remember to check, before getting offended that she wont take your help, you might ask, is she actually in the middle of one of these learn to fly moments? If so, just like a parent, might it be time for you to love her, but get out of the way of her leap out of the nest and cheer from some nearby nest? Sorry, I know it’s hard, but that’s what a good parent does. And a good parent and Child Developmental Specialist will tell you, your kid will unfortunately struggle to learn resilience and to utilise their own judgement in life unless you allow them to fall down and learn how to get back up and walk themselves. Which may unfortunately mean you need to learn how to manage your own discomfort when you see them in their hurty bruised moments, so that you don’t start trying to rescue them from their discomfort, to alleviate your own discomfort, but at the expense of their growth. Does that make sense?)
Remember what i said about the transition plan above though? Sometimes we might need a hand in the hit the ground moments, and that's just fine to ask for support then. It's learning it's life. Just because we didn't make it, doesn't make us any less worthy of support. So the best guide of what is needed to support a woman on the edge of this rite of passage, as some of my older Mum friends with kids who've made the jump recently reminded me, is usually to ask the one facing the jump what they need.
Other barriers women face in the quest for independence:
Then, also, in Abuse and Grief and Loss Counselling, we talk about there being a stage in healing childhood trauma for people who’ve been through major events (like abuse) in life, which actually fully requires for healing purposes the therapist or partner or people surrounding and supporting the effected individual to embody and role model a safe parent energy the person effected may never have received in order for the person effected to explore and heal their trauma, before then moving onto the next stage of healing, where they start taking responsibility for what they can do about it. The phase in which the learning to fly leap challenge will come back up then.
There is also the flip side of this that when single women (or anyone) asks for help and support (especially financial) from someone who has been on the receiving end prior of negative experiences with trauma survivors or people they felt may have demanded or simply required a lot of them relative to what they could give, due to illness of some kind in their intimate associations, with the result that they have come to fear intimacy and maybe even healthy requests for support from people they view as similarly “needy” because of the demands they associate with it. When this happens, and we hear the "needy, co-dependent" card called, it can be an example of our healing matching their healing perfectly. Then the question might become, how do we support each others growth in this instance in healthy ways?
Regardless of whether a business woman is single or partnered, it's ok to be supported in our growth when we need it and ask for help and support. It's not needy, it's called collaboration. It's just that who we might receive it from might change depending on whether we're single or partnered, personally or professionally. It is absolutely essential though to any woman’s success in business and as a leader that she do learn to ask for help with her business planning, her offerings, her leadership and with delegating any of the many hats an entrepreneur has to wear that she doesn’t necessarily need to be wearing all of.
How to overcome them and be supported to be the best version of you:
If you’re single and seeing this projection come up a lot and you're in need of some support with any of the above-mentioned aspects of the independence/dependence journey in business, it might be helpful to have some Counselling or Coaching sessions around this. Or, if this discussion alone was enough to shift things, perhaps now its time to just let it go and ask yourself, what would loving and honouring myself and my needs in my business, my practitioner or my leadership roles look like right now? What would me being empowered and living my highest potential look like right now? How do I want to be supported? What actions can I take to support myself in that way? Who can I also connect with that can support me with this? And then, when you’re ready, implement, implement, implement. Don't forget, I can help with navigating any or all of that or connecting with the support you need to shine beyond it.
#3 Single women are being inappropriate when they ask for or receive support from married people or people in relationships.
Like i said, and you know, it's ok to ask for and receive support. But there is one particular area i want to look at in which single women face another big projection when they ask for help, in comparison to partnered people and of married people and I read an article recently that brought this to the forefront of the service based industry. That issue is the fear of single people, relative to our hang-ups around sexuality
It was the article from leading male entrepreneur Dale Partridge generally addressing the issue of workplace marriage infidelity and business leaders having “work wives” or “work husbands” and the appropriateness of this behaviour in the various levels to which it plays out v's the risk of having affairs in the workplace that got me again thinking about this. Discussions like this bring to the front of consciousness all of our unresolved fears and insecurities in our relationships, plus the collective and individual judgements we hold about the interactions between single and partnered people. Which in reality, from my years of Counselling people through sexual health and relating concerns, I can tell you very often all comes back to our individual sense of self worth and insecurities around our own desire, sexuality and relationships, whatever their origins.
It was suggested (and I agree) that good leaders have and hold clear boundaries and a clear sense of integrity around their relationships and workplace relationships. He spoke out against married/partnered Leaders crossing the line into emotional or literal affairs. And an opinion was clearly stated that good men and leaders don’t cross the boundaries. I love that he's bringing up for our discussion the unconscious masculine and feminine stuff that plays out in the workplace world around us and the industry we're a part of. And I write with deep sensitivity to whatever this has triggered in his world and all who were exposed to this article and the fragility of these situations and whatever has lead him and his wife to choose a scenario in which they have agreed "never to be alone in a room with someone of the opposite sex." I've been on the receiving end of an ex partners infidelity, I know how much it freaking hurts. I've also lovingly joked and been joked about feeling like a workplace wife but with none of the perks of the actual wives in the past, but always done my darndest to keep clear boundaries and integrity in my work dealings, so i'd be lying if i wasn't deeply triggered by the part of this article that writes people like me off as "too immature to live up to the morality that should control their physical body language and playful gestures" and "seeds of destruction'. And i'm happy to admit (not that it's really anyone's business) but i'm a single woman not actively looking, yet seeking a monogamous most likely heterosexual relationship, with a deep respect for the sacredness or marriage and monogamy, yet with a history of having explored non traditional relating models and bisexuality. A path i pursued in order to heal the very deep issues i'd experienced too that this article brings to the surface. As such, i'd also like to present some additional thoughts and suggestions on what i see is one of the other real issues underlying what he's bringing to our attention and the dynamics between single and partnered people, from a place of lovingly having faith that all people are capable of so much more than this and the first hand experience that i don't believe this kind of segregation of single and partnered people is the answer, for any of us.
Firstly, it's 2016, i think there's an invitation here to broaden our horizons on what relationships are at this point in time in 2016. Not all relationships are monogamous and heterosexual. And while, such viewpoints do represent a large portion of partnered people, it does not represent everyone we may come across in the workplace or their values or their needs, nor the perspective of all leaders in the service based industry. As someone who's worked in the realm of sexuality and sexual health, I can tell you that, in reality, for every couple that has faced a workplace affair, there's another one out there somewhere having a consensual workplace 3 way, or at some swingers gig on the weekend and loving it and lets not even get started on the 33% of marriages that began as dating in the workplace and realistically how many years some of those peeps were working together with perfectly happy boundaries, operating within workplace policies before somebody eventually became single. If it's all done with consent and respect, who is any of us to tell them that they're wrong, if they make a decision as a sovereign adults with free will to explore this, it totally works for them and it doesn't impact their work?
So in 2016, i think we need to be really careful about taking a traditional set of sweeping monogamous, heterosexual values (and fears) and universally applying them to the entire population, let alone the entire service based industry. Modern workplace HR policies and legislation are being updated to reflect the reality of the full spectrum of gender diversity and non heterosexual relating. But I think this needs to be addressed actually on a case by case basis of what each couple, each team, each workplace needs in each scenario, based on their values and culture.
I couldn’t help but notice inherent in this discussion and ones like it the underlying collective belief that married or partnered people should avoid having single people around in workplaces and as friends full stop due to the fear that they "might" inadvertently one day have an inappropriate level of connection and an affair. Let me phrase that underlying belief slightly differently; its basically saying married/partnered people and single people are incapable of being just work colleagues or friends. I pose the thought back that this is a massive projection of fear for anyone to put on any single women (or single men) simply for being single women (or men) in the workplace and this industry.
It's indicative to me of the collective and individual fear of every man of his own desire (and woman) that single people, whether actively pursuing anything or not, by virtue of being single, often seem to cop the brunt of the projection of. And then rather than looking in the mirror at what is really an internal issue about one's own self worth, sexuality and relationship history, rather than going and getting the help of a qualified therapist to work through these things with love and trust in all involved, what's being advocated here is getting rid of the external source, the single person/point of attraction to fix the problem, rather than confronting the actual problem, our own insecurities.
To me, i'm sorry, in life, in business, i refuse, as i always have, to play into this fear game, in the world at large that men or women are sexual animals that can't control themselves, because I don't think its supportive or reflective of our full potential at this point in time and human evolution. And i think any advice to service based professionals and leaders actively discouraging people in monogamous relationships from having any contact or work or business dealings from single people (or people in non traditional relating models) as "unhealthy" rather than looking in the mirror and dealing with our stuff in healthy ways, seems to me like an act of fear and mistrust based workplace discrimination on an epic scale. An archaic step backwards for leaders in work and business, no matter what their gender, anywhere, everywhere, but definitely a huge step backwards for the Wellness, Personal Development, the Coaching and Service Based industries, who hold to being the very experts and leaders in advancing human behavioural evolution, in the age of sexual empowerment.
How to move beyond these projections and come back to trust, love and collaboration and get on with doing and being the amazing business people and leaders we're all here to be:
We as human beings are sentient. We have hearts and consciousness and empathy and free will. We have value systems and personal integrity and honour codes. Used together they are a very powerful combination that ensure we will always make the loving choice, whether a single person in business or leadership, or a married or partnered person in business or leadership. I think we're all so much bigger and better than this fear that exists. Single people are bigger than their fear of their own desire. And partnered people are so much bigger than this fear that is often imposed on single people of desire. What if, whether single or partnered, we were to have faith in and expect the best of each other?
We’re all as humans allowed to have desire, we all have sexuality it’s natural, it’s healthy, from the second we are conceived into existence, we are inseparable from it by virtue of being human. Sexual well-being, self-image and self-esteem is a huge part of our identity and coming into healthy relationship with it is a very important stage in the process of stepping into our full power as business owners, as leaders, as human people. Tapping our desire, our will power is what gives us the drive and motivation to get out of bed and keep going. Repress your desire and you soon lose your direction. Sexuality is our basic human right and we are all entitled to take ownership of it and explore it in this world. Single or partnered in some way, the question is though, how do we feel comfortable to do that, and how can we support and respect each other in doing that?
My partnered, married colleagues, what if you were to consider that what the single people and single business women around you confront you with is a gift and an opportunity for healing, growth and deepening your existing sacred connection?
If there is a single person around you who you feel is stepping on your boundaries or crossing a line with their behaviour, there is also the possibility of all parties talking to them about how you feel. Sometimes just the act of being open and real about it takes the sting and the fear, the pressure, the energy out of the whole thing. Like deflating a balloon, talking about it can deflate the huge thing we blow it into otherwise left alone in our heads and then, in having been heard, and respected, I’ve seen time and time again, suddenly it often ceases feeling like such a big deal anymore. A clear resolution is reached and suddenly you laugh and wonder what the issue ever was in the first place. But like the flying analogy before, until you give it a go, you wont necessarily believe this. Sometimes the act of saying no alone completes the process so that everybody can then transform through it and move forward in a new dynamic. And if someone continues to push boundaries after a no, that's where we have the benefit of our teams' support, sexual harrassment workplace policies, and worst case scenario, law. But the invitation here is to come from love and expecting the best of those around us first, remember?
If the fact that we now live in a world in which the number of ways of potentially relating with each other go far beyond monogamy and heterosexuality challenges you, scares you and pisses you off, great, perhaps the very reason you're here today is because it’s time to deal with it. The invitation is to stop running/avoiding/not hiring/firing people over it and go towards you fear and confront why it scares you and perhaps ask for support with that if you need to until it no longer scares the hell out of you and you can stand next to any human being of and gender, of any sexual orientation, in any kind of relationship with a heart full of love and acceptance and total confidence in your truth, your boundaries, your integrity, your love and that of your partner. The world has changed, and it is never going back to the monogamous, heterosexual former comfort zone of familiarity. In fact if you truly look at history, it is a total illusion that it ever even was. Running from our fear and projecting them onto others as hate hurts everyone. Choosing what would love do in this situation though, gives us our best shot at honouring everyone.
Before i come back to the single business people though, what would a business world look like to you in which you, your relationship/s and partner/s are fully supported and respected and you are free to be all of you while you work in a business world you love and work in harmony with the people in your workplace, whoever they are? In which you work with people, single and partnered, with deep maturity and integrity? IF you can see it, you can create it.
The invitation for single people: ways you can overcome no 3:
What if having had this projected at you is also a gift, an opportunity to consider what your needs are and what you can do to meet them in loving, honouring ways? Is it an opportunity to look at your "learn to fly" independence journey, Is it an opportunity to look at how your own sexual energy is presenting and what you’re doing with it? Is there anything you need to take responsibility for here? Is there any projections you are taking on from the partnered people around you about your being single that you might like to lovingly hand back to them to take responsibility for?
And finally, what would a business world look like to you in which you are free to be all of you, in which you are loved, accepted, valued and supported in being who you are and bring what you’re here to bring to the world as your fully empowered actualised self, with love, joy, prosperity, true to your personal honour code and vice versa for the people you love and work with?
Tell us about your vision. Let's not play into this bullshit fear. Let’s co-create an industry we can be proud of together.
Thus concludes my thoughts for the day on some of the common projections we're facing in Wellness and Service Based industries at this time and how we can all work together to overcome them and keeping going with stepping into our full potential, in business and in leadership roles we play. How did you go reading this article? Any insights or thoughts you would like to share? Have you had a similar experience of these projections? Do you have any additional wisdom you'd like to share on how you as a business owner or leader navigate the right of passage into business independence? What additional support would you like to see the industry offer single women and women in business and leadership?
Until next time, I’m Nat Ferrier, Womens Leadership Expert, Creator of the She Lives a Life She Loves Program and Co-Creator of the Practitioner Collective.
Have Fun, Take Care
Northrup, K, Money: Untangle Your Financial Woes and Create the Life You Really Want Paperback – September 10, 2013
Partridge, D: How To Protect Yourself From A Workplace Affairhttp://startupcamp.com/protect-workplace-affair/
Brooks, C: One Third of Office Romances End in Marriage, February 10, 2012
Nat talks about Self Expression, Heart Centred Communication and Lifestyle for Leaders.