Welcoming Back Your Feminine Self

by Cain, Sandra Monday, August 07, 2006
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Ever feel like you’re a masculine personality, walking around in a feminine body? Not necessarily in a gender-orientation questioning way, but maybe in an identity questioning way?

Sometimes women in leadership positions feel like we have to develop and emphasize our more masculine qualities (decisive, bold, direct, persistent, driving for results, etc.) and downplay our feminine qualities (compassion, empathy, collaboration, relationship building, inclusion, etc.) to be effective. And often the result is that we marginalize the feminine; we decide it’s inappropriate to bring all of ourselves to the workplace.

One thing that often happens is that women who are successful professionally for being decisive, direct, bold, direct and persistent, become “mush” in their intimate relationships. Certainly, there may be other factors contributing to it, but it seems clear that there’s a connection between women who are strong and assertive at work, and overly passive in their personal relationships. So what happens? Have we marginalized the feminine so dramatically at work that it just pops up in its extreme somewhere else? It’s like trying to hold a beach ball under water; eventually it will pop up and surprise you. If we suppress a part of ourselves, it will find a way to surface.

It’s worth examining what stops women from bringing the feminine qualities into our professional lives. Often, we fear being perceived as weak, emotional, unreliable, unprofessional and more. We may also believe that women must focus more on the masculine quality of driving for results because our acceptance as leaders is dependent on proving ourselves again and again in the only way that is measurable (i.e.: recognized and valued) in the organization. I’m not suggesting that you run screaming from the conference room next time you are upset. I am suggesting that there is a need and hunger for more feminine qualities in the workplace.

In order to be an authentic leader, you must know yourself, and that includes all parts of who you are. As women, we generally have more interest in who we are and what we bring to the party. The wonderful feminine qualities of self-reflection and self-awareness are a place to start. Here are a few questions to get you started:

  1. Which feminine qualities have I decided are inappropriate? (examples: compassion, empathy, collaboration, relationship building, inclusion, etc.)
  2. What is the impact of not allowing those to show up at work or other parts of my life?
  3. What would be possible if I did bring more of myself to the workplace?
  4. What’s one action I can take to welcome back my feminine self?
So take a look at yourself, ask yourself the tough questions, and reward yourself for taking the time and having the courage to do it. It’s time to bring forth the wonderful feminine leadership qualities of inspiration and empowerment, and it can begin with you! When you need a little support, remember this quote from an unknown source:

“Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body. But rather, to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, champagne in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming...Wow, what a ride!”