Even Powerful Women Struggle To Speak Up
Even the most powerful woman in the room can find it difficult to express herself. I recently attended a conference where a high-ranking woman in the C-Suite shared a striking story. She had joined an all-male executive team, and they had the terrible idea of holding a kickoff celebration in the men’s locker room. (Yeah, someone didn’t think that one through.🙄)
While this incident is shocking, the point of the story is in this highly successful woman’s deep fear to speak about how excluded and uncomfortable this experience made her feel. Despite likely having numerous challenging conversations in her career, she couldn’t find her voice in this moment.
But What About You?
How many of us have similar experiences? We often lose our voices when they need to be heard the most. Like in professional settings when facing inappropriate comments from male colleagues. Or at networking events when trying to promote our businesses. Instead of speaking up about what we do and why it’s valuable, we find ourselves in a corner, talking to the one person we know because we can’t find the courage to talk to a stranger, and share what is true: we provide a valuable service or product.
For you, it might not be business or career-related; maybe you’re the subject of jokes among your friends, but never say how it hurts you. Maybe you’re not having orgasms when having sex with your partner, but pretend you do. Or maybe you just want to tell your parents that the life they want for you isn’t the one you desire, but you sit through endless dinners lying about your passions and plans.
The truth is, women frequently have difficulty speaking up for themselves. When we calculate the cost of speaking up in the ten seconds we have to make a decision about what to do, we often choose suffering in silence over voicing our truth. We do this because we believe that the cost of speaking the truth is too high. But is it?
What Is It Costing You?
Silencing yourself leads to you feeling like shit about yourself and your life. It grows your self doubt and erodes your self-esteem. Because not speaking up when it counts sends a consistent message overtime that your thoughts, feelings, needs, dreams, and desires don’t matter; even to you. You begin to believe you’re not worth speaking up for. And building this belief through this habit greatly impacts your overall confidence and success.
| Related: How To Develop Self Worth
Increased Income and Opportunities
Not speaking up is going to cost you money, especially if you’re a woman in the workplace. You won’t go after promotions, ask for pay raises, charge your worth for your services, tell people about your products, and on and on. And costing yourself money means missing out on real benefits like treating yourself to spa days, learning new things, traveling to new places, spending quality time with people you care about, and helping important causes.
It can also affect your health because you might skip things like going to the gym or having someone help you get fit, or seeking out a coach or therapist to help with your struggles, which leads to my next point.
Neglected Mental and Physical Health
Keeping concerns and emotions to yourself takes a toll on your mental and physical well-being. It can lead to chronic stress, sleepless nights, increased tension in the body, and physical health issues like headaches, digestive problems. And if it goes unchecked for too long eventually more serious conditions, like chronic pain, heart disease and cancer.
Stress and Burnout
Our work and careers aren’t the only areas we struggle to speak up. We also struggle at home with the very people meant to love and support us. We end up with unequal responsibilities which means we shoulder a disproportionate workload. This consumes our time and drains our energy, leaving less room for personal growth and relaxation. It can also strain relationships if left unaddressed. And let’s be real, its the little things that break up relationships.
I could go on, but you get my point. It’s costing us a hell of a lot more than we calculate in those ten seconds.
So Why Is It So Hard?
It always comes back to the same thing: our unrelenting need to feel perfect. We continuously buy into the false belief that being perfect will free us from the pressure we feel. But it’s a lie. It won’t, in fact it’s what causes the pressure. The pressure to stay silent, not make waves or upset other people. We want to be seen as good and likable, at the expense of everything I listed above. We’re terrified of our humanness, of our imperfection. You might be saying to yourself, I am not afraid of being imperfect, I know I am.
We continuously buy into the false belief that being perfect will free us from the pressure we feel.Arielle Davis
And to that I say, mmmmhhhh let’s test that: Do you have these fears?
Fear of Taking Risks
Are you afraid to step out of your comfort zone and take risks? If yes, guess what you’re normal, and you struggle with perfectionism. It’s not just the fear of failure; it’s the fear of not meeting your high standards or dare I say perfect standards.
As women, many of us are worried that we might make a mistake, say the wrong things, or things won’t go perfectly, so we hold back from saying what’s on our minds. The safety of silence often seems preferable to the uncertainty of stepping into the unknown.
| Related: How To Build Self-Trust: Embrace Fear
Fear of Rejection
Does the thought of being rejected or criticized by others terrify you? If yes, also normal. Our ancestors’ survival used to depend on belonging to the group. Standing out or being different often equaled danger. As a result, we’ve carried this fear into our adult lives, avoiding situations or conversations that might lead to disapproval. For women, there exists an extra layer of pressure.
After being locked out of opportunities to earn our own money, own property, and therefore freedom and autonomy, for even longer than men, our survival was dependent upon not making others upset. And so here we are now. We believe our worth is tied to how others perceive us, so we avoid situations where we might not be accepted.
Fear of Disappointing Others
Do you worry about letting others down? If you do, you’re normal. As mentioned above, women have been taught to make sure everyone around us is happy and comfortable. We’ve often been expected to take care of others, and historically for a long period of time this was the only type of work we were allowed to do.
Decades later we’ve internalized the need to please others and avoid upsetting them. So, even when our intuition tells us that something isn’t right or that we need to express ourselves, we often suppress those instincts to maintain harmony and avoid disappointment. This fear of disappointing others keeps us in a perpetual cycle of self-sacrifice, where our own needs and desires are pushed aside for the sake of others.
Fear of Inadequacy
This is the most insidious fear of all. We believe that we’re just not good enough, no matter how much we achieve. It’s the nagging voice in our heads that tells us we’ll never measure up. It’s the comparison game we play with other women, constantly feeling like we’re falling short of their or our own expectations. This fear of inadequacy is a heavy burden that affects our self-esteem and confidence. We’re convinced that no matter what we do, it will never be enough. This fear keeps us silent because we don’t want to draw attention to our perceived flaws. We’d rather stay in the shadows, where we won’t have to face the potential judgment of others.
These fears feed our perfectionism, creating a vicious cycle that keeps us from speaking up and expressing our true selves. But recognizing that perfectionism is at the root of our silence is the first step towards breaking free and finding our voices. It’s time to challenge the belief that perfection is the only path to success and happiness, and to embrace our imperfections as part of our journey to authenticity and power.
Tips For Speaking With Authenticity and Power
Learn to Identify Your needs
One of the essential tips for women to speak with authenticity and power is to understand and confidently share what you need and what’s important to you. But in order to do that you must first know what your needs are. And because many of us have spent so much time trying to be perfect and please others we’ve never stopped to consider what our needs are, so we feel lost when trying to express them when it counts. So the first step many of us must take is learning to identify our needs.
Practice Communication with a Professional (like me)
A valuable tip to speak with authenticity and power is to engage in role-play or communication exercises with a professional, like me. Here is what I have learned from being a keynote speaker and coach: preparation plus action builds confidence. So in the same way I rehearse my speech, you and I can rehearse and role play these difficult conversations. I’ve done this with clients and they report that it has helped give me the extra boost of courage and confidence they needed to tackle difficult conversations.
Join a Supportive Women’s Community
I will say this until the day I transition to the other side: community accelerates progress. In my community, we learn from each other, provide encouragement, and collectively grow in our ability to speak up by overcoming fear of speaking. We cheer for each other, hold each other compassionately accountable, and help each other feel less alone and isolated in our struggles.
Community accelerates progress.Arielle Davis
You Can Do This Alone, But You Shouldn’t
Listen, I get it. Speaking up can be a tough and scary journey, and the added weight of self-blame for not being the woman you aspire to be can make it even harder.
The woman who knows her worth and speaks up without hesitation.
But here’s the truth: You don’t have to go through this alone, and you should never blame yourself for lacking these crucial skills. Our education system often overlooked teaching us these fundamental abilities, that are just as essential as math, reading, science, and writing.
I’m here to help you build these skills. Do I believe you can do it on your own? Absolutely. But it might come with a lot of pain, setbacks, and wasted time and energy.
My community and I can support you on this journey.
How I Can Help
In my VIP coaching, I offer personalized role-playing sessions, allowing you to practice and refine your communication skills with an experienced guide. Through my courses, I provide you with the essential tools to identify and express your needs confidently, ensuring your voice is heard. Moreover, you’ll become part of a nurturing community of women who understand your journey and are there to support you. With these resources and the determination to speak authentically and powerfully, you can step into a brighter future, confidently expressing your truth and embracing your unique voice.
Are you ready?
If so, click the red button.