I need to talk to you about women in business, and more specifically, women creating their own careers and carving their own path. I call you a “creative” entrepreneur, but I get a lot of kickback on that from people who don’t identify as creative.
The thing is, by blazing your own trail, you are creating. You’re creating a product, a brand, a name for yourself, a business, a client base, an audience, and a unique vision of success.
You are creative. And brave. And interesting. And powerful.
As I was finding success in business, a reality series about entrepreneur, Jillian Michaels titled Just Jillian aired on TV. In one episode, a box of workout gear (for her new clothing line) arrived for her approval. She opened it, picked up a pair of leggings, and started yelling, “What the f–k is this? What the f–k is this?!”
It was a scene that changed the way I do business. In many of her dealings, Jillian threatens the room with a bazooka.
“Sometimes you do need to get the bazooka and let people know, ‘Hey don’t f–k with me, stop f–king with me or I’m gonna pull out the bazooka.”
What I’ve learned since then is that, when it comes to business, there is always a bazooka in the room. The bazooka represents the power, so if you want to succeed, you better make sure it’s in your corner. And if anybody’s going to wield it during a transaction, it has to be you.
Where’d your power go?
One thing I’ve really paid attention to in this last year is: When my power escapes me, how did I lose it and whom did I give it to? A few examples …
- When I’m afraid to sell my offer, I give my power away to fear of rejection.
- When I’m afraid to share opinions, I give my power away to fear of not being liked.
- When I fail to create boundaries, I fragment my power and welcome disruption.
- When I miss deadlines, I dilute my power and succumb to procrastination.
- When I fail to issue clear instructions, I leave my power open to interpretation.
- When I’m too lenient in parenting, I give the power to my children.
- When I don’t communicate my needs, I replace my power with resentment.
- When my confidence shrinks from rejection, I give my power away to the rejector.
- When I make self-deprecating jokes, I dishonor my power.
- When I “soften the blow” and meekly let others know of my success and accomplishments, I diminish my power for people who have given up on achieving greatness of their own.
- When I ask a soft question instead of making a strong statement, I forget my power in the quest for validation.
If I asked you to imagine a powerful woman completely in charge of her health, wealth, and happiness, who comes to mind? I’m hoping you can think of a few good role models, but if you can’t, I know why.
For the last century, to be a powerful women meant rejecting all that’s soft, womanly, and nurturing about our nature. It meant pantsuits, foul language, and “being one of the guys.” It meant sacrificing the feminine goddess within and instead learning to “grow a pair.” It meant a lifetime battle of career vs. family because all powerful women seemed to have to choose one or the other.
Think of the high-power, high-profile women in the movies: Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada (dream career, stabs her friends in the back, desperate for her husband’s affection), Jules Ostin in The Intern (dream business, unbalanced life, husband cheats on her), Selina Meyer in Veep (narcissistic woman in charge who makes powerful decisions based on what everyone else thinks), and Joy in Joy (a woman who makes it to the top but remains downright sad and continues to nurture toxic relationships) are only a few examples of how poorly powerful women are portrayed on screen.
Every movie’s theme: If you believe in yourself and chase your wildest dreams, you lose everything else (if you’re a woman). Never mind how irrational that sounds, it’s true (unless you’re a man).
In the movies, to be a woman with power means to ignore her children and lose their respect (or never have a family at all), risk her marriage and take a gamble on her partner’s fidelity (or never have time for a partner at all), and oh by the way, she’s a shrill, narcissistic bitch. At the end of the day, the woman with power goes home to curl up with her sad and lonesome life. (Seriously, I couldn’t make this up. Pay attention to how powerful women are portrayed!)
No wonder we try to hit that power ball right back out of our court!
When I started making good money, hiring people, and eventually, out-earning my husband (who’s always been the breadwinner), I wasn’t celebrating; I was distraught and plagued with fear and anxiety.
I watched The Intern (Anne Hathaway, Robert De Niro) shortly after I started making six figures doing work that I loved, and I burst into a panic. Bad Moms provoked a similar reaction! It was then that I realized how distorted our perception of strong, powerful women actually is.
So, yeah. I wasn’t sure I wanted to make a lot of money or take over the breadwinner role in my family. I certainly wasn’t sure I wanted to embrace my power and channel it according to my desires! Just look at all the entertaining stories about what happens to women who behave in such a way.
(Don’t) Soften the Blow
This is where the picture gets even more harmful. Women want the power—because who doesn’t want to shape their fate and fulfill their true potential? But, we’re afraid of what that means and how we’ll be perceived.
What happens if you actually claim your power? How would that make you look?
To make everyone more comfortable (ourselves included), we try to soften the blow. We aim for playful and light. We proceed with caution; our approach is gentle and meek.
In business, women use hashtags, such as #girlboss, #bossbabe, #ladyboss, and #girlbiz. Just think about that for a second. When was the last time you saw a businessman (powerful or not) use #boyboss?
Putting the final touches on this presentation! #boybiz #boypower #boyzrule #boyboss
Would a 9-year-old boy even write like that? I know my son wouldn’t! Yet grown women mark their hard work with hashtags like these all the time.
Moreover, what a struggle it is to find a female role model who doesn’t dance or use silly props in their business dealings. Why don’t businessmen feel the need to “just bust a move” in their video intros, I wonder?
It’s sickening to me how many women get to the top of their industry, and then resort to selfies. Is that what it’s come to? Must you entertain people with goofiness and superficial #girlpics to take up commercial space these days? Where’s the substance in that?
I refuse to perpetuate this harmful cycle.
Be You, Be Powerful
I’m so damn serious when I work. I’m creating a living and making a life. I’m blazing a trail. When I’m on the mic, I’m not there to entertain you. That’s not my job! I am an entrepreneur on fire. I train day and night for this career, and I pass the torch to other women by sharing substance and strategies that empower.
At first, I was scared that owning my power meant losing my softness, that I would somehow be harder. I was literally shaking the first time I picked up the bazooka in a meeting, but I came away with the control and the respect I deserved in the situation.
It took me a year to get comfortable enough to wear my power like the queen’s cloak that it is. I credit quiet self-therapy and my husband, because I wouldn’t be so fearless and bold without either that self-awareness or open communication behind me.
I thank God for the power each of us carries, and I promise to honor mine always.
I’ve learned that when I’m feeling misunderstood, it’s because I’m not clearly stating what I need. If I’m disappointed, it’s because I gave up too much control in the situation. I’ve learned that when I’m disrespected, it’s because I gave my power away. I’ve learned that when things aren’t going my way it’s because I haven’t told anyone which way I intended to go.
The morale of the story: I haven’t gotten harder, but I do get better every day. In this quest for success, I’ve only become more of myself, and that’s made me happier than ever.
Give Her Credit
In the comments below, please share the names of some powerful women you admire. If you have an extra minute, tell us why + how they inspire you. I’ll share mine as well and continue to add to the list every chance I get.
Here’s to your success,