When I gave birth to my baby, my sister told me, “Congratulations! This is the biggest accomplishment of your life.”
I looked at her like she was a little crazy and a lot condescending. I felt like I had been downgraded to just being able to get pregnant and give birth like an animal. Like what I achieved in life with my degrees, career ambitions, and business success didn’t matter.
But after my hormones settled and my motherhood instinct kicked in, I realized that my sister was right. I understood that this little human with her 10 little fingers and 10 little toes is everything to me, and everything else doesn’t really matter because it’s all temporary and it all comes and goes.
Success is a tricky thing, especially if you’re a woman.
Success is a made-up word that is used to measure ourselves against others in terms of how much we have done in our own lives. And measuring ourselves against others has never led anyone into a healthy destination because nobody cares about how you feel when you arrive.
Does it matter if a person has built a fortune but deep down inside is miserable? Does it matter if their bank accounts are full but their soul accounts are empty? Does it matter if they have everything they want but what they truly want they can’t have?
These notions refer to both men and women, but their application is different. Just like women and men are different in their physiology, mental, and emotional states, they are also different in how they operate and show up in the world.
In the workplace, men and women compete on equal terms, which are fair by productivity standards but might not be really fair by energetic, physiological, and emotional standards. And I’d be the first one to admire a woman who’s pushed through an important meeting when she’s cramping from menstrual pain, but I don’t believe a woman should have to go through that excruciating experience and reject her femininity in order to “succeed.”
Sure, some might say it doesn’t matter that we, women, bleed every month and go through cycles. It doesn’t matter that we, women, get pregnant, give birth, and nurse our babies at work. It doesn’t matter that emotionally, energetically, and mentally we run on different engines from men.
Or does it?
In our society, everyone’s judged by the same exact standard—dollars for performance or hours worked. Achievement certifications. Completed degrees. Honorary societies. Forbes Top 100. Board of Directors. Chief Executive something.
But what if I don’t define my worth by these numbers? Where do I fit in the “successful” label in our society that values masculine achievement? Where do motherhood, wifehood, livelihood, and sisterhood come into play?
I suggest we stop looking at the profiles of “successful women” and draw inspiration from them without really knowing what’s going on behind the scenes. Without really looking at how that woman feels in her life and who she really is behind the Forbes list.
The truth is, we will never know the “full story” unless that woman is willing to talk about the realities of her life in a vulnerable way—the struggles and the sacrifice, the ups and downs of choosing between conflicting priorities, the years of hard work and pushing to the top, the disappointments and the triumphs of her inner world.
And because she has to compete with men for power, she is playing a man’s game. And there is no room for her to play a feminine role at the masculine power table as it is set up right now.
When a woman is playing by masculine rules all the time, her engines are burning out and she becomes bitter, angry, and resentful. She doesn’t take care of herself, she doesn’t stop, and she’s running herself to the ground—always pushing, always striving, never letting go of control. And because of this denial of our true feminine nature, women are caught up in the “us versus them” power struggle that never ends.
So here is the question we should really be asking ourselves:
How can women lead in a feminine way where they work with and not against their true natures and, thus, everyone benefits? Where do they actually enjoy the journey and the destination? What does that look like? Most importantly, what does that feel like?
There are just a handful of female leaders emerging right now who live in accordance with their feminine version of success, monthly cycles, and are in tune with nature and themselves. These women work and create, thrive, and spread the love from a place of self-worth and enoughness, and not from a place of trying to prove everything to everyone and overthrowing the patriarchy. They appreciate and love men. They want to build this world together with men. They understand that this is the right way.
When a man talks about his success, it’s very clear and linear. You climb up and up and up. You risk everything. You run faster. You don’t stop. The masculine force. The never-ending ambition. He’s going full-on for the kill.
When mature, healthy masculine men are asked about their determination and motivation for building empires, they’ll usually say their purpose is to serve or leave a legacy and provide for their families.
When a woman talks about success, it’s much more complex. It’s non-linear. She wants to involve feelings in it. She wants to have fulfillment. She wants to include details, textures, and beauty. She wants to include her girlfriends, her family, and her community. She doesn’t see providing for her family as her main goal. She wants to include it all in.
It seems like she wants to enjoy the journey and not necessarily the destination. And if it fails, she wants to be okay with it and move on. She wants to taste and discover all the flavors, textures, and subtle frequencies in the process that will allow her to learn about herself and the world. She wants to be in touch with the universe that is herself.
She wants to be fluid and inflow. She doesn’t want to be put in a box and constantly push, struggle, and march. She just wants to be in tune with the ebbs and flows of nature, cycles, and life force.
But see, the top most powerful women on the Forbes list will never talk about these things because they are seen as non-sensical, spiritual, and quite unproductive. Because they are playing a masculine game. They need to achieve, produce, and push like a man, leaving feelings outside the boardroom. Leaving their bodies, deep yearnings, and cravings behind. This also includes leaving their babies behind, too, prioritizing masculine energy and masculine ways of showing up, which are ultimately depleting, stressful, and unsustainable for women.
Leading in a feminine way.
The best way to describe feminine leadership is through the energy of a queen.
A queen doesn’t compete with her king—or any other king—because she knows she doesn’t need to. She is not him; she doesn’t have his body, his hormones, his energy tanks, and his testosterone. She will never be able to win if she competes with him on his terms. Just like he can’t compete with her on her terms. It’s not a zero-sum game.
The funny thing is how men are at a disadvantage because a woman today can do everything a man can do and more, but a man can’t. That is, he can’t carry and birth children. So we, women, want the best of both worlds, but it doesn’t work this way and was never supposed to.
By design, we were made to complement each other in a sacred union that benefits both. Bringing our best qualities to the table to create something perfect, unique, and new where we leverage 100 percent of each other’s best qualities.
If we keep pushing against this natural way of life and relationships, we will burn out. And we are already burning out. Adrenal fatigue, chronic stress, and antidepressants. It’s all happening. It’s all in front of our eyes. We just need to tune in and listen.
A woman thrives in flow and flexibility. She thrives in space and vast energy. She thrives in being trusted to create because she constantly goes through the natural cycles of creation and death. She births babies, ideas, and nonlinear concepts. Yes, she brings feelings into it all and that’s what makes her perspective unique.
So I suggest we start looking at these gifts as strengths and not weaknesses and setting up our own rules and playing by them.
As a woman and a mother, I know deep down inside that my life is more than that. I am more than my degrees, qualifications, followers, or money raised. My value is not counted in numbers. It doesn’t work this way in my body and in my life.
My numbers are rather hours and days spent on rocking and breastfeeding my infant. Minutes and seconds relaxing in a bath, getting a massage, or a haircut. Time spent dancing and moving my body freely in a nonlinear way. Seconds spent on things I love.
After the feminine depth is set up and revered, the masculine structures can come in to support this vision, not the other way around. Depth first, structure second.
How is that for a mind shift? Count your success in the seconds, hours, days, months, and years you’re looking after your wellbeing, your children, your family, and the community. That is your measure of success. Because that is what’s important and that is what’s fulfilling.
So how do we do it all?
After interviewing more than 120 women about femininity, womanhood, and female success as well as tons of research and working with one-on-one coaching clients, I came to the conclusion that you can’t (and shouldn’t) do it all. At least not at the same time. You pick your priorities. You pause. You accept. You move on. Unless, of course, you choose to play by masculine rules, which is also a valid choice, but you have to consciously take it knowing what’s involved.
So pick your version of success and paint your own feminine way of leading, showing up, and living. Because that is how we light up, live up and build a new world for ourselves and our children.
If you’re ready to stop living the “Lie of Female Success,” sign up for my free webinar.