When I was at a top consulting firm, I was leading a project at a famous software client. My consulting firm boss came in one day and said, “This is your project strategy.” As he walked us through his approach, I thought, “That’s not going to solve the client’s problem.” Rather than saying that because I didn’t want to sound snotty, I asked, “Do you think that is going to solve the client’s problem?” He vehemently said, “Yes! Get to work.” I was catapulted back to sitting round my family dinner table with my Army Colonel father who was only happy when we obeyed. I immediately shut up and obediently got to work.
Fast-forward six months to the end of the project. My boss asked the client VP at the software company how the various projects were going. The client VP turned and pointed to me across the room and said, “Well, you know that project CrisMarie led? That was a disaster – a complete disaster!”
I was devastated and humiliated.
I decided then and there that I was going to learn to speak up even in situations where I thought I couldn’t or shouldn’t and help other women find their voice and do the same!
Now, I have a relationship where I can be 100% myself, a business that I love, and the freedom and courage to express myself. I feel relaxed, inspired, and yes FREE!
Being Good versus Being Brave
Let’s first look at some of the reasons this may be more of an issue for women than for men.
Reshma Saijani, founder of Girls That Code, and a recovering perfectionist, gave a great TED talk: Teach girls bravery, not perfection.
Her talk offers some great background on the difference between how girls are taught versus boys.
She references a study in the 1980s, where psychologist Carol Dweck looked at how bright fifth graders handled an assignment that was too difficult. Bright girls when given something that was foreign or too difficult, were quick to give up and interestingly, the higher the IQ, the more likely they were to quit. Bright boys, saw the difficult material as a challenge and energizing. They were more likely to double their efforts!
Here’s where it gets interesting. Girls routinely outperform boys in every subject, including math and science. So there is no difference that would explain this choice to give up other than bright girls believe their abilities are innate and unchangeable, and bright boys believe that they can develop through effort and practice.
These differences are explained through the feedback girls and boys receive. Girls who develop self-control earlier and follow directions, are praised for their “goodness.” Boys, on the other hand, are considered more of a handful. As a result they are given more feedback that emphasizes effort – “if you just try a little harder or pay more attention, you can do it.”
When learning something new that is truly difficult, girls take it as a sign they aren’t good enough or smart enough. Boys, on the other hand, assume they are not paying enough attention and should try harder.
This was just one of many examples Reshema sites in how, as a culture, we teach girls to be good and perfect, and we teach boys to be brave.
Another good example is that a Hewlett Packard report shows that men will apply for a job if they meet 60% of the criteria. Woman will only apply if they meet 100%. In diving deeper into why women did not apply unless they met 100% of the criteria, what came out was their fear of failure. There is more evidence that women remember failure much longer than men!
Danger, Danger, I Might Fail!
Bravery is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as: the quality that allows someone to do things that are dangerous and frightening, meaning risking failure and not being good!!
These days, I am focused on helping women Be Brave! For me, this means having the courage to speak up even when you think you can’t or shouldn’t. It is the number one skill that can transform relationships both at home and at work.
Am I perfect at this? Heck no! It has been my Achilles heel, which is why I have dedicated so much of my time, energy and resources to learning to find my voice and speak up. I care passionately about this and am committed to helping other women do the same, which is why I designed and am offering Be BRAVE!
Three Myths That Keep You Good versus Brave
Women suffer from three myths that keep them trying to be perfect and stop them from being brave and speaking up. I want to do some myth busting for you. If you are with me so far and can relate to being “good” versus “brave,” keep reading!
First Myth: I CAN’T BE HONEST. I’LL HURT THEIR FEELINGS.
Many women are worried about hurting other people’s feelings. It’s no wonder. Most of us grew up hearing some version of: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Plus, women are supposed to be good at building relationships, right? Of course, we don’t want to be known for hurting other’s feelings.
However, the idea of not saying anything is better – is a myth!
The truth is, as women we talk. Sadly, if we aren’t courageous enough to say something directly to the person, we are likely to complain about them to someone else!
Of course, what usually happens is eventually the person we are talking about hears what we are saying anyway, albeit indirectly.
That is usually much more painful!
It can be uncomfortable to share a negative comment that someone might be hurt hearing, but it is even more painful, and potentially more damaging, when they have to hear what you think from someone else.
Second Myth: A GOOD RELATIONSHIP IS ONE THAT IS ALWAYS SMOOTH.
I have to admit, I thought this one was true for the longest time. I worked so hard to meet the expectations of my partner, my boss, my clients and my peers. I was hyper-vigilant in listening to what they liked so that they wouldn’t even need to ask me.
Let’s start with some myth-busting research offered by a marriage and couples therapist, John Gottman, who has been working with and studying couples for more than thirty years.
“Some marital patterns that even professionals often take as a sign of a problem– such as having intense fights or avoiding conflict altogether – I have found can signify highly successful adjustments that will keep a couple together. Fighting, when it airs grievances and complaints, can be one of the healthiest things a couple can do for their relationship.”
Whenever two or more of us are together, there will be differences. We will step on each other’s toes and things will get messy!
Yes, this is true at home. It is equally true at work!!
On teams, you want smart, passionate people aligned around a vision. Yet, smart people who are passionate are going to disagree. It’s healthy and frankly, the source of creativity – and it is not smooth!
So smooth may be more comfortable, but it’s not healthy or creative.
Personally, I think a ‘good’ relationship is one that can adapt and change, which means being co-creative at go!
Third Myth: I CAN’T SAY “NO.”
Most of the women leaders I have coached have told me something to the effect: “I can’t say no. I have to do it, or it won’t get done.” For these competent, bright, accomplished women, this is as true at home as it is at work.
Professional women often feel tremendous pressure to make sure that their careers do not get in the way of getting everything done and keeping everyone happy at home and at work. However, sometimes this over-performing is doing much more harm than good.
Learning to say no is as important as saying yes.
It is true, some things may not be done as well as you like, but if you just keep doing them, you’ll burn out, or worse, get sick.
It is important to remember a “yes,” means a lot more when we can also say, “no”.
Plus, sometimes others learn to shine when you are willing to let them! If you are doing it all, others don’t know to step up or when to step up.
It’s not easy to change, especially when you have been rewarded for your “goodness.” The questions I would ask are: Are you tired of feeling frustrated, resentful and doing too much? Do you want to do more of what you love and less of what everyone else wants you to do? Finally, deep down in your heart, do you know that there is more you could be doing to fully show up in your relationship?
It is your time to connect to you, make what matters to you count, find your voice, speak up, and create what you want! It’s time for you to ease off from being perfect and try being good enough. I can promise you’ll start to feel revitalized, empowered, and yes, free!
Want some help making the shift? Give us call. We are opening enrollment in August for our October Be BRAVE program. Want to check us out? Join us for a FREE webinar we’re offering in September. You can learn more if you Friend us on Facebook @thriveincmt.
Come on! What are you waiting for? Join us and get your life back!
 What Makes Marriage Work? It’s how you resolve conflict that matters most. By John Gottman, Nan Silver, published on March 1, 1994 – last reviewed on June 9, 2016
CrisMarie Campbell and her partner, Susan Clarke are Coaches, Consultants and Speakers. They work with women to help you be brave – speak up even when you think you can’t or shouldn’t. When you do, you feel revitalized, empowered and free! Watch their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! on YouTube. Find them on Facebook @thriveincmt. Check out their next Be BRAVE program at www.thriveinc.com it’s under Services. Contact them at email@example.com.