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30 JOURNAL PROMPTS TO REFLECT ON HOW YOU CAN COME OUT OF THE SHADOWS
For many women, bringing more of their feminine self to the world feels scary.
We receive so many messages about how to be, who to be, and when to be it. Even a modern woman who has learned to bring her fuller self out into the world, can receive criticism for “being too much”, "emotional" and feeling the pressure to conform from both men and women.
The biggest part of my career was on Wall Street – a male dominated industry even today. Having grown up as the oldest of all brothers and with an authoritative father, Wall Street reflected the masculine system in which I grew up. There were fewer women than today in positions of authority but there have been even fewer role models of an integrated leadership reflecting masculine and feminine values.
What value systems have been available for women to emulate? Primarily, patriarchy. We need to learn new systems of leadership - ones that reflect partnership - and integrate the strengths of the masculine and the feminine without the devaluing aspects of patriarchy.
It's not your fault...
Because of the way women have been hidden or written out of history, young girls often grow up without female role models they need in order to learn how to bring out their female attributes rather than hiding them.
This conditioning doesn’t begin and end in the workplace. It begins in the culture. It has been reinforced through thousands of years of patriarchy and it plays out in every part of women’s lives: relationships, work, school, leadership, raising children, and even the way women support other women.
And, the problem is not “human nature.” It is not science and technology. The problem is that the masculine system leads to imbalanced relations with ourselves, our planet, and those with whom we share the planet.
One of my favorite studies on masculine and feminine qualities in leadership was documented in “The Athena Doctrine – How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future” in which the authors surveyed thirteen nations representing 65 percent of global GDP.
How can women bring more of our FEMININE qualities into their personal and work lives – rather than dismissing them, rejecting them as “weak”, or compartmentalizing. (The subject of compartmentalizing is for another day, but suffice it to say here, it is another way of suppressing.)
What does it mean to be a woman in a man’s world for those of us who do not wish to be stay home and “become like our mothers” or to strive aggressively and “become like men”?
The answers can be found in a woman’s ongoing longing to be authentically “feminine”, to experience herself fully as a woman and, at the same time, to be a strong, independent individual whose power and authority are rooted within her.
However, our society is so structured that it has left this longing unmet. And worse yet, it is often a double bind. If she adopts a vocal, capable attitude, she is deemed too “masculine” and becomes a threat to both men and women by rocking the dominant cultural standards. If she chooses a style of femininity that is defined by men, she is perceived as competition for male attention by other women, not taken seriously by men in the workplace – and left dependent and without choices.
There is a pattern emerging in women’s development and the strength of feminine values is growing to bring balance to the masculine system. It's not an either/or but an and/both. When the masculine and the feminine qualities are balanced, we are able to live in partnership with each other.
Are you feeling ready to bring more of your feminine strengths into the workplace? Grab your favorite journal and your favorite pen or pencil and begin reflecting on your own experience. Here are some journal prompts to get your started:
- What is the purpose of my life? The one thing that if I don’t do it, it will never exist in the world?
- What is my passion? Am I living out my passion? Have I buried my passion, or even worse, have I molded it into something that others find acceptable?
- What parts of myself have I rejected? What parts of myself do I want to reclaim?
- What female stereotypes do I embrace? What do I want to release?
- What labels do I fear?
- Count how many times in a day you say, “I’m sorry”? What’s your number? What do you want to do about this?
- What are 3 things you genuinely appreciate about yourself? How can you do more of this each day?
- What do you consider to be the most radical step you can take on your own behalf?
- What parts of yourself do you judge? Your thoughts? Your body? You career status?
- What qualities in other women make you crazy? How do you embody these same qualities?
- If you could choose a new attitude about yourself and the life you are living, what would it be?
- If you could make a sound that is you at your most powerful self, what is the sound? Now, make that sound!
- Make a list of what you want.
- Do you think being feminine is a weakness? If so, how do you hide/suppress/mask your feminine qualities?
- How much love is in your life? How much time do you spend with the ones you love? What change do you want to make?
- In the past year, have you been told to “just be nice”? What was the situation? How did you feel? Did you comply or shrink? If you didn’t comply, what did you do?
- Where do you go inside of yourself when you are afraid? What helps to relax your fear, anxiety, or worries?
- When is your self-confidence strong? How do you feel and sound? What causes you to doubt yourself?
- What is your emotional range? Can you express the whole continue from happy to angry to sad? Which emotions do you hide? Which emotions are you comfortable expressing?
- Women have passed repression and adaptive behavior from one generation to the next. It was/is a way to survive in a power structure that rejects women’s rights. What do you want to change for the next generation of women?
- What issue are you passionate about? How do you express this passion in your life? What next step can you take to create alignment between this passion and the way you live in the external world?
- When do you feel shame? Is there a theme in the kinds of situations that trigger shame for you?
- Describe in detail how you experience your own power? Where does it sit in your body? What color is it? What is the energy of your power?
- Create an argument for “why CAN have what you want”.
- Write a “whining” page about something you absolutely think needs to change.
- Consider these seven connections: groundedness, sexuality, will/determination, loving kindness, self-expression, insight and intuition, connection to a higher power. Which ones do you feel most connected with? Which ones feel closed or contracted?
- What is holding you back from expressing what you want to say?
- Who are your female role models (in your family, in history, superheroes)? What qualities do you admire in them? How can you express more of these qualities in your life?
- Finish this sentence “If I were living fully in my power, I would ….”. Keep writing until you run out of things to say.
- Finish this sentence “The part of me that scares me the most…”. Keep writing until you run out of things to say.
BONUS PROMPT: How can I support more women to express their most feminine selves?