Breaking Free from the chains of double consciousness
Oscar Wilde, the Irish dramatist, once said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
Occupying a minority status in any society, at any time in human civilization, has always required wearing a proverbial mask to ensure your basic survival, your invisibility was your saving grace.
Frantz Fanon conveyed this in his book Black Skin, White Mask, masks can be imbued with a double meaning, a barrier that at once empowers and disempowers – conceals and reveals. For many of us moving through spaces that we perceive as unsafe, the self-imposed invisibility may create a false perception of safety. Sadly, in the short term, wearing a mask may protect us from bodily harm, long-term, the mask does not ward off the lesions and wounds seared into the soul.
Fanon conveyed it well. Wearing a mask perpetuates a double consciousness that while appearing to serve as a protective shield, gradually disintegrates into the face, melting into the soul of the individual wearing it. The clear lines of where the mask begins and ends are no longer easily perceived.
While masks have been worn by various civilizations and cultures for collective self-expression and individual self-protection, they were always meant to be worn temporarily. For these tribal cultures, masks were worn during rituals, both to convey shifts in consciousness, for example, good or evil, to ward off evil spirits or even take on and become the embodiment of a spirit. Through the mask a person could be both disempowered and empowered, at once, stripping the self and subsequently absorbing the power of an “esprit” spirit to connect with a source greater than oneself.
However what happens when a person who has been wearing a mask for so long, truly believes the mask is good for them? What do you do when the mask is no longer an accessory but becomes a necessary coverup that must be worn daily? When the person wearing the mask deeply believes taking it off would cause more harm than wearing it?
Confidence & Trust – The Faces of Leadership The most powerful theme in leadership development in 2018 is TRUST. The world over, there is a lack of trust, especially between individuals and institutions, the workplace being ground zero, especially among younger workers, particularly women. If female managers don’t believe that their efforts will be acknowledged and refrain from pursuing new opportunities – it indicates a low level of trust in the organization. To change this reality, their perception must be altered through what is seen and believed.
Post hashtagmetoo, hashtagTimesUpNow, hashtagDrBlaseyFord and all the other hashtagwomensrights movements of the past 2 years – what have we learned, if anything, and what now? We had a wonderful time at Novocento Brickell having candid discussions about the three different dimensions of power – self, community and the institutions we interact with daily.
“I’ve been at my job for seventeen years. I have trained those who became my boss and have consistently been passed over for a promotion. yet I can’t bring myself to leave.”
– True Confidence, Workshop Participant
One of the participants blurted this out, tearfully sobbing during a workshop I recently led at a local funding organization. I asked her if it was ok for me to touch her shoulders. She nodded, whispering “yes” and I stopped the presentation. I had to hold space with her, acknowledging that she was being heard and seen. What she needed was beyond the scope of the workshop, so I encouraged all the women in the room to turn their attention to her for a few minutes.
Perhaps this moment would empower her to take a small courageous step; the day she would make the decision to do something differently. She had already taken the first step – showing up to the workshop, allowing herself to be vulnerable. As the other women sat closer to her, I knew only a journey of self-discovery could re-ignite the flame in her soul to dream again and take action on her life – she needed to find her inner heroine to not let this be the bitter story that would define her life.
She had arrived at the workshop late and I remember feeling the energy in the room shift immediately. I knew her spirit had been crushed so much that I could not recommend taking bold actions so I emphasized taking small courageous steps to begin her journey. All the women in the room gave her the permission to leave that job, releasing her of any guilt she had of leaving her colleagues behind.
We all suggested taking a few small steps, knowing in our wisdom, along the way she would begin to shed all of the fear, guilt and shame she had been carrying in her body for seventeen years. These small steps would elevate her value in her own eyes, which was the most crucial thing that needed to happen to her in the coming weeks.
Consider this Framework, I shared with her and the other women, when taking One Thousand Small Courageous Steps to elevate your value and self-worth.
Step 1: Seek positive feedback from people who care about you
· Solicit it from others
· Use it as an opportunity for growth
· Avoid negative self-talk
Step 2: Invest the time in developing your Emotional Intelligence
· Understand how to balance self-awareness and social awareness.
· Minimize constant self-policing.
· It’s not always about you…
Step 3: How resilient are you? Understand your Adaptability Quotient
· How quickly do you adapt to change? How resilient are you?
· Constantly scan your horizon for new opportunities.
Step 4: Do something that makes you uncomfortable once in a while
· Avoid always trying to be perfect.
· Take small risks.
Step 5: Find professional support
· Find a life and health/ wellness coach to become emotionally and mentally fit.
· Seek out support groups in judgment-free environments that will help you grow.
Consider joining networks that support women to empower themselves like Ellevate Network’s global platform. “Ellevate Network’s Mobilizing the Power of Women Summit brought together an intentionally diverse and committed group of people to take action towards equality. Download the Mobilize Women Action Guide here and subscribe to the Ellevate newsletter.”
Innovation City Podcast Interview #006
My Full Innovation City interview at Venture Cafe Miami is LIVE on all digital platforms. If you are starting off as an entrepreneur or you are taking a LEAP to start a new venture or set out on a new life path, you will enjoy this interview. You can also subscribe to SLAM on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube and SoundCloud. Thank you, Tyler Kelley and Venture Cafe Miami for such a great interview.
We are honored to have been selected as a presenting host company at NewCo Miami 2018. NewCo is an internationally renowned organization that connects next-generation business leaders with the most innovative companies, founders and executives that are shaping the future. Join us on Monday, March 26th and learn about The Rise of the Global Women’s Economy and The Leaders of Tomorrow. Empathy, EQ and Courage will matter more than ever. Are your people ready?
Both those in Marketing and HR should attend. Marketing and People Development functions come together seamlessly when we understand the relationship between the two. In the new economy, consumer and talent engagement will reinforce each other exponentially. Services and products will be designed in an empathetic and human-centered way. NewCo Miami is about innovative thinking and the disrupters changing the business landscape
In the new economy, you will have more in common than you think!
Space is very limited. Get your TICKET today and save 30% with the early-bird code: NewCoMIAHC30: With NewCo, you’ll get a chance to visit our offices plus 40+ other innovative organizations throughout South Florida. Find out more and get your ticket here. bit.ly/NCMia18.
What is the price we pay when we choose to do nothing about a situation that slowly eats away at us?
These past weeks a parade of women have accused powerful men in leadership positions of sexual harassment, assault and rape. Across many industries heads are rolling so much so that it borders on the absurd. How can so many people be complicit in uplifting these predators, praising them and awarding them for their creativity? What have we been doing to allow these people this level of success? It is mind blowing that so many have put up with being abused, beat down and stepped on as a matter of course for the sake of their careers…
Can the veneer of success wash away the deep shame that comes with compromising yourself regularly? Where do we draw the line on the proverbial road to Athens? The road to conformity and self contortions that leave you barely recognizable, even to yourself.
I developed my work around the Heroine’s Leadership Journey so that women could find the courage to stand up for themselves. The very model is based on rebuilding female self-confidence, which is very much needed, now more than ever. “Fake it till you make it” is no longer enough! My coaching approach is especially crucial after years of working in toxic hyper-masculine professions that erode any sense of self, dignity and integrity that is required when you do nothing but compromise yourself on a regular basis.
As these sexual harassment stories surface, it is impossible for old memories not to resurface. I have dodged many bullets over the years, as a young woman who traveled extensively for work with consulting teams made up primarily of men, the boundaries were sometimes pushed by people who knew better and my cold hard stare rarely ever left anyone wondering what was permissible in my presence. We can all #dobetter. #metoo
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The 3Cs of Women’s Leadership
How Might We Become More Courageous, Confident and Collaborative Leaders? Part I.
As women, “Are we our own worst enemy”? Are we the helpless victims and co- conspirators of our own demise? I silently asked myself this question, as I sat in the audience at a women-in-leadership forum in the southeast of the United States. The dominant perspective that morning, amongst the female bankers leaned towards the Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, point of view. As women we need to “lean in” be more ambitious, raise our hands and not shy away from new opportunities. In her bestselling book Lean In, women are assigned full responsibility for their career trajectory. However, what I heard that day took it even further than us taking responsibility for our careers. What I heard was that most of the challenges women face rising to leadership positions, were undeniably their fault. Among other advice the young bankers received that morning, they were told to stop “whining” and start drinking more “wine” by four out of the six panelists. They were all women who were in the C-suite of their organization. Several of them were CEOs of their local community banks.
Learn how the 3Cs of Leadership creates a more inclusive and diverse workforce. Speaker Engagements
As I sat there, I reflected uncomfortably about what I felt was internalized sexism and misogyny that was now being passed on to these younger female bankers. I wondered about whether the patriarchy was outside of us, after all, an external dominant force that oppresses us, at every turn or a highly complex and well-oiled machine with all the parts and gridlocks to move our thought patterns in the appropriate direction – self-blame. Learning to rationalize self-loathing and minimizing one’s feelings of worthiness is not hard when you are reminded every day that you are less valued, through un-equal pay and have to prove your self before you are promoted while your male colleague is promoted on his potential.
What allegiance do we have to ourselves and to each other? What responsibility do we have to the future generation of women, our daughters? Are we willing to stand up and fight for them, the way others did for us to be where we are now or tell each other to stop “whining,” the way some men in the professional world have traditionally talked down to women? These are questions we must ask ourselves individually and collectively because the current state of the world requires that of us. We owe it to the future generation of women to ameliorate our shared burden of being the “second sex.” Can we imagine a future in our likeness? Stay tuned for part 2.
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Have you ever wondered what is the price we pay when we choose to do nothing about a situation that slowly eats away at us? Does it eventually become too high for even the toughest, richest and most famous of us to bare?
You know that feeling you get when someone steals your ideas and pass it off as if its theirs. Or when you always get the assignment no one wants or another year and you are once more past for a promotion? Or worst, when someone makes an inappropriate and overtly sexual comment directed at you? That sinking feeling of defeat that is followed by “how do I even respond to that?” Where do you draw the line to preserve some level of dignity for yourself? Is that clear to you or will you just know when you find yourself in an unexpected situation? Is it 100% clear to us when we have been put into a compromising situation or do we equivocate and remain ashamed, unsure and unaware of what is acceptable? And then what must be done?
These past weeks, the parade of Hollywood starlets who have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, assault and even rape that took place over the course of 30 plus years boggles the mind because it just seems impossible, given how powerful these celebrities have become… I felt angry and bewildered that must this be the reality of women, even those who seem powerful?
How can people not stand up for themselves? To not speak up about injustices done to themselves or others and instead publicly thank and shower this man with praise? These women are just as susceptible, if not more so, to being victims like the rest of us. They suffer the pain that comes with having been physically violated; regardless of their social status and the deafening silence that was imposed on and subsequently accepted as a fact of life and the price of doing business; by them.
Unfortunately these extreme situations remind us all to well what happens when “well intentioned” people choose to say and do nothing. Often doing nothing is not as extreme as not speaking up and against sexual assault but it is not speaking up for yourself during a meeting when others are posturing or simply talking over you. Doing nothing is waiting for life to just happen to you, eventually becoming a victim of circumstance rather than an agent for change in your own life and perhaps the lives of others. I hope we all choose to do Something!
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Visit us at We R Artemis Leadership Inc. to learn more about the work we do with women.