You are a leader. If you are reading this article, you are interested in the tools and techniques to achieve that which you truly desire and to motivate others towards the same.
However, did you realize that you, being authentically you, and creating the life and business that you truly desire (no matter what anybody else thinks, says or does) is already being a leader!
You don’t need followers to be a leader. It’s about making a demand of yourself and being the invitation for others.
What if only you could stop you?
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What makes a leader stand still?
Preconceived ideas about change.
It's our preconceived ideas that stop us; our ideas about our roles and where we see ourselves fitting into the world and our businesses. The funny thing is, we are the ones who have defined what that world looks like; it’s not real!
There was a time in my life when the technology company I was working for advertised for a Vice President (VP). With the open position, I was doing my Director role and I was already doing the work of the VP but I thought I wasn’t qualified to apply. Fortunately, a friend of mine got me to question all of my preconceived ideas about what it meant to me to hold that title and how that would fit into my preconceived ideas of what my life as a single mom was and what I could/couldn’t, should/shouldn’t be or do. I realized that I was already doing the work and that nothing more would be required of me than that which I would put into it anyway; which had been an unconscious fear stopping me from applying.
Any definition that you have of yourself, whether good or bad, is limiting you. It puts you in a box that has a subheading, “Therefore, I can’t.” For example, “I am a single mom, therefore, I don’t have the time to be a VP”, etc.
Fear of failure.
The most paralytic emotion is fear. A common fear for leaders is fear of failure. It stops you from making choices, which leaves you standing still. Any fear, including the fear of failure, is a distraction; something that holds us back from our creativity and power – stops us from living the life we truly desire and from leading through invitation.
So, what is failure? In my opinion, it’s not achieving your preconceived ideas! As I said above, these ‘ideas’ are just figments of your imagination, so failure is also not real. I once worked with an executive who liked to cycle to release his stress at work. He had a hard time climbing mountains, making him slower to finish his races. His preconceived ideas about his inability to easily climb mountains would intensify the effort, strain and stress. He had put the mountain in the category of being greater than himself and feared that climbing it could never be done easily. Once he realized his fear of failing the mountain was not real, he began to actually enjoy climbing it, and ended up finishing in the top one percent of all his races with and without steep mountain climbing.
I have worked with many executives paralyzed by fear of making a choice, and it is literally killing them; they present with a range of symptoms from disturbed sleep to depression.
Outlined, below, are three tools to free yourself from paralysis and move forward as the leader you truly are.
Steps To Move Forward
How do you identify yourself?
Write a list of all the ways you define yourself; your role as a mom, employee, executive, wife, etc., your characteristics, like friendly, nice, assertive, go getter, etc., your background, such as being the eldest child, from a middle-class family, a graduate, your ethnicity, age, etc., and everything that would build up a profile of you. Now, let it all go. Don’t use it to define you anymore. You are you, in this moment. That is all. And, in the next moment, you can be anybody you choose to be. This presents you with a clean slate that you can proceed from.
What fears do you think you have?
Take a look at what is underneath the distraction of fear. Write down all your fears around being a leader and moving forward. For example, do you fear that you are not good enough or that your current lifestyle might change? Have you made something vital for success and what would be left if it doesn’t actually work? Perhaps there are specific tasks or positions you are avoiding? Write it all down.
Now, let all that go. What if none of it actually meant anything? What if they were nothing more than mental alarms warning you that you are going off course and changing? Celebrate that!
You want to create the life you desire; not stand still in the same-old, same-old. Imagine that ‘whack-a-mole’ arcade game. Each time a fear pops up; whack it on the head with a “Thank you for letting me know that I am creating the change I desire.”
Make a choice and act on it.
It’s our lack of decision-making that gets us stuck in the same situation over and over. But if you don’t choose, the choice will be made for you, because the world does not stand still.
Any choice will do. Choice creates. And in that creation, you gain additional information, which will assist you to choose your next choice.
So, to stop standing still and to move forward into greater success in all areas of life, let go of your preconceived ideas, go beyond your fears and actively and consciously choose the life you truly desire.
In 2016, I finally found my voice. I always thought I had one, especially as a business owner and mother of two vocal toddlers, but I had been wrong.
For more than 30 years, I had been struggling with the fear of being my true self and speaking my truth. Then the repressed memories of my childhood sexual abuse unraveled before me while raising my 3-year-old daughter, and my life has not been the same since.
Believe it or not, I am happy about that.
The journey for a survivor like me to feel even slightly comfortable sharing these words, without fear of being shamed or looked down upon, is a long and often lonely one. For all of the people out there in the shadows who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I dedicate this to you. You might never come out to talk about it and that's okay, but I am going to do so here and I hope that in doing so, I will open people's eyes to the long-term effects of abuse. As a survivor who is now fully conscious of her abuse, I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, quite frankly, it may never go away.
It took me some time to accept that and I refuse to let it stop me from thriving in life; therefore, I strive to manage it (as do many others with PTSD) through various strategies I've learned and continue to learn through personal and group therapy. Over the years, various things have triggered my repressed memories and emotions of my abuse--from going to birthday parties and attending preschool tours to the Kavanaugh hearing and most recently, the"Leaving Neverland" documentary (I did not watch the latter, but read commentary about it).
These triggers often cause panic attacks. I was angry when I read Barbara Streisand's comments about the men who accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them, as detailed in the documentary. She was quoted as saying, "They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them." She later apologized for her comments. I was frustrated when one of the senators questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (during the Kavanaugh hearing) responded snidely that Dr. Ford was still able to get her Ph.D. after her alleged assault--as if to imply she must be lying because she gained success in life.We survivors are screaming to the world, "You just don't get it!" So let me explain: It takes a great amount of resilience and fortitude to walk out into society every day knowing that at any moment an image, a sound, a color, a smell, or a child crying could ignite fear in us that brings us back to that moment of abuse, causing a chemical reaction that results in a panic attack.
So yes, despite enduring and repressing those awful moments in my early life during which I didn't understand what was happening to me or why, decades later I did get married; I did become a parent; I did start a business that I continue to run today; and I am still learning to navigate this "new normal." These milestones do not erase the trauma that I experienced. Society needs to open their eyes and realize that any triumph after something as ghastly as childhood abuse should be celebrated, not looked upon as evidence that perhaps the trauma "never happened" or "wasn't that bad. "When a survivor is speaking out about what happened to them, they are asking the world to join them on their journey to heal. We need love, we need to feel safe and we need society to learn the signs of abuse and how to prevent it so that we can protect the 1 out of 10 children who are being abused by the age of 18. When I state this statistic at events or in large groups, I often have at least one person come up to me after and confide that they too are a survivor and have kept it a secret. My vehicle for speaking out was through the novella The Survivors Club, which is the inspiration behind a TV pilot that my co-creator and I are pitching as a supernatural, mind-bending TV series. Acknowledging my abuse has empowered me to speak up on behalf of innocent children who do not have a voice and the adult survivors who are silent.
Remembering has helped me further understand my young adult challenges,past risky relationships, anger issues, buried fears, and my anxieties. I am determined to thrive and not hide behind these negative things as they have molded me into the strong person I am today.Here is my advice to those who wonder how to best support survivors of sexual abuse:Ask how we need support: Many survivors have a tough exterior, which means the people around them assume they never need help--we tend to be the caregivers for our friends and families. Learning to be vulnerable was new for me, so I realized I needed a check-off list of what loved ones should ask me afterI had a panic attack.
The list had questions like: "Do you need a hug," "How are you feeling," "Do you need time alone."Be patient with our PTSD". Family and close ones tend to ask when will the PTSD go away. It isn't a cold or a disease that requires a finite amount of drugs or treatment. There's no pill to make it miraculously disappear, but therapy helps manage it and some therapies have been known to help it go away. Mental Health America has a wealth of information on PTSD that can help you and survivors understand it better. Have compassion: When I was with friends at a preschool tour to learn more about its summer camp, I almost fainted because I couldn't stop worrying about my kids being around new teenagers and staff that might watch them go the bathroom or put on their bathing suit. After the tour, my friends said,"Nubia, you don't have to put your kids in this camp. They will be happy doing other things this summer."
In that moment, I realized how lucky I was to have friends who understood what I was going through and supported me. They showed me love and compassion, which made me feel safe and not judged.