As women, we grow up learning that we should be sweet and nice, don’t get angry and accommodate all those around us, be caring and loving, and sometimes even give up what is important for us to make the others happy. What we are not taught, at least many of us, is to do this while setting our boundaries, staying true to our values and ourselves, to our dreams and vision.
For many years, I thought that the two sides were opposing each other and that I’d rather be “nice” than stand up for myself and my values. I many times felt like a victim, trapped into wanting to do the best for the others and while disrespecting who I really was. It was even more challenging as I am a rebel at heart and trying to be “obedient” was not coming easily to me. And for long time I lived feeling I had no voice.
The first time when I noticed I stood up for myself was after a few years of mindfulness practice. I could hear myself making my points clearly and I couldn’t believe it was me speaking. I was so happy! But my happiness didn’t last that long as new layers were been uncovered. All those years of suppressing who I was, made me also doubt myself. I discovered my inner critical voice which was quite loud. And I discovered also the fact that I was suffering of the impostor syndrome, even if at that time I was calling it “being modest and humble”.
Self-awareness saved me from dwelling into these destructive patterns of the mind. Here there are the steps that helped me be courageous, unhook from the impostor syndrome and my inner critic, and show up authentically in my life:
- Awareness of strengths and challenges – I became aware of my strengths, even if I was tempted to say: “Oh, that’s nothing big! Everyone has similar strengths!”, and I became aware of my challenges, even if it was painful to acknowledge them without beating myself up.
- Awareness of the Inner Critic – I got to know my Inner Critic very well. I wrote down the situations when it was present, what it was saying, what was the tone of voice, how it was making me feel. We became very intimate with each other.
- Awareness of the Impostor Syndrome – I noticed every time when I was downplaying my achievements, I was doubting myself, I was doubting how long my success would last or if someone would come and say that I was a fraud, I was not as good as I said, that everyone could do what I was doing etc.
- Accepting my strengths and challenges – I started to be grateful for my successes, celebrate them, allow myself to recognize and savor what I was achieving. On the other side, I understood that we all have challenges and it’s part of being human to be imperfect. There was nothing wrong with me.
- Accepting my Inner Critic – I learnt to accept that having an Inner Critical voice was also part of me, a part of me which initially tried to keep me safe, but it was overdoing it. I thought at it as of an over protective parent – loving and caring but who sometimes stopped me from growing due to fear of imperfection and failure. So, I accepted it and, in the same time, I decided not to listen to it. I set my boundaries in this relationship.
- Accepting my feeling of being an Impostor – I’ve realized that many times this thought would pop up in my mind, yet I could disagree with it, as I was more clear on my strengths and challenges, and I knew that being imperfect didn’t mean I was an impostor. It just meant I was a human being.
- Moving from a victim to a courageous woman – through recognizing all the “voices” in my mind, I had a choice which one I wanted to listen to. And I decided to listen to the courageous one! I had enough of being a victim, and being courageous was one of my values.
Being courageous doesn’t mean we don’t get hurt, that it’s easy or our lives are perfect. These steps help me and most of the women I have been working with to dare to be authentic and to assume the responsibility of being courageous. This doesn’t mean these thoughts or voices never come up. The difference is that they are not that loud any longer and we can choose not to focus on them and not to believe them. We become so clear on who we really are, which are our boundaries, our values and vision, and we understand that it is very important, and in the same time it’s our responsibility, to be courageous and to show up authentically, fully, as we are: caring and loving, nice and sweet, yet fierce and strong, true to ourselves, our values and vision.
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. It is a beautiful form of love to show up courageous and authentic, and it’s our responsibility, for ourselves and those around us, to show up this way. We are not victims, we are courageous, have a choice and are in charge or our lives!