This is a co-authored post with my friend and fellow coach, Katharine Campbell Hirst. If you enjoy this article, please subscribe to her newsletter here.
One of Katharine’s most popular LinkedIn posts stemmed from a discussion the two of us had about the double bind that female entrepreneurs find themselves in.
We want to be our full selves with our teams, investors, and customers, but we worry we’ll face a penalty for diverging from the classic masculine approaches to running and growing our companies.
First, what’s “the feminine” anyway?
Our contention, which many cultures have held for centuries, is that all women and men contain both masculine and feminine energies.
The masculine is linear, with an emphasis on hard work and step-by-step progress. It prioritizes focus and logic, and it sees the world through a rational, linear, hierarchical lens. The masculine emphasizes winning in terms of hitting your targets and beating the competition.
In contrast, the feminine is non-linear, progressing in big, often unforeseeable, leaps and resting in fallow periods. It prioritizes emotion and intuition. The feminine sees the world as playful and interconnected. It defines winning as that which is good for you, your team, your customer, your community, and the world. It prioritizes joy and pleasure along the journey, not as something to be deferred to when you have “made it”.
What can I do to access my feminine?
Most of us have access to our feminine, but we haven’t invested in developing it. These parts of ourselves may seem frivolous, impractical, too soft, too slow, or too idealistic.
For example, I felt an innate calling to build a culture based on love in my start-up but feared implementing it as it didn’t fit the Silicon Valley masculine standard.
I worried that no one would join my company.
Once I embraced my feminine, emotionally intelligent side and went for it anyway, my explicitly love-based culture helped my team move through conflict faster and produce more – and it attracted incredible talent.
Today, Katharine and I want to share examples how how you can access your feminine in easy ways. There are deeper, darker more profound access points too. But the simple, daily rituals and practices often add up to far more and are excellent places to start.
Each of us has our own access points to the feminine.
You’ll find yours by paying attention as you go about your life and try new experiences.
Look for when your nervous system calms and your body feels alive, when your executive mind quiets down and your subconscious comes through. When you’re seeing creative solutions that join up the dots in unexpected ways. When you’re centering people and taking emotions seriously.
Here are a few practices that help me and my clients:
Seek out water: It’s no accident many of us have our best ideas in the shower. When we’re in warm water the body relaxes and the brain gets to play. If you’re working from home and working on something creative hop in the bath and tap ideas into your note’s app (this solves Katharine’s writer’s block almost every time).
Flow activities that busy the hands: Cooking, crafting, gardening… Point your executive mind at a task just complicated enough to keep it busy and the rest of your mind enters a receptive idea space.
Putting relationship before task: Take the time to understand the person in front of you. What are their motivations, concerns, and unique gifts? How can they benefit from the task ahead of them? This is a great way to make business – and all parts of our lives – more human. And ironically it’s often the easiest way to get tasks done.
Prioritize pleasure: This can be as simple as choosing to light a candle and make a cup of tea before sitting down to do your expenses or as big as taking a week off “just because”. When we allow ourselves to put joy ahead of work, we start to deprogram patriarchal lessons about what we deserve and when. Pleasure is how we actually fight social programming!
Invest in beauty: First, notice if aesthetics feel frivolous to you. Do you believe they’re less important than “more practical” considerations? We live in a culture that both understands the importance and power of beauty and then labels people who invest in it as “not serious”. Reject these cruel double binds and pay attention to what opens your eyes and your heart. Make your workspace inviting, choose an outfit for a big pitch that puts a spring in your step, and choose a longer commute that gives you some time in nature.
Often you’ll notice the feminine is awakening when some quiet part of you starts to feel alive again.
That’s what it feels like for Katharine and me to subvert the masculine trope that we’re “competitors” as we offer similar services to similar clients. We both building out businesses in a world of abundance, deliberately sharing each other’s thoughts and ideas with each other’s clients. Helping everyone in our networks access more, better ideas, and meet other leaders in our field. It’s a win-win-win for everybody.
Thank you Katharine for dancing with me on this journey and sharing your insights!
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