"Why have we, as women, gotten so uncomfortable wanting what we want?" ~Janine Rudder
Too many of us have never learned how to honor our real, true desires. This has come up in a number of conversations I’ve had with capable, creative, confident women lately. They’ve been hesitant to express the full magnitude of what they want, apologetic about wanting it, or unable to allow themselves to imagine what a satisfying life would look and feel like.
Tolerating our circumstances and making due with “good enough” is regarded as totally acceptable in our culture, noble even. As a result, we often, either intentionally or subconsciously, diminish our aspirations to fit the outcomes and possibilities we think are “realistic” for us. Why do we relegate our deepest wishes to a page in our journal or a whisper to a friend? And when we dare to speak them, qualify our wants with statements like, “I know this is may seem impractical…” Why have we, as women, gotten so uncomfortable wanting what we want?
Below I’ve outlined the beliefs that I hear most often that are holding us back from even being able to imagine what our most gratifying life would look and feel like.
Fear of Failure is Holding You Hostage
I recently asked a close friend to look ahead six months and pretend that her circumstances had completely turned around. I encouraged her to imagine that she is now living her version of happy and embracing her new life and relationship. She immediately resisted and said “right now that’s just not possible or realistic for me.” When I pointed out to her that all I had asked her to do is create a vision, something shifted for her. It became clear that she wouldn’t even allow herself to envision living her deepest desires.
The pain of her present situation and the fear that it would always be that way limited her ability to even dream about a better life. Fear was keeping her mind imprisoned and incapable of seeing a future any different from her present. Once she became aware of how fear was paralyzing her, she was able to take steps forward. First, she allowed herself to create a vision of what she truly wanted. Next, she developed a plan based on the vision; and lastly she took action toward it.
It’s Selfish to Dream Big
My friend Natoshia is like a breath of fresh air – super smart, unapologetically in pursuit of her best life, an incredible mom; the list goes on. A few months back I complimented her on her dedication to her personal development and being an avid reader. I was in awe that with two toddlers she prioritized being the person she wanted to be and making a greater contribution to others. Without hesitating she retorted “Oh yes, we are not using babies as an excuse to not be great. If anything, they are the reason I strive for excellence.” After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I rushed to write that down in my journal.
This experience touched a place in me so deeply because I hear from women so often that they “can’t” want what they really want because of obligations to others. They see their role as wife or caretaker of a loved one as their identity. Ultimately demoting all of their own life’s aspirations to inferior at best and self-absorbed at worst. What I cherish about Natoshia’s declaration is that it is inclusive. It acknowledges our loved ones as significant while honoring what we yearn for in our own lives. Having a family and being a (insert your wildest dream) are not mutually exclusive.
Author, researcher and happiness expert Shawn Achor, said that “happiness is the joy you feel moving towards your potential.” Let the people you love inspire you to do what you love. When you do what lights you up, you illuminate everyone around you.
You Forgot You Can Choose
Some of us limit our possibilities for fear of what we will become. “Well, if I pursue a career as a musician, I won’t be taken seriously,” or “If I start that business I’ve been thinking about, I’ll be one of those people who never gets away from work.” The list of what we may unintentionally turn into if we permit ourselves to want what we want is endless.
My coach recently reminded me that what we forget is that we always have a choice. We get to choose who we are in each moment. That reminder resonated with me so profoundly because it puts all of the power back in our hands. We get to decide what we want and who we are once we get it. We don’t magically transform into “one of those people” once we’ve achieved a certain aspiration. We can intentionally design our lives the way we want it and then be who we want to be once we arrive.
Janine Rudder is a coach and Co-Owner at Manifestara LLC - https://manifestara.com/