Becoming a phenomenal woman | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Becoming a phenomenal woman

What does it take to be a phenomenal woman? Is it possible to be one, or does it come at a tremendously steep price?

In the Philippines, there seems to be more equal footing for women and men, compared to other countries. We see a lot of women in senior management, albeit the limited representation in the C-suite level. There is no limit to the education level women can achieve, and we see a lot of them in private and government sectors across levels.

Have we really nailed being a phenomenal woman, or are these successful women still trying to be men to win in what used to be male-dominated industries?

In “The Heroine’s Journey,” Maureen Murdock writes, “women are portrayed in our society as unfocused, fickle and too emotional,” with being “passive, manipulative or nonproductive” as equivalent to being feminine. Girls who were brought up with these messages fought hard to reject their natural femininity. Instead, Murdock writes, “women have become addicted to perfection, overcompensating and overworking” to reject their fear of being inferior.

Internal battles

Most women take great pride in thinking and competing and beating men in their own game. Women who do this create internal battles within them because of the rejection of parts that are innate in them. Murdock further writes, “when they achieve what they’ve set themselves out to get, they experience a gnawing sensation of loneliness and desolation.” It feels that they have betrayed themselves somehow.

How can we become successful in our own right, fully owning who we are? What does it mean to embrace being a woman—with all its beauty, fragility, strength, power and uniqueness? How can we maximize our potentials, live a meaningful life without betraying who we are?

These are tips to help women out there to navigate through the confusing messages we get about who we should be, while unraveling the true beauty of who we are.

1. Find the balance between being too kind and being bossy. Women who are too kind tend to tolerate a lot of bulls–t and are often taken for granted. They are often taken advantage of by people who create sorry excuses to not be held accountable for their share of the work. This happens both at work and at home. At work, they do too much for a fraction of the credits. At home, they take on too much responsibilities only to feel resentful and usually resented by their partners. The ones on the opposite extremes are those who will dominate any room they go to. They will call out anything that is less than perfect. They are feared and hated, and work excessively. The balance between these two extremes is having boundaries on what we take on as our responsibility. We invite people to rise to the challenge of doing their parts of the obligation. Know when to encourage, to support and when to walk away. Calling out people who don’t live up to our standards in a kind and compassionate manner earns us more respect and following. Being mean and angry rarely helps long-term.

Wanting it all

2. We don’t have to do it all. Wanting to have it all and be it all is the luxury that our generation is being presented with. It is a temptation for many women to be the best daughter, wife, boss … The question to ask is, “How do you experience yourself when you do that?” So many of these women seem to have it all externally, while they suffer within. They long for that day when they can just take care of themselves. The strive for perfection in all areas of our lives is the biggest theft of our happiness and peace of mind.

3. Learn to say no. In the desire to do everything and not miss out on opportunities, we miss out on life. When we say no to people and things, we give space for more of what we want.

We need to choose what we spend our time and mental space on. Countless hours are spent thinking of the people we detest, on fears of the future and feeling sorry for our lives. Say no to unnecessary cyclical thoughts, emotional vampires and people who don’t support us. Sometimes we even need to say no to activities and people even if we like them, to preserve our energy, mental stability and peace.

4. Do what makes your heart full. If you don’t have to be productive and no one is watching, what would you really want to do with your life? People who are highly functional zombies would be scared to even explore this line of thinking. So many of us have forbidden joy in our lives. Joy is seen as the opposite of wanting more and striving to be better. Quite the opposite is true.

The more content our hearts are, the more fuel we have to continue our paths to growth and excellence. Life is about the journey, not the destination. And for the perfectionist, the destination always changes anyway. There’s always more to desire, more to strive for. Fill your heart with a positive flow of emotions. This will impact how you do everything. You’ll go longer, and you’ll be happier in the process.

Say what you mean

5. Be clear and assertive. Assertiveness is communicating what you mean with the appropriate emotion, tone and expression. It is a skill that so many people have not yet learned. The majority just choose to not say anything and explode later on. This is unfair for the person on the receiving end. Not being given the right feedback at the right time gives the assumption that everything is okay. When you are not clear because you are afraid to have difficult conversations, things will tend to be worse down the road.

6. Be compassionate and firm. Compassion literally means “to suffer together.” It is feeling the pain with other people. This doesn’t mean lowering standards or allowing people to be less. We can be compassionate about people’s life situations and still be firm on what the nonnegotiables are.

A lot of women empathize and take on too much because they feel the need to rescue those who are experiencing difficulties. When we do this, we train them to depend on us. While many elements need to be considered, the idea is to invite people to be more, and to rise to their potentials. If we coddle them and take on more, we train them to be incompetent and irresponsible.

7. Feel your emotions and think with logic. Most women tend to err on one side. Either they lead with their emotions to an overdrive, or they numb them to be perceived as strong. Both extremes will most likely arrive at partial, usually ill-informed conclusions and solutions. Synergy is found in the marriage between these two. Learning to think logically and communicate our thoughts clearly while being in tune with our emotions is a powerful combination. This allows us to make decisions that are holistic, considering both practicality and humanity.


8. Learn to ask and receive help. Because many women are out there believing they need to prove themselves competent and worthy, they think asking for help is being weak. The perfectionists would need to do everything because no one can do it as good as they can. When we do this, we are designing a painful life that promises to worsen over time. We’ve seen overworked lady bosses who can’t even take care of themselves. Wives who take on bulk of the load at home will be resentful and perpetually angry. Be with people you can partner with. Then let them do their part.

9. Be okay with feeling tired, sad and lonely. All emotions have positive intentions—that is to send a signal on what to take notice of. When you feel exhausted, your body is not being a barrier to your growth. It is telling you to slow down because you’re taking on too much. The feelings of sadness and loneliness are often ignored. People would often escape by distracting themselves with shopping, drinking, working out, and yes, working. Emotions are a barometer of how the external world, the body and the mind are all interconnecting. If you feel off, chances are, at least one of those factors needs some tweaking. Take counsel, your emotions are your inner wisdom.

10. Keep the childlike wonder in you. The ability to wonder and be amazed like a child is something that keeps us hopeful and positive in a world that’s full of pain and suffering. Connect with that part of you. When was the last time you allowed yourself to feel fresh and innocent? When was the last time you let go of your need to control? Allow yourself to think of work and life as play. This elicits creativity and brings out the part of you people would want to be around.

Becoming a phenomenal woman may not be as easy in a world full of conflicting rules, prohibitions and judgments. If we can sort through the rubbles, that’s where the gem of womanhood lies. Embrace the different parts of you, even those that are seemingly opposites of each other. Beauty lies in the combination of light and shadows. Finding the hues that make you who you are makes you phenomenal indeed. —CONTRIBUTED INQ

The author is an executive coach and an organizational development consultant. You may reach out to her through [email protected].

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