Get rid of the labels holding you back
“You don’t know what you don’t know” resonates with me particularly because it has taught me so much about how I was able to be a successful corporate leader and fulfilled certified executive coach later in life. Indeed, I was born in an environment where labels were truly limited which made me immune to self limitation. I was raised in a family where women were all single Mom for 2 generations. I grew up thinking everything was possible for me. Of course I lacked a father figure early in my life meanwhile I never was exposed to gender or ethnic difference. My Mom is white French- American and my Dad black Caribbean- French.
As a result I approached my career differently than my friends. I worked as hard as others with passion and asked for what I wanted and was earning more than my female counterparts with degrees. Many questioned how I was able to simply knock to my boss’s door and ask for a raise. How could I dare doing that? My female friends thought I was taking too much of risks with my career and that I was simply lucky.
I understood later on that I never carried the labels of being a woman nor the one of being a minority. I discovered this when I moved to the US and was required to check boxes about my gender and ethnicity. My mindset was not altered by the limitations it imply.
Today I will share with you wisdom from the women I successfully coached to Be who they are wherever they are and got rid of the labels.
Preparing the soil
Let’s get started by exploring what are the limitations implied in being a woman in our current society.
I regularly hear from my clients that women have less opportunities than men in corporations. Also they earn much less than they male peers. What are the beliefs tied to this label you currently carry with you? How much does it impact your self confidence and ability to be in charge of your life and career?
Believing those stories that might have been true or still be practice in the workplace us some disempowering, this ultimately alter your assertiveness, don’t you agree?
Get a piece of paper and list any belief related to your female or minority label.
How does it feel to look at all those thoughts about yourself and other women?
What does come to mind?
Fertilizing the ground
The next step is to become completely honest with yourself. We will use for each thought a process developed by Byron Katie to challenge our current mindset and thought process so we can move away from the self limitation of labels.
For each statement, take a minute to ask the following questions
1- Is this true?
2- Can you absolutely know it is true?
3- How do you react when you believe that thought?
4- Who would you be without that thought?
This process is powerful because it actually gives your power back. When the thought does not exist, the limitations dissipate and create space to expand yourself beyond what you thought was possible. How cool is that??
Planting the Seeds of change
Since your thoughts shape your mindset and enable or limit your potential, what makes you still hold on labels?
I would like for you to try an experiment for a few days to experience a possible shift. Prior to start, commit yourself to integrity and honesty while engaging in the experience. Remember that I am not here to convince you but to provide you the tools to empower yourself and others. Go back to your list and simply turn them around, then tie to each of them a new feeling it this thought was to be true. For the next week or so look at those new thougths and emotions and believe them to be true to see how your circumstances change and what opportunities you can create for yourself.
So for example if you believe firmly that women are not rewarded as they should, hold the thought for a few days that women are rewarded as they should and observe what changes in your behavior, compare your level of stress, explore your approach to your job, your relationship with your management…
Watering the plant
Take notes, become aware of your thought process. Notice any resistance and breakthrough.
Engage in conversation on this particular label topic and see how others connect with the approach or not. How does it impact you?
Pruning the leaves
Labels are hard core societal structure and it can feel lonely at times to not carry/ claiming one. Meanwhile it creates the space to meet your new tribe.
How to Stop Limiting Yourself with Labels: The 4 Question Process that WIll Change Everything
I often coach my clients to help them understand they don’t have to define themselves by labels they carry around. Indeed, I was born in an environment where labels were truly limited which made me immune to self-limitation. In my family, the women were all single moms for two generations. You may think that’s a curse, but for me it was a blessing because I grew up thinking everything was possible for me.
Meanwhile, I was never exposed to gender or ethnic differences. My mom is White French American and my dad is Black Caribbean French. As a result of this upbringing, I approach my career differently than my friends. I worked as hard as others with passion and asked for what I wanted. How I was able to simply knock on my boss’ doors and ask for a raise? My female friends thought I was simply really lucky. I hated the word luck for a long time so I understood later that I never carried the labels of being a woman nor the one of being a minority.
I discovered this when I moved to the United States. I was required to check boxes about my gender and ethnicity. My mindset was not altered by the limitation it implies. That’s certainly why I was so successful and why I am attracting so many women today and supporting so many of them in C Suite positions to be who they are, wherever they are, without asking themselves if they are a female or if they are African American or if they are Asian American or if they are gay. I help women get to this place with my process of planting the seeds of change, preparing the soil to get to these places where labels don’t define who they are.
I regularly hear from my clients that women have less opportunities than men in corporations. They mention that they earn much less than their male peers. What are the beliefs tied to being a woman and earning less? What are you currently believing and carrying out with you when you are going to an interview? How much does this impact your self-confidence and your ability to be in charge of your life and your career? Believing the stories that might have been instilled and practiced in some workplaces is really dis-empowering. This ultimately alters our ability to be assertive, don’t you agree?
Uncover Your Label Beliefs
I would love for you to get a piece of paper and let out any belief related to you being a female or minority label. Go ahead, jot it down, and put everything down you feel is limiting you as a woman or a minority in your current life. How does it feel to look at all of those thoughts about yourself and other women? How dis-empowering, how upsetting, how draining it is to look at these pieces of paper and think about all the limitations we carry as women?
What comes to mind to when you look at this list? To prepare to let go of those labels, the next step is to become completely honest with yourself. I had to become honest with myself later in life. I learned how self-limitation could impact my life and my career more than any limitation or label someone else gives me. The external is easy to overcome. Everything internal we believe about our own self will have a greater impact on our careers and on our lives. What do we do about this? We use a process created by Byron Katie.
Letting Go of Your Limitations
Byron Katie has been an inspiration for me. She wrote a book, Loving What Is, about what she calls the work. The work is a four question process to help you debunk any myth and any self-belief and any self-limitation you can carry around. Byron Katie helps us challenge our own mindset and thought process so we can move away from the self-imitation.
For each statement you wrote down on your piece of paper, take a minute to ask yourself the following questions. For example, if you say that being a woman limits you in getting the career you want, I want you to ask yourself this question: Is this true?
Then, I want you to ask yourself the second question: Can you absolutely know it is true, that the fact of being a woman is limiting your career?
Third question: how do you react when you believe that thought? Write it down so you understand how you would feel.
The last question of the process is: what would you be without the thought of being limited by being a woman? I want to let you ponder this question. Who would you be without that thought?
This process is powerful because it actually gives you the power back. When the thought does not exist, the limitation dissipates and creates space to expand yourself beyond what you thought was possible. How cool is that? I love this process and I have been using it with a lot of my clients. Try it for yourself as soon as you can to knock out your self-imposed limitations.