How can one person from a disadvantaged background overcome all odds and become one of the most powerful people in the world, like Oprah? When another from an advantaged background can struggle to make it past first base?
I am fascinated because my own journey would have suggested that I should have ended up in jail, a lady of the night, addicted to drugs, unable to progress my career – let alone achieve all that I have in my own career so far. A violent childhood, maternal mental ill health, time in foster care, the occasional night on the streets which were the safest place for me some of the time, all should have combined led to my being a “failure” in life – so my psychology studies taught me. But as I also learned, I had what are known as “protective factors”. I had two. When my mother was well, she was strong. She modelled positive beliefs in positive outcomes, and that anything was possible, if I applied myself to it. And I had a good education that was designed to empower my fellow students and I to be strong capable women in the world – no matter our background.
I meet many like me. Successful and hugely powerful women who are pushing the boundaries of gender equality at senior levels, however some are still harbouring the pains of their past – some held together with sticky tape, others gaping wounds that prevent women moving forward.
My experience of working with powerful women who wish to break down those artificial walls of protection – that act as a barrier to their success as well as any perceived pain – is deeply profound and poignant. Seeing women transform into a place of feeling safe being who they truly are, sharing their strengths easily and authentically – and encouraging others to do the same, being open and sharing weaknesses in a confident and humorous way – in ways that connect – is truly a privilege to witness. Seeing women comfortable in their own skin is seeing power in action. Glass ceilings seem to evaporate as they realise that they truly ARE good enough, and ARE enough and can do ANYTHING they set their minds to, no matter what the statistics may tell them.
Brilliant experts in the field of positive psychology such as Dr Carol Dweck and Professor Barbara Fredrickson are helping us to understand the power of mindset – how, for example, having a positive mindset focused on opportunities, solutions, strengths, possibilities, leads to more choices, greater collaboration and a sense of powerfulness. A focus on problems, threats and weaknesses all lead ultimately to a sense of isolation and helplessness.
Such is the power of mindset. But I think there is more to it than we are currently talking about. What if there is another layer to mindset?
It is exactly 100 years since Carl Jung published his essay describing the collective unconscious and also discussing it in comparison to the collective conscious, a term first used by Emile Durkheim in 1893. In a nutshell, ideas, thoughts and beliefs held by a large collective of people will pass into the unconscious mind – and in so doing will of course affect the decisions we make.
What this mean for mindset, women and leadership?
What if some of our mindset is based on beliefs held in both the collective consciousness and collective unconscious? What if we have taken on beliefs about what is and isn’t possible for us based on others’ beliefs?
This may not just happen on a psychological level. For those of us that are naturally empathetic, this may happen on an emotional level too – we may on a conscious or unconscious level feel the limiting beliefs of the collective – the limiting beliefs of the other women who have tried to succeed and haven’t quite yet broken through the glass ceiling.
There is now scientific evidence that we don’t just have a physical body and a mind, but that we also have an electromagnetic field – an energy body, as it were, and it is in this electromagnetic field that are emotions live. That’s why we can’t “find” our emotions in any physical part of our body or our anatomy, but we really can feel them. Those feelings flow through us, not stuck to any part of our body. Emotions are literally energy-in-motion (e-motion).
So for those of us that are empathetic, we are likely to “feel” more than others, and so also be affected by feelings in the collective consciousness and collective unconsciousness. Such as feelings of despair, helplessness and hopelessness of the may women around the world who feel unable to break through.
So what can you do if you are one of these women?
Setting the intention and affirming that you can elevate the success of your career free from any limiting thoughts or feelings faced by others in the collective consciousness or collective unconscious is an important addition to the mindset piece. The more women believe that gender is no barrier, the more that will be seen, known and felt in the collective consciousness.
I believe that we owe it not just to ourselves, but to the women we inspire to set the intention that our career can go as far and high as we choose them to free from any influence of what others may say. That is true leadership. Showing others the way.
Would you like to be one of only six women for six months in a powerful Mastermind that takes you to the next level, whilst fully supported by other incredible leaders who understand your vision, passion, strengths, and help you push through your fears?
Elevate begins in April 2016. You can find out more here.