💗 Living Heart:full

A Manifesto for Women in the Arena

We all live with an inner voice that feeds on our fears and insecurities, seeking to protect our egos from every risk, threat or danger. For whatever reason, this inner critic stops a lot more women than men from being in the arena of public life, impact or leadership, despite their God-given potential, unique contribution and perspective. But if we are to achieve anything noteworthy in life, make any large-scale impact or contribute to changing the ways of the world, that’s certainly not the voice we should be listening to. Below is a round up of all the reasons we sometimes stand in our own way of rising to our full potential; whatever that may look like for each of us.

I have personally lived with these false limiting beliefs and assumptions, or dare I say ‘excuses’ for so many years, until I faced the possibility of my own death due to living through the global pandemic last year. It was then that it hit me: I was not going to die on the sidelines, I belonged in the arena!

It was then that I decided to begin to erase every excuse from my dictionary and get ready to enter the arena for good. Here’s what I told myself, and here’s what I want to tell every woman who is embarking on a life in the arena.

You think you’re too young or old.

Look around you, other people with half your talent but twice your confidence started yesterday and are already making waves in their arenas of impact. It’s never too early or late to find your own arena of impact, choose one thing to do and get started. You’re never too young or old to pursue the dream that has been living inside you for so long and manifest it onto reality for the world to witness.

You’re afraid you’ll fail.

I too was afraid, for so long, until I realized why I was terrified: it was because I had never actually failed before. I was always a high performer but never took a risk in trying anything that had a high chance of failure. It took me a while to recognize that I wasn’t learning anything new either, I did only what I knew. But in order to embark on something new or worthy, failure is not just an inevitable reality, but a necessity. It’s a process of trying, learning and doing until you reach the best outcome. If you’re failing, it means you’re on your way. If you haven’t even tried, it means you’re still waiting on the sidelines just like the rest. Live by the effort, not the outcome; that’s beyond you.

You care what others think.

Most of us say we don’t care, but sometimes our actions betray our words. Sometimes we hide on purpose, play it safe or small and be uncharacteristically apologetic. On a deeper level, no one wants or likes to be judged, made fun of, criticized or shamed. We all want to belong. But what people think has nothing to do with what you are here to do. Now if you think you belong on the sidelines, then by all means stay there. But if deep down you know that you were made for more, then other people’s mere words shouldn’t define your actions, nor should it stop you from realizing your ambitious goals and innermost dreams. And you will realize sooner or later, that most people speak from a place of fear or despair, not hope or potential. That is why they’re still on the sidelines.

You think you’re not good enough.

That’s unlikely if you ask me, no one on earth merely exists without accumulating any unique experience and expertise. But even so, your current state of being is not final, nor is it fatal. You will learn and become, just like everyone else. You will grow and bloom, just like everything else. You’re embarking on a journey, not arriving to a destination. Don’t let imposter syndrome paralyze you from reaching your God-given potential. Don’t let your present or past dictate your future. The future is what you make it, they say.

You’re afraid you won’t be taken seriously.

I hear you. People can be mean sometimes, declaring their opinions as matter or fact so that they establish their authority, putting others down so that they could rise, and dismissing women in particular for whatever reason their egos can think of. In a male-dominated society, this has become the norm we face everyday. I won’t tell you that what you’re facing isn’t real or unfair. But I’ll assure you to stand your ground despite the prejudice, that’s all you have to do.

You feel like you’re not ready.

I hear you. With your ambition, I can’t imagine anyone can be fully ready. But in reality, no one ever is. No one enters life prepared, because life itself is our making. We are born equally as blank slates but also gifted with raw potential and unique tendencies that we can leverage to our advantage. No one is born a genius, founder, leader, entrepreneur, changemaker or visionary. We are here to become, not simply be.

You feel you’re too busy.

I understand. And I’m sure that’s the case. But there’s a difference between patience and procrastination. There’s a difference between waiting due to having a busy schedule and waiting out of an underlying fear. Find out why you’re really waiting and act accordingly.

You’re waiting for the right time.

I won’t even try to justify this. You already know the answer. The only right time is now.

You’re afraid of being rejected.

Quite valid. This will probably happen all the time. But I’ve come to realize, that most times, something better is around the corner, something that aligns more with who you are and what you really need, so stay put, it’s worth the wait! Just like Simon Sinek says, things work much better and easier when you “work with people who believe what you believe”. If you missed an opportunity to work with or hire or team up with someone, it’s probably not the best time or fit for you or them. Trust that you’re being redirected to something much better soon.

You’re waiting for support.

I get it. It’s perfectly fine to ask for or seek support. And it’s certainly better to have support than to go at it alone. But don’t be frustrated or stay stuck where you are when you don’t find anyone around you willing or capable of providing their support. Maybe you’re not looking in the right circles. Maybe you’re knocking on the wrong doors. Maybe you should get just started and they’ll show up when you least expect them to. Have faith and trust that the right people will appear when you need support and guidance. Just ‘make the ask’ and see what happens. That’s all that is required of you.

You’re waiting for validation.

I get that too. We all need validation from our loved ones, our peers, friends and community. But what happens if they are unable to see what you see? What happens when they need to see before they believe? What if it is up to you to show them your vision, and bring it forth onto reality? It is no easy task, but worth pursuing even if you’re the only one who can see it, believe it, smell it and feel it. Give yourself the green signal. You don’t need anyone’s permission to follow your own heart!

You’re afraid of facing resistance.

Congrats, that means that you are now in the arena! You will be facing resistance, setbacks and even ridicule, no matter what you do or say, on a daily basis. That’s what you encounter, before you even have your breakfast. It’s part of the job description, it comes with the responsibility, it’s the price you pay when you signed up for entering the arena. But perhaps it’s a small price to pay in return for what you will achieve, always remember that whenever you feel defeated.

The bottom line: don’t give up, begin!

Don’t give up your power for a handful of illusions.
Don’t give up on your dreams for a group of naysayers.
Don’t give up on what you believe for a bunch of trends.
Don’t give up on creating impact for the status quo.
Enough self-doubt, despair and procrastination.
Enough fear, self-sabotage and internal resistance.
Enough inferiority. Enough paralysis. Enough walls.
None of these fears are real, nor can they truly stop you.

Give yourself a chance to become, you deserve it.

I leave you with the quote that inspired this article and the notion of the ‘arena’ came from:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt, ‘The Man in the Arena Speech’

One more thing, if you ever hear me using these excuses, please call me out :D!

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