Many of the women who come to me for leadership coaching tell me that they want to have a bigger voice in the world, have more influence, and build something that matters; yet at the same time, they have fears around visibility.
Some of them are able to clearly identify these fears – such as the fear of taking up “too much” of the spotlight, being called a “show-off,” sounding “stupid,” being accused of being “wrong,” or being challenged on their ideas and values.
Then there are others who aren’t quite able to put their finger on why they feel so scared. They tell me that they have made strides in their leadership, but for some reason they can’t go all the way. They keep getting tripped up. They come forward. Then they go back. They come forward. Then they go back. Forward. Back. Forward. Back. Like a little turtle going into her shell for safety and retreat.
I notice when these women come to me, they have a lot of confusion around what’s going on, and also massive self-judgment.
Why do I keep getting stuck? What is wrong with me? Why is this taking me so long? Why am I so scared to become visible and be that feminine leader I know I am meant to be?
I get it. I’ve been there. I know how painful it is.
Since my work revolves around the Divine Feminine and one of my main messages for awhile was about how feminine spirituality is a missing link to advancing more women in leadership, I had huge fears around sounding like a loony and being taken to the “crazy house” when I talked about this.
A big fear of mine was that if I was challenged, would I be able to back up my argument with facts? I was paralyzed by this fear. Whenever I pictured myself speaking about this message in public, I envisioned I would freeze in silence, and then burn red with embarrassment because I couldn’t present the cold, hard facts in a “logical” way.
I realized later that this was because a lot of what I knew and wanted to speak about came from deep within my soul, so this could not always be backed up by cold, hard facts.
As I entered into more and more women’s circles, I learned that my experience was common among women. What many of us know comes from deep inside, connected to a feminine lineage that has long been silenced. For this reason, the “facts” aren’t always readily available to us, and even if they are, what we have to say usually is something that challenges the status quo.
In my case, because of this, I was much more comfortable learning from others and being the “student” rather than stepping into my dharma as a leader and teacher.
But eventually this comfort grew into discomfort. I was so uncomfortable with keeping myself small; keeping my voice hidden; keeping my truths and my power inside. I knew I was meant for bigger things – bigger stages, bigger platforms, bigger venues. But I was not allowing myself all of this. I was terrified to stand up in front of people and voice my truth – even though I knew this was my destiny.
Does this sound familiar to you? Have you had an experience like this?
One of my favorite quotes is from novelist and essayist Anaïs Nin: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” I first heard this quote in college, and it has been with me ever since. It has given me the strength and the foresight to see that taking the risk to blossom is worth it.
There is so much trauma and wounding around women’s voices, especially when it comes to speaking about things that challenge the status quo. We have been burned at the stake (yes, those witch burnings are still alive in our consciousness), tortured, murdered, raped, and dismissed as “hysterical” for speaking our truth and coming forward with our belief systems. This all is in our collective consciousness, and is a real doozy that holds us back.
Whether we are conscious of it or not, it’s very real.
About five years ago, I went through a deep journey with this collective memory. As I was developing a coaching program called the Goddess Leadership Program, I was stepping into my leadership in a bigger way and becoming more visible. Through this program, I was standing for the recognition and reverence of the Goddess as a significant missing link to women’s leadership in the 21st century, a sincere challenge to the status quo of patriarchal culture and religion.
Since what I was standing for was not, at the time, part of our mainstream conversation, I was experiencing some major visibility challenges – some of which were taking me down the road of our feminine collective memory. I’ll point out here that it has been reported that tens of thousands of women were burned at the stake in medieval Europe in an effort to wipe out the remains of pre-Christian religion that honored women. Some sources report even in the millions.
Luckily, I was receiving some insights too. I’d like to give a big shout out here to my cranio-sacral therapist, Maura Moynihan, who held space for me with her enormous loving soul to traverse this territory so I could name it, heal it and move forward.
From this experience, I learned that, as women, we need to bring this conversation of our collective memory that holds so many of us back – out of silence and into our circles. Talk about it with friends. Talk about it with our mentors and coaches. Talk about it with our sisters. Write about it. Speak about it. Let it breathe and release.
We also need to offer ourselves some compassion around this. This is deep stuff. If you catch yourself beating yourself up about not being where you think you are supposed to be or berate yourself by telling yourself a story that you don’t have the capacity to be in leadership, I invite you to take a deep breath and send yourself some love instead. Becoming more visible as a feminine leader is a vulnerable place to be, and you deserve love for your courage, not scorn.
Below I share with you 3 practices to support you in breaking through visibility fears so you can become more visible as a feminine leader, that the world so desperately needs.
3 Practices to Break Through Visibility Fears
FEMININE LEADERSHIP PRACTICE #1
Visualize the Transformation. In this practice, I invite you to take a few moments to visualize the change that will happen in people’s lives when you come forward as a leader in a more visible way with your message (whether it be through business, media, politics, artistry, the healing arts, advocacy, motherhood, etc.). Allow yourself not only to see, but feel in this exercise. It’s important to understand the transformation you are creating in people’s lives in order to keep yourself inspired to move through whatever doubts, fears and insecurities come up along the way (and they will) as you step out bigger and more visibly as a leader. Take 2 minutes for this practice.
Find a quiet, sacred space to sit and set a timer for 2 minutes.
● Sit comfortably in your sacred space in a meditation position. Close your eyes.
● Inhale and exhale through your nose a few times.
● Begin to tune in to the people your leadership and greater visibility will benefit.
● See these people. Feel these people. Hear these people. Let your heart open and connect eye-to-eye with these people.
● Deliver your message to these people.
● Notice their response. What is happening in their body? What is happening in their eyes? What is happening in their essence?
● Talk with these people. Engage. Interact.
● What are you noticing?
● How were they before you delivered your message? How are they now? Acknowledge the transformation.
● Finish this practice by bringing your hands to your heart and bowing your head to your heart.
● Vow that you will not let these people down.
● Slowly open your eyes.
FEMININE LEADERSHIP PRACTICE #2
Stream-of-Consciousness Journaling. Journaling is one of the best ways to listen to your inner guidance. Your inner voice is asking to be heard. She just needs you to give her some unedited time in your journal. When you write in your journal, be curious about the wisdom coming through you and what your inner guidance has to say. The more you let yourself unwind in your journal, the more your own wisdom will be revealed to you. There is no wrong way to do this. You do not need to sound smart or clever. Nothing is too petty, silly, or stupid. Just let your pen flow.
Take out a pen and journal (or a blank sheet of paper). Set a timer for 1 minute for each question. Answer each question in a stream-of-consciousness way. Do not edit yourself. Keep your pen to paper the whole time.
1. What do you feel you are most afraid of when it comes to becoming more visible?
2. What do you feel is at stake if you continue to play small and/or hide from the spotlight?
3. What is your biggest vision for yourself? (Describe yourself in your most public persona. Include everything here.)
FEMININE LEADERSHIP PRACTICE #3
Take Up Space. As women, we have all too often made ourselves small in order to not “step on anyone’s toes,” “be too loud,” “be too much,” or call in unwanted sexual attention. This has literally made some of us collapse in our very own bodies. Our shoulders hunch, our posture folds, and we feel tightly held in space. Our body posture becomes a metaphor for how we show up in the world. For many of us, it’s the “I’m sorry” epidemic that we carry around just for being a woman. Now is the season to change this.
Step into a quiet, sacred space. Set a timer for 2 minutes.
● Stand with your feet wider than hip’s distance apart. Ground them firmly into the earth.
● Stretch out your arms, shoulder height, as far as you can on both the left and right sides. Spread your fingers on each hand.
● Reach your fingertips out as far as you can on both the right and left side. Keep your feet grounded.
● Feel your chest, heart and solar plexus open. Breathe.
● Remain in this space-taking, outstretched position for 1 minute. Breathe.
● Notice the sensations coming up as you take up space. Don’t change a thing. Just note them.
● Allow your heart to smile, your throat to open, and your eyes to focus. Breathe.
● When the timer sounds, bring your hands to your heart and bow your head in gratitude for the magnificence of who you are. Say out loud: “I am a magnificent woman, deserving of taking up space with my voice, my body and my presence. What I have to say matters. What I have to say is important. The world needs my voice.”
If you’d like to go further with this work, I invite you to visit my Find Your Voice program, designed for female creatives, entrepreneurs, and emerging leaders to expand their wingspan and step into what’s next.
Tabby Biddle, M.S. Ed. is a women’s leadership coach, strategist, writer and consultant. Her life’s work is devoted to elevating women’s voices. To learn more about using your voice, making an impact, and being a leader of change in this world, visit tabbybiddle.com.