Where do you spend your energy? Is it on pushing yourself to your greatest potential or is it being invested into something else? Do you even keep track of where you’re investing it?
If I had to guess, I’d say no. If I also had to guess, I’d say it’s being put somewhere else and today my 9 year old reminded me how that whole distraction cycle began.
She confessed to me that the reason she wanted to keep her bangs is because older boys in her school were making fun of her unibrow. A term I wasn’t even aware she knew. Now, she wants the bangs to hide them. She spends her time and energy making sure they don’t show and probably fusses with them all day at school to make sure their staying in place or making sure no one else notices. She has begun to shift her focus away from herself and her academics to focus on her ever changing appearance. Her energy is being diverted and reinvested.
No big deal right? It’s just her bangs.
Wrong. It’s just begun. First it’s her bangs then it’s her this and then it’s her that and before you know it she is painfully aware that her entire body is a target for ridicule.
This has a tremendous impact on us in our professional lives whether we realize it or not. I can’t perform at my absolute best if my mind and energy are being spent long before I even get to my job. If I spend hours working on my appearance first then what time do I have left to exploring my real gifts and talents? If your energy is being invested in your education what is your return and is that return greater than the return on the energy invested in your appearance?
The logical answer is that education is always going to pay off but at age 9 you’re not interested in your 401K, you care about being accepted into a social circle. Then more energy is taken away from academics and poured into fitting in. Soon, the balance is gone and the return of having friends and being liked seems more valuable.
You ask me why more women aren’t CEOs and in more leadership rolls and I will tell you that a part of that problem is that their energy is depleted before walking into work or class because they’ve been making decisions and staying so focused on their appearance. When presenting they’re more focused on making sure they look ok rather than being emerged in the content they’re presenting. Couple that with poor self esteem and they will pass on opportunities to be in leadership rolls or anywhere near the spotlight because they’re too afraid of how their appearance might be judged.
I sat a table of investors and there was one woman and 10 men. I walk into a networking event and men outnumber women almost every time when the topic is STEM based. Why?
My 9 year old wants to be an engineer or programer or veterinarian. Our school’s coding club and math club is equal parts boys and girls.
Where do all these girls go? Why aren’t they at the negotiating table? Why aren’t they leading the STEM community?
They’re probably stuck in front of a mirror. Stuck believing that their value comes from they way they occupy space instead of the way their unique light has the power to shine all over the world. Their not being taught how the investment of their energy will impact their immediate and long term future.
We don’t talk to them about it either because it’s shameful and makes us look weak. I would rather look weak for a moment to empower others to recognize their strength. The body positive conversation does belong in the work place and in educational institutions. Until then, the responsibilities is on us as parents, caretakers, and leaders.
Set the bar high for yourself and for others. Look past all of the things we have been trained to see. Embrace the idea that you might have to unlearn in order to relearn but the return is well worth it. You are so worth investing in! xoxo