Stress & Work: Learning to Trust Myself As a Woman

by Victoria Lister, Brisbane, Australia

Lately, as I’ve been reflecting on my motives for choosing the roles I’ve had throughout my working life, I’ve realised these had little to do with the real me, and everything to do with mind-created ideals and beliefs. I’ve also examined my propensity to choose industries and jobs that have been challenging to the point of debilitation, with no consideration for myself… again the result of the ideals and beliefs I held.

But the revelations haven’t stopped there: in the course of my explorations, I’ve come to see there is a third, equally important element to consider in the work equation: how I’ve gone about the business of work itself.

The answer is, I’ve been great at ‘doing’ work in terms of results, but not in terms of being me in it. I‘ve had a tendency to go into a lot of busy-ness, often bringing an incredible, internal intensity to the way I’ve worked, going into overwhelm and nervous system energy when the need to do so did not actually exist. It’s as if I’ve perpetually been in ‘fight or flight’ mode – which means I’ve probably lived in an almost constant state of stress for much of my life. And having had little conscious awareness of this tendency, it’s meant I’ve needed to become unwell before I stopped.

What created this ‘stress’? Again, I come back to the fact that I often chose roles that weren’t natural to me and shoe-horned myself into them. I can however, nominate a few roles where everything was easy. But these were roles I’d leave after a while, simply because they were not ‘sophisticated’ or ‘challenging’ enough – somehow I imagined myself as needing something more. And if I’m honest, ‘something more’ really meant somewhere where I could satisfy myself I was doing something important, exciting or interesting.

In other words, I’ve totally identified with the work I’ve done and the excitement it can bring, wanting it to say something about me, both for my own satisfaction and that of others… more erroneous ideals and beliefs. It was this, I feel, that created the stress that accompanied everything I did… a constant striving towards an idealised state.

I’ve also realised I left me as a woman totally out of the equation – even now, I’m not yet fully sure how to be a woman and work. Unfortunately, on some level I’d taken on many ill-beliefs about women at work – that we’re a pale imitation of men, we’re not cut out to do the important work, we’re too emotional, and so on. In taking these on board, I left the woman behind and subscribed (appropriately) ‘boots and all’ to the hard, driven, excessive male energy that permeates so much of the working world. Identifying with that energy, I ran myself in it. But, as I’m not actually a man, this was quite a difficult and unnatural way to live (another significant stressor), and it ended up running me.

And going a little deeper… Have you ever come across the awful belief that women who are pregnant and working are next to useless, in another world, often forgetting things? This was one I was both aware of, and feared ­­­– and equated with the women I grew up with who had given up work for family or had never had a ‘career’.

Now, as I don’t have children, on the literal level it was never an issue. But as I’ve begun to acknowledge and connect with my femaleness over the last few years – that deeply soulful, still, nurturing space that exists within women and men both – I can feel how the gorgeousness of this place is probably akin to some of what is felt during pregnancy (and I’ve heard some women say as much). As with pregnancy, it is certainly a place in which there is potential for a far greater connection with our bodies, if not our souls.

However, as much as I love that beautiful, tender place of femaleness, I’ve had a fear that if I stay deeply connected to it, I will be less on top of things or lose the plot… in other words, I’ve taken on the belief that work and deep femaleness are mutually exclusive.

“But what if I forget something?” I can hear my mind protesting. So what if I do? Will the world fall over? Probably not. Am I being too hard on myself? Probably – that would fit my pattern! And beyond those notions, I can feel that if I were deeply connected to my femaleness and learnt to be OK with that, my body will provide me with all the cues it needs ­– and everything I need to do or ‘be across’ will be taken care of. In other words, I’ve yet to learn (as was put to me recently) to trust in stillness.

Is it that hard though? Just this morning I was watching a lovely woman, a member of the public, on a reality TV show. She looked, and felt, very natural, womanly and engaging. Admittedly, she wasn’t at work but I could imagine her easily bringing that same loveliness with her to work. I noticed her generous, womanly bust and wished for a few moments that I had such a bosom! Then I realised I could and did ­– in the sense that it would be entirely possible to embody the feeling of this gorgeous womanliness, and take it with me wherever I go, including the office.

With that possibility, and an intent to not shun the possibility that in stillness lies all, I can perhaps begin to re-build my ‘womanly work body’…and maybe even create a womanly body of work. Now that makes me smile!

Further Related Reading:
Celebrity Chef or Self-Loving Chef: Where is the Love in the Work that We Do?
From Ideals and Beliefs to Making Loving Work Choices

467 thoughts on “Stress & Work: Learning to Trust Myself As a Woman

  1. When we are deeply connected to ourselves and feeling the world and feeling all around us, we can appear be ‘forgetful’ … but though there is no perfection in what we do, there is a quality that we bring that far super seeds any quantity of work completed. The real question we must ask ourselves is which do we put first: Quantity or quality? And why not start with quality and then from there allow the quantity to be filled to its capacity whilst maintaining the same quality. An easy thing to say but sometimes hard to do when we are attached to how another sees us or perceives us.

  2. Thank you Victoria for a great blog that really reminds us all as women that it is not about controlling things at work but rather about surrendering to our true power within and not holding it back in anything we express.

  3. The ideals and beliefs and pictures of ourselves as women at work can and do abound. They can be so limiting and box us in rather than giving us permission to express the delicateness and power that lies within. I too struggle still to let go of a particular image or to let go of a certain control of how I should be or what I expect from myself…and I can see how this interferes so strongly with my natural expression and hence stunts all I can be and share with myself and those around me.

  4. Victoria this is such an exposing sharing of what undoubtably goes on in both business and industry across the globe and not only for women but for men too. I, myself have just stepped up into a managerial role for the first time in my life and I’m learning how to be myself at work and I have to say that I love it more and more. What I am learning is that I don’t need to be any different at work than I am outside of work and that the tenderness that I am routinely feeling in my life does not need to be rationed for outside of work, I can continue to be tender at work and the other day I shared with a colleague that that was how I was feeling. Sure they were slightly perplexed as to what exactly I meant but that’s ok, I expressed the truth of how I was feeling and that in itself was enough for both of us.

  5. How we are in the workplace should be no different from how we are everywhere else, there may be more ‘to do’ but in essence there should be no real difference. It is all the ideals and beliefs that say we have to turn it on and turn it off that propel us into the go go go.

  6. Great to consider how we are at work, and whether we bring the person we truly are or the person we believe we are supposed to be. Work environments definitely need to be changed and stillness and womanliness are beautiful additions that hold and nurture everyone.

  7. I chose to live in a more male energy from a very young age, ‘I left the woman behind and subscribed (appropriately) ‘boots and all’ to the hard, driven, excessive male energy that permeates so much of the working world. Identifying with that energy, I ran myself in it.’ I am so appreciative that I came to see how false and damaging that was, and am now re-turning to be the delicate and beautiful female that was always there inside.

  8. “However, as much as I love that beautiful, tender place of femaleness, I’ve had a fear that if I stay deeply connected to it, I will be less on top of things or lose the plot” – I can so relate to this. A sense of something getting summonsed and geared up in order to feel that I am in control and on top of things is a familiar one. It gave me a buzz and a sense of accomplishment, and a thirst for more. It’s interesting how we are so already conditioned to even think that moving from that tender place of femaleness won’t be enough or safe, when we haven’t even given that a full go yet.

  9. It’s quite a contradiction that we can be great at our jobs, but terrible at being ourselves in them. We learn to function really well, often in careers that are not our best expression but what we were shaped through life into thinking we could or should do well in. But we will never truly excel or benefit society when we are a square peg pretending to fit comfortably in a round hole.

  10. While reading your inspirational blog Victoria what came to me is how much I actually allow the stress of “But what if I forget something?” rule my life. I now choose be aware of this addiction and how it distracts me from trusting in the harmonious flow of all life.

    1. Spot on Elizabeth, and I have to say the same – I have this feeling of panic that can arise when I realise I have forgotten something – “God forbid, how could I?”…this is really harsh and affects me instantly instead of me simply feeling if I forgot it because of my racyiness to finish everything with perfection or did I ‘forget it’ because it was not that needed as a priority?

  11. Not only do we choose how to move but also the path where that movement will take place. The movement and the path have to talk to each other in a deep way. When this happens, we say this is my thing, the one my body feels totally at home in it. We can say all of this, defend it but it may not be true after all. This exposes that we may not have in the body a true registry of what does it feel to be at home within yourself. It is only the lack of such registry that allow us to keep making choices against ourselves while convinced that we are going forward in life.

  12. I can recognize the tendency to rush even it is not needed. This way me as a spirit enjoys itself and feels important in some way.
    When I surrender more to the moment and just are with everybody and not knowing what I will do next I get in a natural flow and just all is very simple. Then there comes this moment it all feels to simple and I as a spirit wants to go more for its individuality and off I am back in the stress.

    1. I can relate with this tendency to want to rush, again like you, even if it is not needed. I have to stop and say no to this energy, and choose to return to the flow.

  13. One of the most beautiful lessons that I have learnt in this life is how important it is to know yourself. Because from there all choices are made in consultation with you, knowing what is true and what is not therefore comes with ease because you already are aware of all the factors of life and it just becomes a case of opening up and allowing this awareness to be expressed.

  14. One thing I learned about myself while reading this transformative blog is just how much I have focused on and identified with taking on the more complex and challenging jobs at work, and that this was done out of a lack of appreciation for all I bring to work by me just being me. When we are like this there is a tendency to look for recognition outside of us as if we are not enough and need to prove ourselves to others, which leads to massive exhaustion in my case.

  15. No matter where we are, at work, at home, shopping or at a social event, when we are being ourselves and bring all that we are to every situation, everyone receives a blessing. It is a blessing for the world to see who we are when we are not hiding behind a facade or persona. Life is a joy when we are just being ourselves in full.

  16. “However, as much as I love that beautiful, tender place of femaleness, I’ve had a fear that if I stay deeply connected to it, I will be less on top of things or lose the plot… in other words, I’ve taken on the belief that work and deep femaleness are mutually exclusive” I’m sure you aren’t alone in this. But I also wonder if this is still your feeling a few years on? We do need more role models at the top to show that there is another way of being in the workplace.

  17. When we allow images to govern our lives, relationships and work are equally affected. The constant drive for becoming the image kills us. It brings a permanent unsettlement in the body.

    1. So true Eduardo it does. It is so easy to allow images to come in and distort our view and life. Absorbing the images does create that constant drive and creates complications, drama and exhaustion in our life that is not needed. I am learning to recognise when I am doing this myself and to let go of any images that gets in the way of me expressing love and truth.

  18. Beautiful honesty, Victoria. As we grow up, we learn to value the doing more than the being, and it is hard to accept and appreciate ourselves as we are unconditionally.

  19. We all too easily can create personas to fit in with the world around us but they are merely a version of ourselves and do not allow us be who we truly are and live that potential in full.

  20. The fact that there is even the belief that work and being you are mutually exclusive is very worrying indeed simply because you bringing you to life is what life is all about otherwise it is boring mundane and has no true joy or fun.

  21. “somehow I imagined myself as needing something more. And if I’m honest, ‘something more’ really meant somewhere where I could satisfy myself I was doing something important, exciting or interesting.” I have seen and heard this frequently in the workplace. It is great to actually analyze the ‘something more’, that we feel is missing from our lives. We don’t often come to the conclusion that it is actually ‘us’ that is the more that is missing.

    1. So true irena haze. As we unravel what is not us and reclaim our true selves we get to find our optimum place in the world, we are more vital and loving so we feel that in all that we do and others feel it too.

  22. Yes I worked for almost 30 years or so under constant self imposed stress. There was no one or no system imposing it on me, it was all self created. Causing all sorts of problems with my health. Looking back it seems crazy but I knew no other way to be thinking that there was only doing.

    1. And how normal is this for us, no-one asks us to stop either. Most often when someone leaves a job and another takes over it becomes apparent that it was the job of two people and one person was pushing through thinking they were the one who was failing rather than the job was simply too big for them.

  23. “I left me as a woman totally out of the equation” It is interesting how we can dismiss and ignore what cannot be dismissed and ignored.

  24. I used to work focusing on the outcome that was required first, even if it meant I needed to work long hours to achieve it, and often all day working through lunch without taking a break too, now I work from knowing myself first, staying connected to my body as much as I am able and let it lead the way, I have found that my output is far greater and I focus on the task in hand not the end result, and often when I need to speak with someone to move the project forward, they call me and I don’t need to be chasing after a response, as they are already connected.

    1. Wow what a contrast in the two ways of working. The first I followed for most of my life and my body hurts at the memory of it. Thank God for the esoteric and its wise teachings on the importance of being over doing.

    2. It is great to hear of the difference you experience when connected to yourself first and foremost, ‘now I work from knowing myself first, staying connected to my body as much as I am able and let it lead the way, I have found that my output is far greater and I focus on the task in hand not the end result’.

    3. Thank you Sally for your sharing – isn’t it amazing how when we work with the flow our output is amazing and no less (and sometimes even greater) than when we are working in a time frame (same time frame as before but just more governed by it) and frantically trying to complete things?!

  25. Learning to surrender to our stillness and delicacy is something I am choosing too, ‘ I can feel that if I were deeply connected to my femaleness and learnt to be OK with that, my body will provide me with all the cues it needs ­– and everything I need to do or ‘be across’ will be taken care of.’

    1. ‘I can feel that if I were deeply connected to my femaleness and learnt to be OK with that, my body will provide me with all the cues it needs ­– and everything I need to do or ‘be across’ will be taken care of’ I agree with that but would add that connecting to our femaleness also offers so much more than that. When we are connected to our innate femaleness then this re-sets something in others, you can literally feel them re-calibrate. It’s as if the vibration of truth in one person’s body calls for the vibration of truth in another’s. This is colossal, truly colossal because what we are in actual fact doing is calling each other home.

  26. That sounds like it to me Victoria to build that womanly body and bring that to where ever you go. Because the world is not built like that, there’s opportunity to learn how to be that wherever you are and whatever ‘role’ you’re in – it’s bringing and expanding in a new natural way to be. I say bring it on and feel the joy in you whatever you do.

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