27 DOs + DON’Ts for being a badass woman
I was invited to participate in Productive Flourishing’s ongoing “core conversation” about female empowerment.
Which got me thinking about what it means to be ’empowered’. As always, I consulted some books — in this case Anne Doyle’s POWERING UP, Gloria Feldt’s NO EXCUSES and Linda Austin’s WHAT’S HOLDING YOU BACK? (excellent, all; I highly recommend them) — and came up with the list you see below. Said list is by no means exhaustive, so if you wish to add to it in the comments section, go ahead, I’d be delighted.
And just to add — I searched stock images for ‘powerful woman’ and ‘powerful womanhood’ and was depressed and dismayed at what came up. Apparently being a powerful woman means wearing a manly business suit, pretending to box, pretending to box while nearly naked, holding a gun, or standing alone. Lame. Incredibly lame. If you can find something better, please send it to me.
1. DO tune into your inner knowing/still small voice/intuition/north star/ whatever you want to call it. It’s a powerful form of nonverbal intelligence and keeps you tethered to what is really going on outside your head. The head and the gut should work together. DON’T get so trapped in your head that you ignore what your body is telling you.
2. DON’T get hung up on command-and-control definitions of power. DO redefine it. Think of it as power-to (inspire, lead for change and do cool epic shit) rather than power-over others.
3. DO develop your passions. If you don’t have any passions yet, settle for developing some “deep interests”. Or even just “interests”. If you keep following and following up on what intrigues you, those interests might develop into deep passions, or passionate interests, and wouldn’t that be groovy.
4. DO make it a point to regularly expose yourself to cool new experiences. The brain craves novelty, and without it you won’t be as happy or creative or inspired as you could be. And that would suck. You also need cool new experiences in order to discover your interests and passions (see #3).
5. DO live with intention. DON’T do something because society expects it or that’s how it “should” be done or things are “supposed” to turn out a certain way. That way lies doom. And many bad marriages. DO shape and define your own life, instead of having it defined for you.
6. DO cultivate a laser focus. DO stimulate, nurture and direct your awesome mind so that it can throw off cool unique ideas that go beyond what others are doing in your field. DO seek a way to synthesize your diverse interests, talents and experiences so you can apply your attention to one specific area. You can burn through steel that way. DO develop a body of significant achievement in one area. DON’T remain a “diamond in the rough” (lots of little achievements in different areas, or spending your energy and intelligence supporting the visions of others) — unless of course that is truly what you want and makes you satisfied.
7. DON’T secretly nurture a “rescue fantasy”: that the perfect job/man/lottery ticket is going to come along and take you away from all this. Give away your power to anyone or for any reason, and it will come back to bite you in the ass. Always. DO believe this.
8. DO realize that a woman’s career/accomplishment journey is often different from a man’s. Our culture celebrates young achievers, but many women don’t come into their true personal power until their 40s. If that’s you, DON’T dismiss yourself as second-tier or fail to take yourself seriously just because you’re following your own rhythm, not the culture’s.
9. DO master the game – so that you know how and where and when to break the rules. DO be brilliantly and strategically disruptive.
10. DO learn how to take the heat. We are forged in fire. Stand up to controversy, criticism and conflict. People will shout us down because they rely on us being polite and turning away. Surprise them.
11. DO seek out mentors, guides, coaches and role models. DO ask for help.
12. DO turn around and mentor others.
13. DO embrace the struggle. Those are our defining moments.
14. DO discover your purpose, which will allow you to find purpose in power. When we learn how to get personal satisfaction out of using power for positive change, we can overcome our ambivalence toward it – and maybe even have some fun with it.
15. DO learn how to talk money. I know. Ugh. (At least for me.) But DON’T stick your head in the financial sand or allow yourself to walk through life in a financial fog. It’s chipping away at your self-esteem and you know it.
16. DO be aware that if you take yourself out of the work world for any reason, you put yourself and your future at risk. Poverty rates tend to be highest for elderly women. DO decide that, come what may (death or divorce), you won’t ever end up in that group. And DO realize that the person in a relationship who makes more income (usually) has more power – and does less housework. DO learn to negotiate for yourself, even (or especially) at home.
17. DO speak first. That’s the person who frames the conversation and sets the terms for the debate. He – or she — who controls the frame, controls the conversation, and who controls the conversation always wins. DO remember that sometimes conversation is actually not about communication – it’s about who has power over whom.
18. If you don’t speak first, then DO be aware of how the other person is framing and controlling the conversation, especially if they’re doing it from a one-up position. Because you DON’T have to go along with it: you can walk away, laugh it off, or smile charmingly and call them on it.
19. DO have good clean fights. When it’s over, it’s over. Take what you learned and carry on.
20. DO learn your history as a woman who believes in equality between the genders (whether or not you consider yourself a feminist). Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. We want to move forward, not back.
21. DON’T wait to be chosen.
22. DON’T wait for permission.
23. DO embrace your ‘womaninity’. As Anne Doyle put it, “Our gender is a strength to be embraced and developed rather than an obstacle to be overcome.” DO be yourself, your whole self. DO relax in your skin. DO think like a woman and act like a woman.
24. DO travel. Get out of your own reality, so you can deepen and enrich your perspective on the world.
25. DO “drink at dangerous waters”, to quote Anne Doyle again. Take calculated risks (if you’re not comfortable with risk, you can practice by taking really small ones.) Get out into the world. Become socially multilingual. Seek a diversity of perspectives. Work and collaborate with rivals. Live on your “ragged edge” so that you are constantly expanding your comfort zone.
26. DO have a vision for yourself and others that excites and compels you. DO communicate that vision to others, especially if it’s altruistic in nature – people will come forward to help you.
27. DO support the sisterhood (even if you think it sounds corny or have issues with the word ‘sisterhood’). We are not the squabbling backbiting creatures from reality TV or the mean girls from high school. We are stronger together. No one gets anywhere alone. Men know this – and we should too. Pass it forward.