Everyone, I had a special birthday some weeks ago or more German-type bluntly, I turned 40. Yes, this might explain my latest decisions, yet beyond this transition, the middle of life is a great invitation to assess what is important and what carries me through life. And it is now that I realize how I have always surrounded myself with strong, creative, confident women in and outside work.
Curious? Read my piece on confident women, relationships and balance in the corporate world and beyond.
It is a whole other story of how the vast connections between 14 amazing women turned into a wonderful long weekend in one of the most bustling cities in Europe. Lisbon. Despite our different careers, values and backgrounds, we all had one thing in common. Our confidence. Which allowed us to celebrate and support each other. We nourished ourselves, our bodies and mind. We connected. We shared our ambitions, our dreams and struggles. We celebrated our lives and friendship. Isn’t this what everyone needs?
"The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives." - Esther Perel
Yes, the last decade has been my highway of life. Besides building a corporate HR career, I brought three children into this world, lived on three continents, built a house, trained as a yoga instructor and coach. You see, I am an energetic person. I love to create. And if my energy gets stuck, I am not pleasant for my surroundings, no matter how much I meditate.
"Slow down a bit. You might be a bit too overwhelming for our organization. Just step back and wait. Have your child, take a break and then we see how you feel. Are you sure you want to work until your due date? Who will take care of your child?“
Ten years ago, I did not have any female role models at work, how to do it, how to combine a rich, full life with all its different facets. Being the first women on both sides of my families to earn a University degree, I knew I wanted to be a mom and have a career. My husband is an artist, yet he didn’t see himself as a stay-home-dad either. And unfortunately, we both hate household work.
Why do I share this? Because finding your identity at work while planning a family is hard. Really hard. It requires so much confidence. And it's even harder for women where up-bringing children is still a global value of what a woman is worth. And yes, if you are a man who wants to own his family life, show more of your family identity at work, then I mean you as well. It is now time to detect and decode consciously and unconsciously assumed stereotypes. Binary views of the world. Career or mother hood. As if me choosing to work less hours would linearly lead to a well-balanced life. It is so normal for women to be put into boxes, mostly related to community, family or some type of service. That was the main role in all societies around the world for centuries, it is so deeply rooted and builds the basis for gender bias which we all have. I observe myself how I, too, get this weird gut feeling, when meeting confident women who very consciously decide not to have children. Who feel totally fine about not having a spouse. I observe myself not trusting their decision that this is the life they want to live. I would never doubt a man’s decision. These unconscious biases are so deeply rooted in us, we all have them. And we all can consciously un-work them. Living in another culture helps. Experiencing other ways of life and seeing that they do work. BASF’s Legal, IP & Tax Diversity & Inclusion project team has taught me a lot in that sense, too. Thank you and I truly hope you guys continue the work.
Confidence (source Cambridge Dictionary)
So, how did I gain deep trust in my own abilities especially my plan for the future?
Against the odds, I was lucky enough to having been raised as a confident women myself. Was it because of my mother who with only 8 years of school escaped her laid-out farm life and became a nurse practitioner? Or my introvert, super-focused now-turned banking brother who never took it easy on me? Or my father who despite his conservative mind has the biggest heart for people and taught me how to nourish relationships. To sum it up - my family gave me a strong back.
What I did learn the hard way was how to sell it modestly in the corporate environment. This impression management is required to counter the so-called "backlash effect", a risk for social penalities for defying stereotypic behaviours. I did find my niche as a Global HR Business Partner where confidence is a necessity. Yet, what carried me through my corporate years and the current, crazy transition are the confident, bold and creative women I am honored to call my friends. And they're strong, supportive spouses and bosses who let them be powerful. This is what I want to see more of in the world. And I want to dedicate my time on creating strong connections between confident women with any help I can get.
What I like about confident women and their support system?
I love the colors, the showing up, the expression of needs, the trying out, learning and choosing again on the way to designing your life. Life is work, love, play and health all areas being interconnected with people. And I believe anyone can re-gain confidence in their areas of life and show it to the world in their unique way. Ultimately, this is what coaching is about. No one can find it for you. Yet, finding it does not happen in solitude through analysis and thought processing only. It happens mostly in the mirror of other humans - thank you Angelika Lehnen for this great metaphor, and the amazing four days of self-exploration („Spurensuche“) during the last module of my coaching training beginning of this month.
The basic need for human connections needs to be nourished. In our modern life, we often overcompensate with work and under compensate relationships. Content over connections is the common trap especially when you're result-focused and love to get things done as I do. It is just now after having left my company that I realize how deep many relationships grew over the years. Again, it is the people at my corporate world I miss, nothing less. And it was great to see some faces again while I spent some days back home in Germany before the holidays.
Because that is what relationships are about, getting emotionally invested, caring for another person, showing yourself and needs, desires. And soothing yourself when being rejected. Over and over again. Yet, we live in a world were boundaries between private and professional become more and more blurry. Our love life is rationalized and our work life emotionalized as Esther Perel, a NYC-based Psychologist points it out. Thus, at work more and more employees want to know more about their leaders and their stories. Their abilities and their plan for the future. Both personal and professional. Some Senior leaders especially in Germany struggle with that. They had just not been used to talking about their personal life, their interests outside work, how to unwind and how they care about relationships, especially their families. Subconsciously, this talk was reserved for women.
As a coach, I train to view individual choices on work, love, play and health without judgement. This is hard and I keep working on learning/ staying curious about these choices of my clients. I try to uncover what is really important and help my clients to act upon these priorities, inviting habits into their lives which support this. Interestingly enough, the most common regret of the dying is about relationships as described in the work of Bronnie Ware.
So, for 2020, nourish your relationships, find new connections, surround yourself with positivity and uplifting environments to make the changes you want to invite into your life.
Be confident. Trust your abilities and your plan for the future.
Find your flow. Live your ambition.
And if you need a little help… check out my offerings:
Life & Leadership Coaching - virtually anytime, anywhere, now also through coachhub
W/sisters circle - Online Peer Coaching with Sonja Kirschner
W/retreats 2020 - intensive Coaching & Yoga getaways (Oct 9-11 mountain&nature, Oct 16-19 Deluxe Urban & Ocean) --> see flyer below
Boss coaching - feel the need to practice how to communicate with your diverse employees? How to boost curiosity on female issues? How to change perspective? How to address concerns and communicate own values?
Happy New Year, everyone and all the best for 2020.