Maybe you already know what I'm talking about, but if not, let me expound just a bit. It seems that everywhere I go I hear or see "rules" in action. Take the following for example:
- I can't write a book. It's just not practical.
- It's impossible to get a babysitter for all three of my kids so I can have a weekend away
- Sure I like to paint, but it isn't something I can really pursue... I have to have a real job
- I can't wear navy blue and black, it just doesn't work
- I can't wear a sleeveless shirt because my arms are not toned
- Women can't do that. They never have before
- I have to eat dinner before I can eat my dessert
- Ask him for his number? You're kidding right?
Who made these rules anyway? Just because someone said something like this and put a "should" or "should not" with it, it's suddenly a law? When did that happen?
Here's a funny thing... I've lived a lot of my life not following any rules. It's not like I set out to be a rebel or non-conformist. I guess I just assumed they didn't exist. Or, more likely, I just didn't think about them at all.
When I got into the world of digital marketing and corporate America I didn't worry about the fact that I was a woman in a male-dominated world. I didn't feel concerned about not being able to speak up in board rooms or that I would look stupid or say something elementary. I would just speak. And sometimes my inexperience would shine through, but it was noted (and frequently commented on) that I was really present and really participating.
I heard other women complain about the gender gap and I would think, "What are you talking about? Just work hard, do well and you'll be fine." That's what I thought because that was my experience. I was frequently rewarded for my hard work and advanced quickly into leadership positions no matter where I worked. This was a pattern I had developed from my very first job in retail (ah, lovely Value City) and it was a philosophy that I had learned from my parents.
A couple of years ago, I read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I was, admittedly, bored through the whole thing and I honestly can't tell you what the book is actually about or advocating for. I'm sure if I read it again, I would get it, but like I've said this wasn't my reality so it was really hard to relate to the content of it.
But, the damage was done... Now those "rules" were in my head. I began to "see" things that I hadn't noticed before. And I still wonder if I was seeing things differently because I had "woken up to reality" or were things different because I was assuming that they "should be different because that's what other women were experiencing."
Honestly, I don't know that it matters. What matters is what happened next. I got self-conscious. I began to experience Imposter Syndrome. I began to question everything I did and I stopped participating in larger groups. I grew fearful of networking scenarios and business meetings. I started feeling sorry for myself as a woman in Corporate America.
Um, excuse me? What the hell?
I have no hard evidence, but I do have a theory as to why all this went down the way it did. Before I was exposed to the "rules" I lived and acted as if they didn't exist (because, to me, they didn't). The world (or universe or whatever you want to call it) responded in term and gave me the life that I was creating for myself. But as soon as I started "seeing the rules", I started acting and reacting as though they were in place for me.
They've never affected me before, so why should they bother me now? Because I was letting them. It was an intoxicating experience. Breaking free of those rules that I didn't used to have has been (and continues to be) a challenge for me. I still struggle in getting back to where I was before my awful enlightenment where I took some solid information provided by Sheryl Sandberg and warped it into a twisted sense of my place in the world.
(Note: I am not, in any way, blaming Sheryl for my issues. God knows she has enough on her plate. I am responsible for my own interpretation of that information and how it applies to my life. Keep up the amazing legacy, Sheryl. Thoughts and prayers are with you.)
What rules have you self-imposed that are holding you back?
Are you convinced that you can't be in love with someone because it hasn't been "enough time" since your last relationship? Or maybe because you don't look the way that you're supposed to so love isn't an option right now?
Are you putting dreams on hold that have been speaking to you for years because they aren't practical or what "responsible adults do"?
Are you still at the same company, church, social gatherings or worn out coffee groups that are slowly devouring your soul but you can't stop going to them because that's just what you've always done?
Let's get a little crazy, shall we?
Write your book.
Fall in love.
Make a new friend.
Start your business.
Schedule your personal retreat.
Learn a hobby and see what happens.
Wear a navy blue shirt and black pants.
What are you waiting to do because of some rule? What is one thing you can do to move toward that goal? Tell me below in the comments.