Lean In (part two of who knows)

At my yoga class on Monday evening, my instructor talked about getting big and feeling big. About spreading out your arms, jumping up and yelling and how this makes you feel amazing. We talked about sitting up straight and how your posture affects how you feel. But, we talked about in a very yogi-way. In the sense of feeling love and letting love out. But, getting big and feeling big is more than a yogi-ism.

Now that we’ve raced through House of Cards, the boyfriend and I are forced to sift through Netflix for something new to watch and luckily he stumbled upon Ted Talks Life Hacks. The first one we watched was “Amy Cuddy: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.” Amy began by talking about body language. How we all already know that body language affects how we interpret one another and how others interpret you. For example, they say when you have your arms crossed you don’t seem as welcoming to strangers. But then she went on to discuss low power versus high power poses. How making yourself bigger (arms on hips or just simply spread out) gives off a feeling of power and that crossing your legs and hunching over is a low-power pose.

PowerPose

And I agree. I definitely see the difference in these poses. Amy went on to say that not only do these postures affect how others interpret you, but it can change how you interpret yourself. By taking a low-power pose, you’re going feel low power. By taking a high-power pose you’re going to feel more confident.

Which brings me to Lean In.

As I’ve stated before, Lean In isn’t a bra-burning, man-hating book or philosophy. It simply states facts about the culture that we (both men and women) have created and how women can be more successful in business within in that culture. One example that Sheryl Sandberg makes is in reference to these high power versus low power poses.

She points out that generally speaking, men usually assume more high-power poses naturally. They spread their legs and keep their arms out, it just comes naturally (something to do with testosterone, I don’t know just watch the Ted Talk at the bottom of this pose 😉 ). Women on the other hand, we typically keep our legs crossed and our arms close to our bodies – taking up as little room as possible. Because that’s what is lady-like. But, as a result women feel less powerful compared to men because of the pose they take. Kind of interesting, right?

The problem is, I don’t exactly see myself spreading out my legs the next time I’m in a meeting. It’s awkward, uncomfortable and well, it’s just not going to happen. Amy Cuddy, in her Ted Talk offers an alternative. She says, for example, before you walk into an interview it’s important to get big. Whether it’s outside, in your car or in the bathroom, take 2-5 minutes to get big. Spread your arms out and legs out in a star-like posture. Feel confident. Cuddy goes so far as to say fake confidence, because eventually by faking it and acting it, you’ll actually feel it. Don’t reserve this for certain instances, I think taking time to get big should be an important part of your routine.

In my yoga class, we get big. whether it’s a warrior 1 or a transition, we are always spreading our arms out. And this resulting feeling of confidence, happiness and power is part of the reason why we do it. So, not only am I suggesting you join my yoga class and read Lean In, take a peek at Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk. It’s pretty fascinating and she dives more into this “fake it till you feel it.”

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Leaning in

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I recently started reading Lean In, a book by Sheryl Sandberg written in response to the overwhelming feedback she received after a TedTalk on how women are held back in the work place – and how we hold ourselves back. And by ‘recently’ I mean about a week ago and by ‘started’ I mean I’m about halfway done. I can hardly put it down! I can only imagine this is the first of a series of thoughts and tidbits I’ll have in reaction to the book. I at first hestitated reading it because it just seemed like over-hyped book on the lock-the-men-in-the-cellar type feminism, something that’s just not my taste. I could not have bee more wrong. Most of the time while I’m reading I think to myself, “YES! So that’s not just me?” and then other times I’m thinking, “Well now that’s just ridiculous. Who thinks like that?” Which makes sense. Just because we are all women doesn’t mean we are all the same. But I digress.

There was one particular section of the book that I found very interesting and connected with. It’s a topic that I don’t really like talking about out loud but is definitely something that’s crossed my mind many times and, as I learned, it turns out I’m not alone.

I don’t know when I’ll get married. I also don’t know when I’ll have kids. Or, to be honest, if I am totally sure I want children. I don’t even have a number in mind. Or an age that I want to have them. Literally, no clue. But for whatever reason the question of what I’ll do in my career when I have kids has been at the forefront of my mind for quite some time. I can’t even remember when I started thinking about it, but I have a feeling it was maybe high school – when I didn’t even have the faintest idea what I wanted to do with my career (or even what college I wanted to go to).

As it turns out, we women do this. But men don’t. We plan this out. Men don’t. We start concerning ourselves with this early. But, men don’t. Usually, this kind of planning can work out nicely to be ready for flux and flow. Instead what ends up happening is we hold ourselves back. We second guess career decisions because we wonder how this will affect our families one day. You might not even have a boyfriend, but you are already concerned about balancing. I’m twenty-four and the only work-life balance I really have to be concerned about is making sure I make it to yoga on time. But instead, I’m already worried about how I will “have it all”. If I aspire to be a CMO somewhere, how will I have time to be home? As a result, we don’t go after our goals as fiercely as we should. We have that fierceness in us, but it’s held back by worrying about future problems.

The irony is, by going after a higher position, you are often in a better place to have more control over your hours. You might also find yourself in a position that you have find immensely rewarding, which will make returning to the workforce after having a child much easier. Sandberg also cites many studies that show when a man and woman both share responsibilities cooking and bringing home the bacon, it leads to happier, more stable marriages. By having both parents involved in kid’s life, the child usually grows up to be a more well-rounded person.

Her conclusion was to not worry about this just yet. Don’t worry about having a work-family balance if there’s no family yet to balance. Go fiercely towards your dreams and don’t wonder if you should be holding yourself back.

If you are a woman in the business of making a career, I highly recommend starting in on Lean In. It’s an eye-opening adventure that will leave you feeling empowered, wiser and maybe a little freaked out (but at least aware) about the unspoken challenges that extend beyond the concept of a “glass ceiling” that can inhibit goals of advancing your career as a woman – both outside and self inflicted.