I swear I will never do this again! Last week I heard the totally amazing Debra Searle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debra_Searle talk about what she’d learnt about rowing the Atlantic single handedly (her husband bailed early on) in a plywood rowing boat. She was alone at sea for months and went half mad with loneliness – but she did it. God what a woman.
So afterwards I went up to her and just said: “Debra, why did you do this?” She answered briefly before looking me straight in the eye and saying “how do you get your hair to go like that at the back?”
I’m sure Debra won’t mind me repeating this as we both clamped our hands over our mouths “What are we doing?? What about the trip – the days at sea, not seeing anyone for months, how totally awesome she is…… who cares about the flipping hair!!!
Why oh why do us women give our power away like this. Why do we care so much about what we look like (I include myself in this) Sometimes I think we’re our own worst enemies. We look everywhere to make us feel stronger/better/more worthy – and guess what it never ever works. A hairstyle, a piece of clothing, a man, the right shoes/bag/scarf -none of these things will ever ever work longterm.
Debra Searle is magnificent! Look her up – she’s done an extraordinary thing. So are so many of the women I work with. But get them on the quiet and so many of them will admit to all kinds of insecurities. Is it that we are honest and it’s just human to express vulnerability sometimes – btw I think it’s an absolute honour when somebody trusts you enough to admit this side of themselves. I guess men do this too – I love Alain de Botton’s https://www.alaindebotton.com/. advice that if a man buys a Ferrari he just really needs a hug as it’s a sure sign of inner weakness. Maybe men just do it in different ways.
So this week I’ll be working with two of my favourite women – mainly coaching around media. I know I will be laughing out loud, be totally inspired by their courage and zest for life – I also know we’ll do a lot of talking about: how to be heard, how to be assertive not aggressive, how to tackle imposter syndrome…same old, same old.
And I’ll point to women I think do power really well. Mishal Husain, Emily Maitlis (her forensic, detailed, professional drilling into Prince Andrew’s ridiculous alibi was a masterclass in interviewing techniques) and, of course, Helen Mirren. I think this is largely personal preference: I prefer grace dignity and steely calmness, but I do think this is just one way of doing female power. Others do well with bolshy, loud, domineering – that just doesn’t do it for me.
So as I prepare for my week I’ve jotted down what I think female power/influence is and what it is not. Please feel free to disagree:
- It always comes from the inside – when somebody really knows who they are, what they are prepared to stand for and when they are prepared to stand up and be counted – and most importantly when the fight isn’t worthy of you
- It is often quiet, although not always, it is about gravitas, grace under pressure and direct/honest communication
- It is never about bullying, humiliating others, blocking other women, blocking anybody
- It is NEVER achieved through: a relationship, status, a job title, how thin/rich somebody is
- It is firmly boundaried and there is clarity around who is allowed in and who is not. The woman knows that there are some very unpleasant views out there about what a woman should and should not be. She is never cowed, but only chooses the battles she wants to fight.
- She only engages in social media when she is in control – she can delete what/who she wants/whenever she wants. Anything but this is complete madness.
- she looks after all other women – young, middle-aged, old – and knows it can be an increasingly scary world and we so need each other more than ever
Like so many others I was utterly heart broken to hear of the death of the super talented, sassy, charismatic Caroline Flack. All I hope is that this gives us all a little nudge to be that tiny bit kinder to each other.
Have a lovely week