C.R. interviews Melody Wilding, LMSW, who specializes in psychotherapy for entrepreneurial women.
Welcome, Melody. Tell us about how you specialize in helping entrepreneurial women.
I help female entrepreneurs and young professional women navigate the complex emotional challenges that come with having a successful career. My clients come to me when they’re feeling stuck — personally or professionally– which may be manifesting as overwhelming self-doubt, low self-esteem, sabotaging relationships or much more.
As a female entrepreneur myself I understand the special emotional dynamics that are unique to running a business, such as handling co-founder or co-worker conflicts, making the jump to a more fulfilling career, or dating while growing a company.
One issue in particular that many women have a hard time with is understanding the difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness; that is, how to be assertive, not get “walked all over”, but at the same time not be too aggressive or at least, not be perceived as too aggressive. Any advice for our readers?
Many women often feel like it’s a balancing act between wanting to express their needs and not stepping on other people’s toes. Becoming more assertive starts with acting in a ways that demand respect from others and ditching behaviors that undermine your authority.
For example, some women tend to seek input from everyone around them before making a decision, but this can make you look indecisive and weak in the eyes of others. Instead, take back your confidence by taking more risk — start by making more small, low-profile decisions independently. Is taking risks scary? Yes, but the more you do it, the better you get at it.
As a woman who’s an independent contractor, I’m aware that however unfair it may appear to be, it’s a fact of life that men aren’t judged as harshly as women for being perceived as “too aggressive.”
From a young age, girls are conditioned to equate success with acting in certain stereotypical ways: being cooperative, polite, and other-oriented to name a few. These traits and behaviors can certainly be powerful in business and life – but women tend to wield power less directly and less confrontationally than men.
Women act less directly out of fear of being labeled too aggressive or being set apart and isolated from fellow women. As a result, women learn that acting like a “good girl” is safer and less painful than asserting influence. This type of resistance is normal, and the good news is that limiting, self-sabotaging behaviors can be unlearned.
There are some issues that both men and women share, such as work-personal/family life balance. My perception is that since women are better at multi-tasking, we tend to take on more family and home care than men. Do you have any advice for our readers on how to achieve and maintain balance?
Rather than focusing on work-life “balance” which places our personal and professional lives at odds with one another, it’s more productive to think in terms of work-life “integration”. This starts with learning how to channel stress into action, rather than letting it paralyzing you. When stress happens, you can choose to respond to it by setting up healthy habits and systems to help you achieve your goals.
You speak about “imposter syndrome.” Tell us about it.
If you feel undeserving of your accomplishments or chalk up your success to luck and timing, you’re suffering from Imposter Syndrome. At its core, Imposter Syndrome is a negative belief that you’re inadequate and unworthy – that any success you do have is the result of some external factor like connections and is unlikely to happen again. Women who feel like imposters say they feel like they are just getting by, waiting for someone to discover the jig is up.
How can you spot Imposter Syndrome? Look for protecting mechanisms like over-preparing, procrastinating, or never finishing a project. These self-sabotaging behaviors may protect women from a fear of criticism or failure, but it keeps them playing small and discourages them from stepping up to leadership positions.
If you’re finding yourself caught in the Imposter Syndrome trap, here’s something to try. Stop talking about your accomplishments in a diminutive way and completely nix phrases like “Oh, it was nothing” or “I just threw it together” from your vocabulary. Keep a scratch file of all of your achievements and review it whenever you have a flash of doubt.
Melody Wilding, LMSW, is a therapist for female entrepreneurs. She specializes in personal and professional development as well as stress management for successful women in their 20s and 30s. Melody has helped women running some of today’s top startups along with published authors and media personalities using secure and confidential online therapy sessions & counseling. Her advice has been featured on Glamour.com, The Huffington Post, The Daily Muse, and other major media outlets. For Therapy Soup readers: Contact Melody at www.melodywilding.com to schedule a free 15 minute session. Also follow her at Twitter at @MelodyWilding.