How do you feel about doing something where you don’t think that you are “expert enough”? Are you an “I’m going to give it a go” kind of person, or more of an “I couldn’t possibly do that” kind of person?
This is a burning question for me, as next week I’m co-facilitating Becoming’s first “Safe Space” event. This will be a space for people to explore, reflect and discuss the question of how we can help women’s careers thrive through menopause. And guess what? On the topic of menopause, I am not “expert enough”. In fact, I know next to nothing about it!
At Becoming, our mission is to help women lead unapologetic lives. And we do that by helping women to develop the psychological flexibility to unhook from the thoughts and feelings that hold them back and take action that aligns to their values. So, when I find myself wrestling with thoughts like “I can’t possibly do that”, “I won’t have any answers to give” and I notice my heart rate rising and my shoulders tensing, I know it is time to drink my own “kool-aid”.
The temptation to analyse
It’s tempting to spend lots of time analysing what might be going on for me. Is this a shadow that I need to uncover for myself? Maybe there are events deep in my past that have shaped my beliefs around my ability to be an expert. Or maybe it is a story that I’ve told myself? Perhaps I’ve created a story around others being experts and finding myself inadequate in comparison. Or is it just my inner critic raising the alarm? Is she warning me of the impending danger of putting myself in this risky position?
But really, that’s a diversion. It won’t help me to know what is going on. What helps me, once I’ve noticed those thoughts and feelings, is to decide what I’m going to do about it. I need to decide what my values are, and then what action I’m going to take.
The need to act
On this one, my values are clear. I firmly believe in our mission to help women lead unapologetic lives. And I hold values around being honest and direct (just ask my family and friends, they’ll tell you that I’m not good at holding back!). So if there is a topic that needs to be talked about, in order to help women stay or get back on track and become the amazing people they are destined to be, then I want to bring it out into the open.
And good heavens, menopause is a topic that needs to be talked about. Did you see the Davina McCall documentary on Channel 4 (a UK TV channel) last week? 13 million women in the UK alone living with menopause – not to mention all the other countries around the world. Menopausal women are the fastest growing demographic in the workplace. 9 out of 10 women saying that the menopause has adversely affected their work.
So I’m going to step in and take action. I’m going to sit with the uncomfortableness of not feeling like I know enough. Because actually sometimes it isn’t about having the answer. Sometimes its about having the space to think and ask questions, to listen and explore, to reflect and imagine. Its about just being with other people who want to talk about the same, challenging, uncomfortable, sensitive, “unsavoury” topic. Sometimes it is just about being in a safe space.
And at Becoming, we are good at holding a safe space. We are good at meeting people where they are and walking alongside them on their journey. So maybe, actually, I am expert enough.
P.S. If you want to come along (and see how I do!) then register here for our Safe Space event: Can women’s careers thrive through menopause.