The distinction between self sacrifice and true service

The distinction between self sacrifice and true service

Do you have a history of ‘helper syndrome’? I am using this term to replace more graphic but less palatable terms, like sacrificial lamb, martyr, saint or rescuer.

As I see it, the roots of this syndrome are a mixture of nature and nurture.

Some of us learned to get praise, attention and feelings of significance through being helpful and useful in environments where saying no carried negative consequences that we feared.

Fast forward to adult life and we discover that we are no longer rewarded with gold stars.

Instead, ‘Helper Syndrome’ leads to:

  • Being used by others, causing the sufferer to feel valued for the wrong things, misunderstood and underappreciated.
  • Experiences of invalidation from others, if they wanted attention or approval but, not advice or solutions.
  • Frustration, overload, overwhelm and even burnout
  • Lack of clarity about who and what we are designed to serve

 

At some point in my journey as a chronic sufferer, I began to appreciate the fine difference between self-sacrifice and service. Apparently, due my Pisces sun (the self sacrificing part) and my Virgo ascendant (the service part), I’m wired to learn the difference, including the shadow and the light of such qualities.

While there is a time and a place for self sacrifice in the transformative crucible of spiritual practice, success in the so-called real world requires us to be clear with our boundaries and personal limitations. This puts us in the realm of service.

Self-sacrifice is a problem in the real world, other than in special circumstances, such as emergencies or after giving birth to a baby. However, in those special circumstances we are given the resources we need through raised hormone levels, irrespective of nature and nurture considerations.

The transformation of self-sacrifice to service requires self-awareness, including conscious direction of energies through committing only to whom and to what we feel genuinely called, and designed, to serve.

Over the last couple of years, I have gained enormous clarity around who and what I am best suited to serve, as a result of my journey with a process called Tribal Marketing.

But, just a few years ago, I was beyond confused about what I should be offering – and to whom. I trained as an Independent Funeral and Wedding Celebrant, planning to leave the coaching and training worlds altogether.

I liked the work but knew that it needed to be a ‘side’ rather than the ‘main’ of my offering. I returned to coaching and transformed my business.

Are you as stuck as I was a few years ago?  Click here to learn more about True Significance and Tribal Marketing.

What women aged over 35 think of power

What women aged over 35 think of power

A very interesting piece of research on women and power was published by Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Melinda Marshall of the Center for Talent Innovation in 2015.

They surveyed professional women, between the ages of 35 and 50, in the US, the UK and Germany to find out what they wanted.

It was discovered that they want they same things that professional men want.

  • to feel in control of their career
  • to have their work recognised
  • to find meaning and purpose through their work
  • to be able to empower others
  • to have financial security

The difference that was found between women and men is this. Men in this age group sustain their interest in the importance of power and seek it. Women lose their interest in power, as they get older.

The report continued with recommendations for employers on how to encourage and retain talented women. They quote the following data from another US study.

Women without Power

Ability to flourish    18%

Ability to excel       70%

Feeling purpose      26%

Feeling empowered 14%

Contrast this with –

Women with Power

Ability to flourish    58%

Ability to excel       87%

Feeling purpose      63%

Feeling empowered 61%

Here the word power means ‘powerful position’.

I think the figures are on the low side even for women with the power of position, excepting the opportunity to excel. Those figures mean that 42% of women in powerful positions do not feel that they are flourishing. 47% do not find meaning and purpose through their work. 49% neither feel empowered nor feel they have the opportunity to empower others.

No wonder, in the UK, women leaders are the fastest growing segment of self employed entrepreneurs (reported by Jean Martin in the Guardian, May 2015).

The biggest drop out of women from the corporate world comes at the mid career point.

While it might be easy to assume that this is for work/life balance while raising children, this may not be the full story.

Apparently, a whopping 38% of American women, 39% of British women and 41% of German women aged 35-50 do not have children.

Do you think this could mean that as many women drop out due to disillusionment, as due to wanting better work/life balance?

In my experience:

People opt out when they believe their current circumstances won’t change.

People opt out when they are fed up with the feeling of hitting their head against a brick wall.

People opt out when the environment that they are in is not conducive to their growth or in alignment with their values.

In the 1980’s (yes I was in the workforce then and can speak from personal experience) women’s empowerment was all about breaking the ‘glass ceiling’. And some women succeeded.

Is it possible that the new wave of women leaders are not as interested in proving themselves within male dominated environments?

Just maybe they don’t lose their interest in power. Maybe they lose their interest in the forms of power that prevail!

If so, by opting out they are saying no to something that doesn’t work for them and yes to something that could.

It makes no sense that women would lose their interest in power as they get older, given that wisdom traditions the world over consider the menopausal transition as being a passage to power for women.

Is it possible that women that ‘drop out’ are really ‘dropping’ into tune with their innate feminine power? 

It interests me that women may be opting out in their peri-menopausal and menopausal years driven unconsciously by biological impulses.

If you are one of those women, I can help you to reframe the whole topic of power – in order to step into your most powerful and significant expression yet.

The difference between female, feminine and Feminine

The difference between female, feminine and Feminine

I’ve been dialoguing about the explosion of interest in Feminine leadership with the wise women that I know.

We agree that women are awakening and claiming power – spiritual, sexual, financial and heartfelt, hard earned wisdom.

But is female leadership the same as Feminine leadership?

I personally think there is a distinction to be made.

As interest in this topic increases more people use the terms ‘feminine leadership’ and ‘feminine power’ in their blogs and business offerings. The distinction between female, relating to gender, and Feminine, which is non gender specific, becomes important.

A respected leader, whether male or female, is likely to be able to harness both Masculine and Feminine qualities as appropriate to a situation.

Having said that, male and female bodies and brains are wired differently. It does make sense that women, by and large, will have greater access to certain qualities and men to others. But, women must take more than their gender into leadership positions.

Sadly, we are most familiar with stories of abuse of power in leadership. Female leaders are not immune.

My personal view is that a call for Feminine leadership is a response to abuses of power. For me, Feminine leadership implies a change to the patriarchal ‘power over’ paradigm.

Feminine leadership might be framed around an honouring of Feminine values, which include the honouring of women, the arts, the earth and all forms of life on it.

The importance of inner work for leaders is a newly emerging theme. The approach, which might emerge, to the benefit of both women and men, is neither patriarchal ego/male oriented nor matriarchal ego/female oriented.

Initiations to the Feminine are not new – neither for women nor for men.

Joseph Campbell identified ‘The Meeting with the Goddess’ as a key transformational stage on his model of the human journey, in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, published in 1949.

Often, Hero’s Journey is interpreted as being a man’s journey. But, there is another interpretation that deserves consideration. The Hero is a metaphorical term. When the Hero meets the goddess, he is changed in some way. He surrenders, stops fighting and starts to serve and support her.

There is deep longing in both women and men to meet the Feminine.

Food for thought:

  1. ‘The woman who does not require validation from anyone is the most feared individual on the planet.’ Mohadesa Najumi
  2.  The Feminine is the transformational aspect of Consciousness, according to tantric wisdom.
  3. It was at the Vancouver Peace Summit, in 2009, that the Dalai Lama made the statement that many women’s initiatives now quote. He gave the opinion that ‘the world will be saved by the Western women.’
Status and success vs. significance

Status and success vs. significance

Recently, Ive been contemplating status and success vs significance.

That bird in the photo… I doubt that he or she contemplates success. But a bird carries significance. It has an important role to play in the balance of nature.

And it plays its role well. A bird is always true to its bird nature.

But, humans are different.

Add cultural conditioning and most of us are out of sync with our true nature and natural energy balance.

Success and status permeate our cultural conditioning.

Have you noticed the different language used for success vs. significance? People chase or attain success. They seek significance or make a significant contribution.

Early in life, success and significance get confused. Chasing success often hides an unconscious search for significance.

The mistaken belief is that success will bring validation from others – and therefore status. This belief is a poor substitute for the genuine feeling and knowing of significance.

It is not uncommon to hear stories of successful but unhappy and unfulfilled people. Unconscious searching for significance, via success, has an enormous trap.

When there is a high need for external validation, a person is more likely to sacrifice their personal values and integrity in order to maintain the status quo. In other words they end up being valued for the wrong things. I confess to falling into this trap – more than once.

What may begin in childhood, in order to stay safe and to belong, has a nasty habit of continuing into adulthood, with disastrous consequences. Toxic relationships. Burnout. Poor choices that undermine self respect.

But, personal crises can serve as an initiation to the true journey, hinted at in myth, stories and parables through the ages. Mapped out for us all by Joseph Campbell in the 20th century. He called it the Hero’s Journey.

We are unwittingly captivated by the potential of this journey, which is invisibly wired into us. Many of our most loved films capitalise on this by basing their plots on the Hero’s Journey model. (Applies for heroine’s too.)

As a transformational coach, I use this model with my clients, supporting them on their lifetime adventure to realise their true nature, from which can flower more effective expression of their unique gifts through work and in relationships..

You could say that the success of this journey is the discovery of True Significance.

True Significance does not come from external sources and especially, it does not come from self sacrifice. It comes from deep knowing and being faithful to a sense of purpose. And that journey is lifelong.

Personal ‘eclipses’ help you to stay on purpose

Personal ‘eclipses’ help you to stay on purpose

The American eclipse was big news last month.  My topic this month is what it means to experience a personal eclipse. 

A personal eclipse is a sudden change of direction, perhaps seemingly forced upon us or perhaps following an inner change of heart. The path we were on ‘gets eclipsed’ as a result.

In my experience, this feeling of something being eclipsed, while disorienting, is usually an indication that something in life needs to be reconsidered.

What you may not know about me is that 3 years ago I trained to be a wedding and funeral celebrant.

By chance, the first 2 funerals I conducted were for people of my own age. Thankfully, also by chance, so was the first wedding!

Of course, this made me think about my own life and what was important to me. And I realised, that while I enjoyed being a Celebrant and being of service to others in marking a rite of passage, I did not want to make such work into a full time occupation. It didn’t give me the same feeling of being ‘on purpose’ that I was lucky to experience when working as a coach and consultant earlier in my career.

I realised that I was making choices based on what made sense, given age and skills set. But, my deepest interests were hidden under limiting beliefs, such as ‘I’m too old’ or ‘it’s too late’ or ‘I haven’t got the resources’ for that type of business offering again.

Limiting thoughts and feelings are much easier to address once acknowledged. Since I’ve retrained as an Awakening Coach, and shifted the personal obstacles in the process, I feel ‘on purpose’ again.

For most people that feeling of being ‘on purpose’ makes a huge difference and is needed at every age and life stage.

If you have been experiencing a personal eclipse (which may be associated with the celestial one) ask yourself what might be needed for you to feel on purpose. And if you are in the middle of a life transition, as I was, it’s ok to consider a few options. But, please look carefully at your limiting points of view before deciding to believe them!

Premium travel at your personal edge? Or status quo economy?

Premium travel at your personal edge? Or status quo economy?

Around 8am in the morning of May 3rd, I was eating breakfast in Pret-a-Manger at London Heathrow, Terminal 3….

Some of you will no doubt consider me somewhat weird when I disclose my love of airports.

I admit that I have travelled more for my own purposes than I have for business reasons. This may be why I have retained a fascination for people watching and window shopping that transcends any frustration or boredom, should I experience long queues or flight delays.

What I noticed on the morning of May 3rd was how alive I felt, despite the early morning start a 10am flight necessitates.  I remembered a remark from a colleague some years ago. When I told him I liked airports, he’d said, ‘That makes sense Cathy. You like transitional, edgy places.’

So true. The thing about transitional, edgy places is that they are full of possibility and potential. I think this is what airports represent for me. Whether I am departing to a far flung destination or not, the thrill of adventure and the unknown is present as I look at the departures screen.

New environments bring new perspectives. When we travel we may encounter unfamiliar situations that force new and creative responses. In the process, we may also have to face our fears and reactive patterns. We can feel more alive when we explore new ways of being and doing. We will also feel more alive when we unravel the habitual patterns that have caused repeating problems in our lives.

But the status quo is a formidable opponent to growth. When we return to a familiar comfort zone, we literally lose our edge. It is harder to act on insights received at edgy places from the midst of the demands of familiar, daily life.

There are times in life when the comfort and stability of the status quo is necessary and enjoyable. However, when our comfort is punctuated by longings for adventure, we might consider what part of ourselves is lying dormant and asking for expression.

While a holiday might ‘take the edge’ off that hunger for a short while, we will soon be back. Unless we’ve worked out what needs to change while we are away and acted on it, we may soon be re-experiencing the signals for the need for change, such as boredom, tiredness, frustration or restlessness. There may even be depression if a situation has become chronic.

After I boarded my flight to Philadelphia on May 3rd, I took out my phone and headphones and recorded the insights that form the basis of this newsletter. I didn’t want to lose them. By the time the plane was in the air, I’d also recorded insights regarding choices I need to make with regard to my own direction over forthcoming months. That included a decision re the right coaching support to invest in for the next phase of my life and work.

My question to you this month is to ask whether you are in touch with your growing edge? Are you feeling excited as you engage with the frontier of your life? Or, do you need help to decide where the frontier is? Or, having found the frontier, have you discovered inner saboteurs that seem to lie in wait to persuade you that the status quo really is acceptable?

Yesterday I was speaking to a friend who is selling the house that his grown up children and elderly mother are fond of. They would rather he didn’t sell. But, he has strong personal reasons to make a move that he has delayed for some time.

He said, ‘The status quo is no longer an option.’ I thought that was a great statement!

For a house move, the appropriate support comes from estate agents and solicitors. But, personal edges, which challenge us to call forward underdeveloped parts of ourselves in order to shift our work and relationships to new levels, are different.

Is it wise to wait until a crisis brings you to a forced edge? Might you prefer the premium choice of hiring the support of someone who can keep both keep you in touch with the potential of your growing edge and support you as you make changes? If there’s a part of you that knows you have inner challenges to address in order to make outer changes, coaching can shift you out of a vicious cycle or a downward spiral.