She sat across the table, looking every bit the savvy businesswoman that she was.
As we chatted over kale salads, she told me how her company, not yet two years old, was growing exponentially.
Then she lowered her voice and leaned in close. “There’s something I need to talk about. I’ve never shared this with anyone.”
“What is it?” I asked, also leaning forward, our foreheads almost touching. I could tell this was difficult for her.
“I’m afraid of success. I can already see little ways I’m holding myself back.”
“Tell me what you’re scared of.”
“I’m afraid people won’t like me,” she began slowly, then quickly added, “I’m afraid people will want more of me than I can give them. I’m so busy now, I’m afraid I’ll have no time for myself. I’m scared it will all be too much.”
“You’re not afraid of success,” I responded. “You’re afraid of power. There’s a definite difference.”
I share this conversation with you because I believe it reveals a critical distinction that we women need to understand. Let me explain.
For most of us, success is the fun part, the cherry on the chocolate sundae, the celebratory flute of fine champagne.
But doing what we need to do to get there, that’s what scares us silly. The real problem is this: we don’t understand power from a female perspective.
By nature, we women are all about relationships. We want everyone to be happy with us. Successful women are no different. Almost everyone I’ve ever interviewed confessed to a “little girl inside me who wants to be liked.”
Power, however, requires rocking the boat. Power demands that we speak our truth, set strong boundaries, make tough decisions that may negatively impact others. That’s really what women truly fear—not success itself, but making people mad or unhappy with them.
Once we understand this difference, we can learn to exert our power as women without betraying our feminine nature or becoming fraught with fear.
All that’s necessary is a shift in our thinking. And the shift sounds like this: “I’d rather be respected than liked.”
Most high earners tell me, as this one did, “I tried to be nice rather than stand by my convictions. But eventually I learned, you can’t always be liked, but you can definitely be respected.”
The recognition that earning respect is more important than garnering approval is what allows us, as women, to be powerful without diluting our innate strength or watering down our dreams.
As I conveyed my thoughts to my friend, she nodded her head and smiled knowingly. Then I raised my wine glass as she lifted her tea cup.
“To your success,” I toasted.
“To our power,” she replied.