This year, International Women's Day introduces us to the theme #BalanceforBetter. There will be many posts that will come in many forms, authored by many talented women. These posts will discuss the role of women and work from many different perspectives. I want to offer some advice in the form of my perspective on one of the agreements explained in Don Miguel Ruiz’s book “Four Agreements.” It has helped me immensely to find the freedom to be a better mother, leader, friend, partner and, most importantly, human.
Just last week, I turned to my kids on the way to school and said, “I wish someone told me when I was your age that what other people think of you just doesn’t matter.”
Ruiz tells us “when you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering,” which is his explanation of the agreement “Don’t Take Anything Personally.”
Let’s be clear: I’m not writing about “not being the victim.” We, men and women alike, should be working every day to define a new reality where a balance and diversity of gender, ethnicity, sexual preference, background, perspective—the list goes on—are embraced, sought after, and celebrated.
I’m writing about the need to create the freedom, the balance, and the space essential to be you. When the actions and opinions of others no longer define who you are, your choices, or your happiness, the limitless possibilities for life, love, work—the future—become clearer and attainable.
My early career was largely defined by the box I created for myself—a box defined by the perceptions I had about what others expected of me. My motivation was focused on “measuring up” to my perception of their expectations and ensuring I met or exceeded them. Balance was non-existent and other people defined my worth and value.
Through many life experiences and reflecting on Ruiz’s Agreement, I have learned to trust myself and change my mindset.
While other people’s expectations can be real, especially at work, they no longer define me, my worth, or my success. I still have very real goals to meet. Work to do. Results to deliver. Teams to lead. And I work very hard every day. But at the end of the day, whether I succeed or fail with any of it—my value to the world, to me, to my kids, to my partner isn’t changed.
With this mindset, I’m free to wake up tomorrow morning, and more likely than not to be happy about getting up and trying it all again. Life’s too short to live according to other people’s expectations and judgments. So be your own cheerleader—and when you see another person, woman or man, who needs encouragement because they might be suffering the worries of what others think, be the person that lifts them up.