What Makes An Independent Woman: My Journey So Far

Andrea LeenIndustry Manager, Luxury Retail & Global CPG Brands at Google

3 Ways to Empower Yourself to be More Assertive at Work as a Woman Leader

I have always been a proud, independent woman.

I have had some challenges in life that I have dealt with all on my own. These included ongoing health conditions and emotional pain due to rejection, failure and criticism growing up. Not having someone to lean on and putting myself together through sheer grit and resilience, gives me a strong sense of pride.

Growing up, I was surrounded by people but never felt I truly belonged.

I never really confided in anybody – never feeling comfortable enough to be vulnerable, at the same time wondering if I was oversharing and if the other party cared about what I had to say.

All this stemmed from an innate need to be seen as an independent woman. It was hard work, managing this image I had built up over thirty years.

All strong — more brain, less heart.

The independent woman in me found it difficult to ask for help. Any kind of help at all. I’ve found it the hardest to ask for help, especially in the most difficult situations. I recall spending days or even weeks obsessing over problems trying to find solutions, and while in the forefront I envisioned myself succeeding (and also suffocating), I always knew deep down that I could definitely use some help because it would be just so much easier. However, something inside always held me back from asking.

The voice inside told me I could do it alone, as I always have. As much as I struggled, I chose to keep believing that voice.

Until one day six months ago, I had a breakthrough. During a session with my coach Devika Das, something miraculous happened. I had an epiphany.

‘Independence’ is about being free, free from outside influence or control, to stand firm on your own for your purpose.

It was not close at all to what I imagined it to be — I had been too literal in my approach and the reality is there is little to no correlation to the theory I had conjured up.

Freedom means different things to different people. For someone who is in a difficult relationship, freedom is to get away from it. For a woman who has limited resources, it is the freedom to earn more money.

We need to look within and ask what is holding us back from living our true lives.

For me, what was holding me back were the walls I created, to preserve the image of being an independent woman. My coach told me this and it instantly hit home. The burden of holding up this image was immense. A successful career does not equate to a successful life, and in the pursuit of what success meant to me, I was giving up parts of who I really am.

Freedom is about being in a safe space to demonstrate empathy without fear.

It is when I am able to be fluid with my thoughts — express them freely, with no fear of judgment or repercussions. The space to be creative, when there is no notion of right or wrong, and for my audience and myself to be open to all possibilities.

I decided to put this to the test and pushed myself to try asking for help. I didn’t know where to start as I challenged myself towards asking for help – I thought of how to first muster up the courage to ask, what to ask, who to ask, and how to ask. I started with my first request for help. Then came my second, third, fourth… the more I asked, the weight on my shoulders started to decrease.

I observed that the more I asked, the higher likelihood that I’d receive.

7 out of 10 times I received help. And for those that couldn’t help, I understood that they genuinely were unable to.

I did not feel like a victim for being rejected. In fact, I felt empowered.

Those that find it easy to reach out may not understand what an amazing discovery it was for me.

Six months later today, despite making the mindset shift, I still think twice before I ask for help — whether it is professional (help at the workplace) or personal (help to take care of my 2 dogs, and a foster).

What is different today though is I now have the willingness to ask, and the willingness to receive, without feeling like I am less independent.

Moral of the story? People are helpful and they want to be asked for help. They like the feeling of being able to be of service. When you ask you might not always get what you need, but you may come back with a deeper connection and a little more faith in humanity.

Link to the article HERE

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