I have a confession to make – I love Country music. And I love the TV series Nashville. With its focus on
powerful women and great music – what’s not to like? Songs written for the show step away from the ‘stand by your man’ theme and home in on the ‘take your power’ theme.
The words of one particular song, ‘Undermine’, always gets me thinking. The key message:
‘it’s a whole lot harder to shine, than undermine.’
And my favourite line: ‘
And if I’ve only got one shot, Won’t waste it on a shadow box, I’ll stand right here’.
We’re good at shadow boxing
I like that concept of ‘shadow boxing’. I don’t know about you, but I can so easily slip into making a mountain out of a molehill. Blame is always an option when the challenge is uncomfortable: ‘it’s not just me, you do it too.’ In my heart I know the euphoria of the moral high ground is short lived. If I really want to shine, I’ve got to take responsibility for my behaviour. But my goodness it’s hard!
The Doubting Twin
It’s easy to feel defensive, because we’re used to being criticised. When I was researching the Doubting Twin, I discovered just how many women have an inner critical voice with very clear views about their shortcomings and failures. They do what they can to defend against it, but at their core they believe it’s correct and there’s no hope.
Undermining is the central drive of the Doubting Twin. She’s so sure we’re no good that she undermines anything that would prove otherwise. She’s really bothered about making mistakes, getting it wrong, or irritating people, so she works hard to hold onto the status quo and any rocking of the boat has to be squashed asap.
You’d never know it, her actual job is to keep us safe. She’d determined to stick with what works because change or standing out could be dangerous. So she’s obliged to undermine our aspirations and deny anyone who has the temerity to believe in us.
Why would we do that to ourselves? Women are built to endure – we know that. We know how strong we are – and that’s part of the problem. We direct too much of that strength into containing ourselves and making space for others to shine. We strive to serve. All the conditioning has taught us to put others first – it’s hardwired into our DNA.
We don’t put ourselves first, we put ourselves down.
I’ve just been reading about a young woman who was abused from the age of 13. It took a huge amount of courage to speak up after so many years. And she was only able to do it once her parents had died because she didn’t’ want them to be upset. She looked after them first and put herself second. And she is absolutely not alone. We all do it in our own way.
Because we undermine ourselves so effectively, it’s easy to miss when others join in. We just believe it’s our due. So we struggle to stand up for ourselves at work or to tell predatory males that they’re out of line. We prefer to be polite and not upset anyone, not to mention the trouble we have trusting our own judgement – ‘It happens to everyone’; ‘he didn’t really mean it’; ‘I must have imagined it…….’
The Doubting Twin is both saviour and downfall.
The DT does keep us safe. She’s also kept us locked up in out-dated etiquette, good manners, low self esteem and fear. But we always have choice. We can choose to shine by taking what’s good from our Doubting Twin and limiting the negatives. Sounds simple, but of course reversing any established behaviour pattern is demanding.
You can’t just get up in the morning and decide to stop. The DT Is much too powerful for that – she’s busy fuelling a whole Imposter Syndrome. But remember, for her it’s a matter of life and death. She’s keeping you safe – or so she believes. The only way is to understand her doubts and find ways to address them. She needs reassurance that you won’t act rashly. Until she knows that, she can’t put her weight behind your actions.
Get curious about her
First step is to recognise the voice when it pipes up. It’s hardwired into our brains, so it can be really hard to spot. I love it when a woman first ‘meets’ her Doubting Twin – the moment is life changing. Like the young business woman who was head hunted for a job and asked to name her salary. ‘I can’t ask for too much, they won’t like it/they’ll think I’m greedy’. After we talked she realised this was the DT talking. In fact she wanted a really good rise, so took the risk to ask for it and – you’ve got it – she was given just what she asked for.
Realising the DT does not have the ultimate truth is a revelation.
Doubting Twin and #metoo
Most important of all – once you understand what’s going on, you have choice. You can decide that the cautious, fearful voice is right or you can choose a different route.
It’s happening all around us right now. #MeToo is women giving up on the polite acceptance of bad behaviour and speaking out. They may have a raging DT going hell for leather inside their heads, fearful that being so honest will lead to greater trouble. And on this occasion, the DT may well be right, but they’ve decided that the long term benefits are worth the risk. And as one woman speaks out, so others feel supported and the DT sees there is some safety in numbers.
We need to understand that the DT is a very strong, determined, gutsy side of our personalities. She’s held sway for a long time and that can’t have been easy. She just keeps going because, to her mind, it’s the only way to stay safe. If we can reassure her that we’re in this together, then we’ll have all that bloody minded, gritty energy at our disposal.
Let’s start shining and stop undermining
So maybe we can drop shadow boxing now and take on the real threats instead. After all we have a human dynamo inside us with amazing strength – she just needs bringing up to date