I am a woman, and I am under pressure. There…I said it. Admitting that I am under pressure makes me feel vulnerable. Why is that?

Exhausted young womanWhen I ask myself why I feel vulnerable by admitting that I am under pressure, the only answer I can think of is that I should be able to do it all, and admitting that I cannot makes me feel like I am somehow failing. I should be able to be an awesome Mom, awesome wife, awesome cook, awesome housekeeper, awesome friend, awesome Aunt, awesome sister and then there is the career thing. I should be super-duper awesome at my career as well. Why do I expect this of me? Because that is how my brain works. Turns out that many women also think this way. But why?

What I have learned by being a part of the Women Under Pressure initiative at IHHP is that the pressure I am feeling is normal. Say it with me; “normal”. Why is it normal you ask? Thanks to science, we have discovered that women have special brains. I always knew that! But why are they special? It’s because a woman’s brain has a more fully developed prefrontal cortex. This allows women to weigh more variables, consider more options, see more context and visualize a wider array of solutions and outcomes to a problem. So when you ask a woman what she is thinking, you will probably get a full descriptive answer. Our brain never stops working. Even at rest, the female brain is always processing.

businesswoman thinkingI have to laugh at this science because my husband has asked me in the past “why do you overthink things sometimes?”. Now I know why. I can’t help it! A women’s brain is unique. It is hard wired to weigh more variables, more solutions, and more options. This sounds exhausting. No wonder I am always tired.

Bad news: We have established that I am under pressure, exhausted and vulnerable.

Good news: I can do something about it.

This is the best part about what I am learning about being a woman under pressure. What I am learning is that I have a choice in how I see my pressure moments. By having a choice, it allows me to change the way I react.

What I need to do is ask myself these 3 questions:

  1. What can I Control?
  2. How can I use it as an Opportunity to grow?
  3. What Action can I commit to?

I know you are looking for an example of how I can put this strategy into play. Here goes (this is the vulnerable part).

It’s no secret that I love my career. I get to be a part of something. I get to help leaders be better at leading by increasing their emotional intelligence. (I get to try to explain to people what I do and that is funny!) I get to work in the crazy-busy department of marketing. While we have a lot of fun here, the workload can be very demanding & very challenging

I take pride in my work. And in order to be my very best, to better manage the pressure that my career puts on me, I need to take a step back and look (and answer) the three questions I mentioned earlier.

  1. I can learn how to control my workload better by learning how to say no. I tend to hold myself to an unmanageable high level of standards that I would not hold anyone else to. I can’t help it. It’s how I was raised. “If you are going to do something, do it right, do it better.” I need to find my voice (which thankfully, my manager allows and encourages me to have). I need to learn that it is okay to ‘push-back’ on deliverable dates and projects.
  2. By finding my voice, it will allow me the opportunity to grow my confidence to speak up and be okay with ‘pushing back’.
  3. Lastly, the action plan that I can commit to is continue with weekly meetings with my manager to go over deliverables and have regular touchpoints to make sure that my workload is manageable, and within my working hours.

It’s very easy to become overwhelmed with all of the different things I want to be awesome at. If I take an intentional, less haphazard approach to what I want to accomplish, I should be able to find more time to spend with my kids, my husband and with any luck, my laundry will get done too.

4 ways to learn more about the Women Under Pressure Initiative and how to perform under pressure.