This week, we had a Q & A with Dr. Ann, who trained for her M.D. in psychiatry at Cornell and practiced with a specialty in women’s issues. She now works as a writer, speaker and coach with the goal of empowering women in life and work. If you’d like to hear more from Dr. Ann, you can find her on Facebook and Twitter or follow her blog.
4word: Your blog mentions that "an empowered woman is by far her own best agent for growth." What makes a woman empowered?
Ann: I love this question! I once attended a talk at Barnard College, where the speaker opened by saying that as women, we should strive to have more power. It was clear that she meant power in the worldly sense: access to money, resources, and position.
But I think of “empowered” in a totally different way. To me, empowered means the ability to find the best and be your best in every situation, regardless of your circumstances. Does that sound familiar? This definition of power comes from Philippians 4:12-13:
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
4word: You also mention "internal roadblocks" like not having a healthy boundary for when to say "yes" and when to say "no." Do you think this is a common struggle for career women? Why/why not?
Ann: I believe at least 50% of our career challenges comes not from the work itself, but from our relationships with people we work with.
And one of the most common interpersonal challenges women face is to set a healthy boundary that preserves their sanity while meeting the demands of others. You see this both at home and out in the marketplace. We tend to be people pleasers and approval seekers - we find our security and significance in the idea that others think we are doing a good job.
4word: How does this particular roadblock prevent a woman from being empowered and thriving?
Ann: When we get caught up in trying to meet others’ expectations, it often happens at the expense of ourselves and of our deepest priorities. (Think of the classic picture of the woman who’s burnt out either from her workload at home, at work, or both!) We are relying on people’s approval, not God’s. Instead of feeling free to do our best, we become chained to approval and achievement.
The truth is that we were not made to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders! We were made to be free in Christ.
4word: Have you ever struggled with learning to set that boundary and say "no" to things? If not, is there a different "internal roadblock" that's been difficult for you?
Ann: Pleasing others and getting people’s approval are definitely areas of struggle for me too. I’ve learned that when I start to turn myself into a pretzel, it’s a warning sign that I’m not serving God. Instead, I am trying to win through my own works, and through the affirmation of others. It’s a constant battle, but over time, I feel I am making progress. That builds my hope.
4word: How can our readers begin to identify and work through their own internal roadblocks?
Ann: Freedom and a sense of peace come when we are in line with God’s sovereignty over our lives. When we try to be our own gods, we experience internal distress because it’s a no-win situation!
The first thing we can do is to allow that distress to act as an emotional heads-up. It lets us know that we are trying to control things that we don’t have any control over.
Next, we can get intentional about turning our focus back to our heavenly Father. I find that setting aside time for prayer or reflection allows me to re-boot my system. (Usually, I go outside. There is something about being out in nature that makes it easier for me to hear God’s voice.)
Last, we can return to our challenges with a new perspective. For example, when I relax my white-knuckled grip on having a perfect outcome for my project, I find that I can actually problem-solve much more effectively. No matter what the outcome, my security and significance is guaranteed in Christ. As a result I am free to simply do my best, instead of becoming overwhelmed by the need for a perfect result.
I’m not saying this is easy for any of us. It’s an on-going journey. But I believe that a woman who is empowered in Christ has the best starting point from which to take her first steps!
Ladies, have you discovered this same internal roadblock in your own life? What strategies do you use to overcome it? Let us know in the comments.