glass ceiling

When the Glass Ceiling Becomes the Glass Prison

This is Barbara’s story…

There comes the day when you wake up and feel bewildered as to where you are.

You just know that you are anywhere but happy. That moment is the tipping point of awareness that some things in your life feel vacant.

When that day came for me, it wasn’t just a slight speed bump distracting me. It wasn’t a small problem that would run its course and be over, like my daughter not getting into the Ivy League school of her choice, or my son telling me he was quitting school to travel around the world on his skateboard, or my sister informing me that our mother needed to move to a retirement facility for full-time care.

No — An undefined, yet powerful feeling that I was “done” had taken up residence in my pool house.

I was beyond fed up and beyond something that a week’s vacation in Barbados would normally cure.

I was numb.  I only had the energy to climb back into bed and try to sleep. Even sleep was difficult because that nagging feeling of detachment wouldn’t disappear.

The house was empty except for my shaggy dog Mollie.

I spent the morning, not on the treadmill (an interesting metaphor), but drinking herbal tea, watching repeats of Downton Abbey, and ignoring texts.

I had everything I had asked for: I was President of a division with an eye-popping annual budget, awards, and photo ops adorning my office walls. I had all the trappings of a successful executive.

So why did I feel dead?

Where… or maybe when, did ‘it’ stop being engaging?

When did my life go off its track?

When did the profound sense of deadness slowly creep into my soul and take it hostage?

Mollie knew it before me; she slept closer to me than usual.

What happens when we reach for a goal that promises happiness, but we lose sight of that happiness once we’ve finally achieved the goal?

I had to ask myself, in this expanding window of self-awareness, what was driving me?  Did I have to compromise the very things I valued to reach the top?
Was there even a top? Or its transparency an illusion?

How do I make peace with the daunting, vaporizing feeling that nothing I do is ever good enough and that there is always more to do?

In my coaching sessions with Pegi, I discovered that the answers were inside of me. I just needed to give myself permission and the tools to uncover my truth.

These are some of the things I learned:

When I felt disconnected, Pegi gave me some questions to ask myself to uncover my real ‘in-my-gut’ answers, to get me get back in the saddle and take control. Giddy up.

  1. Pretend you won the lottery. Ask yourself what you would do?
  2. Living your passion daily feeds your soul.
  3. Put out fires rather than start them.
  4. You can choose to be a full-time fireman or a weekend volunteer…or as Teddy Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Brene Brown phrased: “you can be on the playing field and get a black eye, and a tooth knocked out or sit in the bleachers observing your life.”
  5. Assess how you use your time. Do you feel you have enough money to manage comfortably without adding stress? (No female executive or working mom ever feels she has enough time!)
  6. How well do you nurture yourself? Do you even sleep well? What’s your water intake?
  7. When did you stop enjoying your job?
  8. List all of your gripes from anywhere in your life. Women are notorious for sidestepping their anger and rationalizing their feelings away.

Your anger can go away temporarily but it takes you connecting with your authentic self and doing the work, once and for all, to put you back in control.

Is it time for an exit strategy?

Identifying what really makes your life satisfying, and making a plan to actualize it, as well as monetize it, will make you more powerful in a nurturing way.

You already have a lot of power, but it is sitting in cold storage. What you need is to fan the flames and feel connected to your passion once and for all.

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