Are You Too Big for Your Britches Part I

(Or Are You Just Demonstrating Feminine Courage)?

Few women regard facing an average workday as a courageous feat. Why? Traditionally, only facing fear under perilous circumstances is labeled courageous. Running into a burning building to save a pet, pushing a pedestrian out of the way of a speeding car, or tackling a robber in flight are readily accepted instances of courageous action. So do you demonstrate at work feminine courage?

Courage actually has a much deeper meaning and a more relevant role in today’s business world, especially for women. Let’s consider some very real possibilities:

  • A woman has been passed over for a promotion and is upset. How can she find the courage to speak up and state her qualifications?
  • A woman has made an error in a corporate proposal for a customer. How can she find the courage to be vulnerable and admit her mistake?
  • A woman learns she has an illness that might jeopardize her career. How can she face her fear and summon the courage to affirm her determination?

While none of the above examples are perilous, life-threatening events in the typical sense, they are all common occurrences that challenge women and test their courage every day. When women exhibit courage in the workplace, whether it is speaking up to express an unpopular viewpoint or taking a professional risk to take on a project no one else wants, they tap into a valuable personal reserve. 

Courageous women “step up” to the next level. In other words, “She who hesitates before each step spends her life on one leg.” As a result, they process choices more quickly and take action more readily. They design their lives applying courage actions skills rather than letting outside influences dictate who they are or what they should be.

It is important to remember that to fully understand the importance of a woman’s courage in the workplace, we must first go back to the word’s origin. The word “courage” comes from the French word corage, meaning heart and spirit. What’s your definition of courage? Throughout history, women such as Gold Meir, Katherine Graham and Helen Keller have always acted from their hearts, but male notions of courage as heroic have diminished recognition of feminine courage. This must stop because these workplace losses accumulate, obscuring an equal playing field for women and causing them to doubt their own courage. Without this vital virtue, a key part of a woman’s spirit is lost.

Unfortunately, when working women do demonstrate the behaviors of courage, they’re commonly labeled with some unflattering word to keep them “in their place.” How often has this happened to you? For example, on a performance review, they may receive comments such as “too strong,” “too determined,” “too driven,” or “too aggressive.” In other words, “too big for their britches.” The irony is that for men, these descriptions are often desirable, but for women, such adjectives are viewed as negative. However, these stereotypical limitations can actually benefit women by inspiring them to increase their courage quotient by acknowledging and honoring their individual courageous behaviors. When a woman learns to uphold her courageous nature in the workplace, she can gain the equality that has been eluding her.


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