Friday, March 01, 2013

Why Female Founders Should Speak Up


As a Female Founder, Why Should You Speak Your Mind?

Otherwise, nothing will get done; deals will pass you by; you won’t get what you want or what you need. Perhaps it would be better to answer the question with the words of an old African-American proverb: “A closed mouth don’t get fed.” If you don’t speak up, speak your mind, and ask for what you need for yourself and for your business, you run the risk of being malnourished … possibly, in a profound, life-altering way.

Believe it or not, I didn't always recognize the importance of speaking my mind. There have been many times in my past when I have held myself back, dimmed my light, and silenced my voice. Very early on … when I was in Kindergarten and the first grade … I began to perceive messages that it wasn't always OK to speak up. I was a stronger reader than some children in my grade. The teachers did their best to keep me occupied and motivated with the resources they had at their disposal. Yet, my childlike mind couldn't help but wonder:
“Maybe it would be better if I just read at the same level as everyone else. Then, no one would have to make a fuss over finding more books and I wouldn't need any special treatment. Maybe I should just keep quiet and read what books are available at school.”
This message to “keep quiet” continued into my adolescence; when, in middle school, I was occasionally picked on for being smart. I share this part of my story not to blame the other children; more to reveal how much I’d (unknowingly) internalized the “keep quiet” messages, which had a significant impact on my willingness to let my light shine. When I was a senior in high school, I won a national writing award. My English teacher appeared to be more excited than I was – she couldn't wait to announce my accomplishment to the class. I can picture her actually jumping up and down with the notification letter in her hand.
And, all I could think was: “What will they think of me now? ‘There goes Colette, showing off and bragging about how smart she is.’” I had adopted the habit of keeping my wins a secret (keeping my mouth closed) so that fewer people would notice me or make a big deal about my accomplishments. 
Perhaps it’s from those early experiences of holding myself back that I've developed my passion to empower other women to speak their minds, even when others tell them “it can’t be done!” or “that will never work!” Now, I proactively seek out compelling, innovative ways to share what I've learned with other women who can benefit from my lessons to improve their lives and their businesses.

I believe you can develop a positive and strategic mindset to achieve your biggest dreams and be more fulfilled. It’s a matter of “flipping your script” to counteract any negative self-talk, and replacing those thoughts with more inspiring messages. You must give yourself permission to reveal your positive mindset; first to yourself, and then to others if you so choose. On your founder's journey, you may encounter a few pessimists or “Debbie Downers” that will want to share their negative outlook or try to distract you from your purpose. Yet, I believe you can choose how you respond, and choose whether you will allow their perspective to hold you back from speaking your mind.

So, now, as the woman who coaches other women to tap away their stress and communicate for impact, when I hear my own negative self-talk and begin to doubt whether I should speak my mind, I can flip my own script:
"If I’m not willing to speak up, speak my mind, and ask for what I need, how can I ask others to do the same? It’s time to get my voice on, because this mouth needs to get fed!”
What do you think? Are there times you hold yourself back or silence your voice? What has that cost you? Share your comments here or tweet me your thoughts on Twitter.
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