There you are, kicking ass and taking names, climbing the ladder of success rung by rung without skipping a beat. You’ve climbed through the already broken glass ceiling and the view is spectacular. Women below you applaud you, while your peers celebrate your accomplishments and the executive leadership team encourages you to keep going.
You see the woman hired after you and offer guidance. Then there are two women, four women, thirty-four women. The ladder you’ve been climbing starts to shift as mentorship has now been added to your responsibilities. Why? Because you are your company’s woman-in-leadership.
The more I became the go-to women-in-leadership, the more I fueled a flaw I was trying to keep a secret: I started playing small. I had slowed down investing in my personal leadership development. I felt I didn’t have the time to ask growth-minded questions and stopped asking for feedback or what it would take to go further. Worst of all, I felt shame whenever I doubted myself. After all, aren’t I supposed to be an expert? Didn’t I already have it figured out? Wasn’t I the example as the “only” female Vice President in a $3 Billion company?
I recall sitting in my car after a company-wide women-in-leadership meeting. As the keynote speaker, I looked the part--dressed in my navy maternity business suit and heels--ready to espouse advice on leadership. As the audience applauded, I felt relief. I faked it again. What others couldn’t see was the absolute chaos at the Stoudt house. Our toddler got our nanny sick or was it the other way around? Either way, my husband and I haven’t slept the past few nights and we both had priority meetings that day.
With my hands on the steering wheel, I realized I didn’t have it all figured out. That I was at risk of genuine burnout as I tried to live up to other's expectations--and the ones I created for myself. It’s complex, but it’s not impossible. Eventually, I did burn out and left an organization that cared more about me than my title.
What’s the lesson in my example?
Never stop investing in yourself. And, never underestimate how much we put on women’s plates because of their passion to serve others. We say YES to mentoring because we are passionate about helping others, we want women to succeed, and we’re tired of the dismal statistics of women in leadership numbers. But we need to be mindful that there is never one size fits all solution for working moms AND dads. We don’t have to have it all figured out. It’s an ongoing practice to balance these challenges. Start by learning to enjoy everyday moments to reduce stress so we continue on our journey before burnout carries us away.
Executive Mom Nest Founder, Marcy Stoudt is passionate about developing leaders, bringing teams together, and creating a work environment where people thrive. For the past 25 years, she has worked with hundreds of women and executives and has coached, taught, and inspired results through confidence and balance.