I work with purpose-driven women.
She is the healer, the humanitarian, the carer, the nurse, the teacher, the community worker, the childcare worker, the mama, the activist, the lawyer or the volunteer.
And she is suffering.
The term ‘burnout’ was coined at first in relation to professionals working in the caring sectors – referring to a collection of symptoms (withdrawal, fatigue, overwhelm) seen often in those suffering from at best minor compassion fatigue, at worst PTSD.
I’ve thought long and hard about this… about why women are attracted to these fields (it’s not the shitty pay that attracts us, right?), and how our womanhood relates to burnout.
And I’ve come to believe through this questioning and through my research that she is suffering from a greater burden beyond which the term ‘burnout’ can capture.
Burnout puts the onus squarely on the individual – bringing into question her resilience, her ability to cope, her competence and her constitution in relation to her work.
I would argue, though, that burnout of an individual is merely a symptom of a greater imbalance that is mirrored not only in the sector, but in the world. Show me one woman who has burnt out doing these jobs and I may dismiss it with the same patriarchal garbage that has mired womankind for generations (the same shit that diagnosed women as hysterical and burnt herbalists and healers at the stake). Show me thousands upon thousands of women burning out and I’d argue that it’s systemic.
A lot of the work I do with these women is helping them to re-discover the feminine gifts – correcting the masculine/feminine energetic imbalance within and allowing them to re-integrate parts of themselves they feel are unlovable.
Keeping an enormous part of our true selves locked away behind lock and key is, would you believe it, bone-crushingly exhausting.
In the last several thousand years, our world has moved away from the matrilineal, matriarchal, goddess-worshipping societies toward a patriarchal system wherein women are less-than.
The effect on our wellbeing is enormous – from the work structures innate in our culture that promote presenteeism and rigidity (stopping us from moving with our own, carefully curated inner rhythms and cycles) to the focus on productivity and achievement above all else. The suppression of the feminine energy is complete and pervasive.
We all have both energies within us – always seeking balance in expression. One is not better than the other, but rather the two dance in an ever-changing rhythm.
Think of the masculine energy as a water jug. Solid, rigid, structured, fixed. The masculine energy is responsible for action, for pushing, for driving, for rational thinking, for discipline, for rigor. The feminine is the water inside the jug. This energy is emotional, fluid, changing and dynamic. Water is a conductor – it is receptive and allowing and intuitive – all the things that we have been taught, as women, are wrong.
Look around at our world to see the imbalance within each of us being mirrored in the collective consciousness.
Science and logic is valued over intuition. Productivity is valued over learning. Economic growth is valued over environmental sustainability. Competition is valued over collaboration. Stoicism is valued over emotional expression.
These patterns reinforce the need for women to disconnect from our bodies, from our innate wisdom and from our power. Forcing us to compete and coerce our bodies and minds to fit into the masculine structures.
When women are bought together in a safe space, over time as the masks come off, what emerges is the most brilliant, supportive, open, vulnerable, magic energy. It’s a remembering, a coming home to what we’ve known all along.
Women are drawn to work in the social sectors because it is us – with access to our feminine wisdom – who have a natural propensity for the work. It is also worth noting that it is precisely because women work in these sectors, that they are undervalued and underpaid.
The feminine is connection and cohesion – bringing people together. The feminine is compassion, it is empathy, it is the ability to listen without judgement. The feminine is alchemising emotion – transmuting one person’s suffering within her body, and turning it into a different emotion. The feminine is intuitively knowing what someone needs without them asking for it. The feminine is picking up on the subtleties, the unspoken, the repeated, to make sense of the whole. The feminine is magnetic – she attracts to her rather than working and pushing to achieve an ends. The feminine is cyclical and rhythmic, remembering that suffering goes in cycles and that all seasons give way to the next. The feminine is creative – it allows her to respond to problems in new ways. The feminine is vulnerable – not needing to be right. The feminine is receptive and allowing – being comfortable with processes evolving organically.
In short, the feminine energy represents all the things the social sector is not. The result is a whole lot of brave, ambitious, talented women working within inherently masculine, ego-driven structures. And burning out because of it.
Structures that measure social change in metrics and numbers, rather than social capital. Structures that are overly bureacratic, process-driven and devoid of creativity. Structures where ‘innovation’ is talked about but seldom achieved. Structures where presenteeism is valued and busy-ness is celebrated. Structures where emotion is undervalued and logic is praised. Structures where funding is handed to the flashy egos and cause of the day, rather than to those who have remained purposefully small and are in there, doing the work that no-one else wants to do, day in and day out. Structures where women are made to compete with each other for salaries, promotions and overseas trips and postings. Structures where data is favoured over human experience. Structures where knowledge is held by those in power, and withheld from those without it. Structures that grow, but fail to make any change to the big issues. Structures that say one thing and do another. Structures that despite claiming to be rights-based, fail to respect and support the rights of their staff – casting them aside for the next fresh graduate in waiting. Structures that work in siloes and don’t see thing holistically. Structures where she is unable to make the difference she wants to see in the world. Structures that are competitive, not collaborative. Structures that are self protective and bottom line driven. Structures that mirror the inequity of the issues that they seek to address.
Structures that ultimately protect the patriarchy – held up by both men and women alike. Structures wherein we have lost connection with the humanity of the work. Humanitarian work without the humanness.
I like to imagine, some days, a world where women in the social sectors are awakened and reconnected with their feminine wisdom.
A world where she tells her boss that she has a gut feeling about something – and is taken seriously. A world where she rests or works from home when she is bleeding. A world where she feels supported and held, so she can do her very important work of helping others. A world where is taught how to use her body to release the emotions of others – a world where she is taught to see her empathy as a gift, rather than a burden. A world where she starts from a point of not knowing – and allows creative solutions to emerge organically – in tandem with communities needing support. A world where she feels she can have work/life balance – so she can re-fill her vital energy and reconnect with the wellspring of it available from her womb space. A world where she doesn’t need to work a million hours to prove herself. A world where she collaborates not only within sectors but across them – looking at old problems in new ways. A world where the environment (the most sacred representation of the feminine which has been plundered and raped for generations) is treated with the dignity and respect a giver of life should be. A world where she attracts into her life the things that matter most, rather than feeling like she has to swim upstream and grab onto them.
I like to imagine the emerging tribe of women – working within and around the social spaces – pioneering a new wave of feminine leadership. Awakening their connection to the feminine within themselves, and supporting others to do so individually, collectively and as a society.
I like to imagine the profound effect this would have not only on her own life, but on the lives of her family, her community and her world.
Thinking about career and purpose? Would you like to co-create something with me?
The basis of all of my teaching and coaching work is mindfulness. It is the gift that allows us to truly see what is happening and to work out not only the patterns that keep us stuck, but the opportunities to move forward too. I currently have a limited number (8 remaining) of personalised Career and Purpose coaching sessions available – for women who are looking to evolve whilst still feeling safe. Pivot is a session where we talk about how to build on all that you’ve experienced in order to move forward – with one foot firmly planted and one eye on the road ahead. It’s a radical concept in a personal change industry obsessed with huge epiphanies, starting from scratch and wild decisions. When you invest in Pivot, you’ll receive:
- a pre-call questionnaire to help me intuitively feel into how best to help you, and to help you get clear on what you want out of our time together;
- a 90 minute session on the phone or skype with me;
- a workbook to work through during our call and afterward
- e-mail support following our call including recommended practices and rituals to work with.
We will tune into your powerful feminine gifts in order to find clarity on where you are being drawn, and together we will work through the blocks that are standing in your way. It’s a beautiful, compassionate session that will set you up for a soul-aligned 2018 and I’d love to invite you to share this sacred time together. You can book using the Paypal link here.