Following a recent interview with Michelle Obama regarding her new memoir, “Becoming,” there was a news cycle firestorm regarding her comments on the ‘Lean In’ movement that began when Sheryl Sandberg authored the book with the same title.
What struck me most about the controversy was the intense backlash surrounding who is right and who is wrong – Sheryl Sandberg or Michelle Obama.
Unfortunately, this is a reflection of the all or nothing thinking that typically permeates the human condition, yet is exacerbated by our polarization around every issue these days. As politics becomes more polarized, we see the same intense approach to taking sides in every segment of our society.
Rather than thinking in terms of Either/Or, we need to move toward embracing the concept of Both/And. For example, a very well known quote from Alcoholics Anonymous summarizes Both/And thinking beautifully: “Take what you need and leave the rest.”
Obama is recognizing the reality of the struggle. Sometimes, it’s just not feasible to lean in. There may be personal or family health issues, divorce or concerns with the kids – all are possible among the myriad of life crises that we endure. On top of the additional stress these life issues manifest, it’s critical to reduce our own personal self-shaming during these periods. It’s okay to say to yourself, “Right now, it’s just not realistic or feasible to be all-in for a promotion at work.”
Let me be clear, this does not mean that during the other times, when your personal life is chugging along smoothly, that we embrace some of the concepts that Sandburg addresses in her book, “Lean In.” Once again, polarity causes us to think in terms of Either/Or, such as changes need to be made at a policy level OR we need to take personal responsibility and change our own actions.
“The most common way people give up their power is by believing they don’t have any.”
One of my favorite quotes by Alice Walker is very appropriate when talking about personal responsibility. In other words, if we don’t assess our own behavior, possibly we have abdicated control of our own life.
The Lean In movement doesn’t promote that we can always have it all. The reality is that we can’t have it all at the same time. The myth of being a superwoman is not just unrealistic, it’s ridiculous. Often, we can’t have it all; however, rather than shaming yourself, learn to recognize when now is not the time and don’t use bad timing as an excuse to tell yourself “I can’t.”
In other words, let’s figure out what you can do, when you can do it and have a plan.
Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, so we can empower you to achieve your goals.