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Why Are Women More Likely to Self-Sabotage?

Posted on 8th March 2024

In today's fast-paced and competitive work environment, women face unique challenges that can hinder their professional growth and success. In a recent webinar hosted by The Maine Group, David Roylance, a renowned business coach and women's advocate from Speak2Shine, shed light on why women are more likely to fall into the trap of self-sabotage and shared valuable insights on how to overcome these barriers to achieve greater success and financial rewards in the workplace.

The Science Behind Self-Sabotage: Understanding the Biological Factors

David explained that the human brain is divided into four quadrants, each responsible for different functions. The frontal left side of the brain handles logic, whilst the frontal right is associated with insight, visualisation, and connection. The basal right is the emotional centre, and the basal left is the mechanical side of the brain, responsible for automatic functions.

Although individuals vary tremendously, oestrogen typically creates a higher concentration of neural pathways connected to the emotional centre of the brain, making it more attuned to emotions. This heightened emotional sensitivity, whilst valuable in many aspects of life, can sometimes hinder your professional progress when not managed effectively.

Interestingly, there are no direct neural pathways connecting the diagonal quadrants of the brain. This means that individuals who are more comfortable operating in the logical quadrant may struggle to recognise and process emotions effectively. In the workplace, this can lead to dismissive behaviours from male colleagues who find it challenging to navigate emotional expressions from their female counterparts.

The Role of the Hypothalamus: The Unconscious Mind's Influence

Another crucial factor in self-sabotage is the hypothalamus, the earliest part of the brain to develop and the seat of the unconscious mind. The hypothalamus operates in two states: alive or dead, and its primary function is to ensure survival. It has the power to make individuals avoid anything it perceives as dangerous, even if that perception is irrational or outdated.

In high-pressure work situations, such as giving a presentation or participating in a meeting, the hypothalamus can trigger a stress response that feels as threatening as being chased by a predator. This can lead to physical symptoms like rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing, and a strong desire to retreat or remain silent, even when speaking up is necessary for professional growth and recognition.

The Power of Presence: Overcoming Self-Sabotage through Breathing and Posture

To combat self-sabotage and access the full potential of the authentic self, David emphasised the importance of cultivating a state of presence. This involves learning to regulate the breath and maintain a posture that exudes confidence and credibility.

By practising deep, diaphragmatic breathing, you can engage the relaxation response, slowing down the heart rate, reducing stress, and allowing for clearer thinking and more effective communication. Slowing down the breath and incorporating strategic pauses whilst speaking can also enhance the impact of your message and give listeners time to process and reflect on the content.

In addition to breathwork, posture plays a significant role in projecting presence and authority. Standing tall, with shoulders back and feet firmly planted, can help you access your full vocal range and communicate with greater confidence and clarity.

Mastering the Voice: Harnessing the Power of Tonality and Vocal Range

One of the most powerful tools women have at their disposal for overcoming self-sabotage and achieving success is their voice. David emphasised the importance of developing vocal dexterity and learning to harness the full range of your vocal potential.

He broke down the voice into three distinct areas: the warrior voice (lower notes), the heart voice (centre), and the head voice (higher notes). Each of these vocal ranges serves a specific purpose in communication. The warrior voice conveys credibility and authority, making it ideal for delivering instructions or asserting oneself in a meeting. The heart voice is perfect for showing interest, asking questions, and building rapport, whilst the head voice can be used to generate enthusiasm and emotional engagement.

By mastering these different vocal ranges and learning to apply them appropriately, women can communicate more effectively, command attention, and project an authentic, confident presence in the workplace.

Overcoming Agreeableness: Learning to Say No and Assert Boundaries

Another common area where women tend to self-sabotage is in their level of agreeableness. Studies have shown that women, on average, score 20% higher on agreeableness than men. Whilst being agreeable can foster positive relationships, it can also lead to taking on more than your fair share of work, sacrificing your own needs, and missing out on opportunities for advancement.

To overcome this tendency, David advised women to practise setting healthy boundaries and learning to say no when necessary. This may involve consciously lowering your agreeableness in certain situations, particularly when dealing with colleagues who might take advantage of your willingness to help.

By asserting boundaries and being more selective in taking on additional responsibilities, women can create space for their own professional growth and ensure that their contributions are recognised and rewarded appropriately.

Setting healthy boundaries is not a selfish act. In fact, saying no to other people's low-value work frees you up to make more high-value contributions – which brings us to our next topic.

Building Influence and Value: Focusing on Win-Win Scenarios

Ultimately, the key to overcoming self-sabotage and achieving financial success lies in focusing on creating value for others. When women shift their energy from an inward focus on their own needs and desires to an outward focus on how they can benefit their colleagues, their organisation, and their clients, they naturally add more value and become more influential.

By consistently delivering high-quality work, volunteering for challenging projects, and actively seeking ways to contribute to the success of others, women can build a reputation as indispensable team members and leaders. This, in turn, can lead to increased opportunities for advancement, higher compensation, and greater overall job satisfaction.

Conclusion: Embracing Your Authentic Self and Achieving Your Goals

Overcoming self-sabotage is a journey that requires self-awareness, practice, and persistence. By understanding the biological and psychological factors that contribute to self-sabotaging behaviours, you can take proactive steps to break free from these patterns and unlock their full potential in the workplace.

Through a combination of breathwork, posture, vocal training, boundary-setting, and a focus on creating value, you can cultivate a strong, authentic presence that commands respect, inspires others, and opens doors to greater success and financial rewards.

As Speak2Shine and The Maine Group prepare to launch their transformative "Influencer Toolkit" programme, designed to help women develop the skills and confidence needed to thrive in their careers, there has never been a better time for women to invest in themselves and their professional growth.

By embracing their authentic selves, harnessing the power of their voices, and focusing on win-win scenarios, women can shatter the glass ceiling, achieve their goals, and create a more equitable and fulfilling workplace for all.

For more information on this toolkit we encourage you to reach out to our team to find out more.

Watch the webinar here.