I have a lot of friends who are learning junkies – they’re constantly off to a wellbeing retreat, or signing up to another online course, taking some exec coaching, or devouring the next leadership book.
I, on the other hand, am part of the learning industry – I help visionary female leaders to communicate with full force – yet I am terrible at investing in myself.
I am cynical and nervous (or perhaps it’s just lazy) about investing time and money into myself. And as of last year, I’ve had a perfect excuse not to invest, in the form of a baby boy, who legitimises my desire to stay at home and have a cheap night in ‘because he needs me’.
This sucks, I’m aware. And I know I’m not alone in struggling to invest in myself.
In fact, I see it in many of the female leaders I work with.
One woman recently told me; ‘I had to put a business case to my husband when I wanted to do a leadership away-weekend, when he had spent endless hours last year training for the New York marathon. Neither of us even considered that he should ask permission. And I wasn’t invited to New York.’
I’ve realised that there are at least 4 totally legitimate-seeming thoughts that stop me investing in myself.
Whilst this isn’t a solely female thing, I’m going to speak to what I know and unpick what’s going on for me and other female leaders who resist investing in ourselves. Please let me know if you resonate – and what your strategies are to invest in yourself without guilt.
Legitimate Reason 1: I don’t have time.
The plague of our time (men and women) is to be busier-than-thou. We’re constantly on our phones, our emails, blog articles (ahem) and very quickly the time we had has been gobbled up.
I see at my leadership retreats the struggle that it is firstly to get into the diary of most leaders and secondly to get them in the room, for the whole weekend, without them disappearing off at break to catch up on a bit of work.
Like the iPhone user heading for a lamppost, if we’re constantly heads-down and doing, how can we expect to clearly know where we’re going?
What I’ve noticed is that the right kind of investment (coaching, training, etc) actually makes time, rather than absorbs it, because it clears your mind of the superfluous and skills you up to achieve something quicker.
Legitimate Reason 2: Even if I make time, I can’t be sure it’s worth my while.
As a professional trainer, I see a LOT of bad training out there and I can’t stomach the idea of wasting my precious time staring at PowerPoint and being fed content from a management textbook.
This is a legitimate concern, nobody wants to attend a shoddy training. But it doesn’t look at the whole picture; that even if the training is only B-, being in the room with other learners is a large part of the benefit of receiving training.
This reflects a tendency of female leaders that I come across a lot – that we tend to be the hard-working, diligent good girls, whereas successful male counterparts are often the better networkers and relationship builders. The value of training is not just in diligently learning, but also in making connections and alliances.
Legitimate Reason 3: I can’t afford it (unless you want my family to starve…?)
A tricky and, I think, very feminine struggle is spending on yourself over others. Anything I spend on myself, I can’t put towards the deposit for our next family home, or savings for my little boy’s Ferrari fund (or Fiat fund as it’s will be if I join that 8-month programme).
Even to me, training looks expensive, even though I know how much benefit comes out of the really congruent courses.
I attribute this to my socialisation as a female leader. Although I was never told not to invest in myself, I was shown in a hundred subtle ways that the family’s money isn’t quite for me (even if I earn it) and that I should ask permission to spend it and feel just a little guilty if I do.
Legitimate Reason 4: I can’t go away, he needs me.
Whether or not you have kids, there’s probably someone who ‘needs’ your time; parents, a partner, your cat… and this can be a fantastic excuse for not taking time out to invest.
There’s an ongoing tension in my core between wanting to be out there, investing time and money into my ‘big stuff’, versus wanting to be at home, spending time with my gorgeous little son. If I allow the urge to be home to win too much, it sucks me dry and that benefits nobody.
Whilst nobody wants their Mummy to set sail and disappear to the other side of the world without a second glance, I believe the tendency to worry about ‘those who need me’ is born from ego, not from kindness. The fact is, my family can quite comfortably cope without me… and that they’ll actually do better if I’m a fully energised, inspiring Mummy at home, versus a crabby homebody.
As a wise female leader recently told me; ‘When I stopped apologising about all my business travel, my family stopped complaining about it.’
The crux of this is that my network and I are all female leaders trying to make important change happen in our businesses and in the world at large. If we’re depleted because we fail to invest in ourselves, we cannot make that change happen.
When I don’t invest in myself, I lose energy, I lose direction, I waste time in the small stuff, I get scared to take risks and I start to dislike my work, myself, my life. If you recognise those feelings, perhaps it’s time to invest more in yourself too?
We owe it to ourselves and to the people we serve to make sure we’re skilled up, energised and able to challenge our boundaries.
I’m learning that we cannot do this alone. We must have the support and guidance of other like-minded peers and experts.
Building a network; spending time to learn from our peers; feeding ourselves with knowledge; shaking ourselves up with a new experience; taking time out for self-care and reflection: these are all ways in which we must get better at investing in ourselves.
If you’re someone who’s got investing in yourself nailed, I’d love to hear your strategies – please share!
If you resonate with what I’m saying and want to be one of those female leaders who invests in herself to be visible, vocal and capable of bringing about change, that’s where I can help.
Drop me a contact note here and it will be passed to me personally. I’ll happily tell you more about my network for senior female change makers, our 8-month programme for visionary women, The Leader’s Voice – and our other upcoming activities.
I’m on a mission to deeply help 100 senior female leaders to rally change and it’s going to take all sorts of help to make that happen.