“If you feel lost, disappointed, hesitant, or weak, return to yourself, to who you are, here and now. When you get there, you will discover yourself, like a lotus flower in full bloom, even in a muddy pond, beautiful and strong.” ~Masaru Emoto
For me, it is a new year. My children are adapting to their new lives, and I continue to process my pain and try to begin a new life as what I believe is a more authentic me. As I look all around me, women are making their voices heard more in court, politics, and on the world stage. Although women appear to be making some headway in our quest for more equality in the workplace, there still exist very strong societal structures that dictate how successful we can be in the world if we don't conform.
Some of you reading this might be totally liberated from these constructs, while others are totally stuck. But the barriers that some of us are experiencing hold all of us back. We need to knock old constructs down and build new structures based on our authentic needs and desires for our lives.
Feeling Empowered & Equal from Within
The business world was built for men and by men, so true equality might never be achieved by women within the constructs that currently exist. In my perfect world, more women will start new businesses and new workplace cultures based on principles that breed real equality for everyone.
While corporate America is alive and well and not always supportive of women as equals in the workplace on many different fronts, I believe that it can evolve as women keep cultivating and asserting our power in society. Regardless of the landscape around us, we must find a wholeness from within to have the strength, resilience, insight, and innovation to create new structures that support our evolution.
I just got a call from a friend who tutors high school students for the SAT. My daughter is about to start studying for this test, so she said to me, "Make sure your daughter doesn't get bullied by the test." Her point was that she wanted my daughter to be more self-assured in her thought process and answers so that she doesn't start doubting herself too much when she takes the test. I asked my friend if in her twenty-year career she found that more girls get "bullied" by the test than boys. She laughed and said, "Absolutely, a girl is more likely to blame herself for not knowing an answer, and a boy is more likely to blame the test!" She then said, "I've had boys blame the answer key for being wrong before they blame themselves!" We both laughed, but there is a real truth to what she said.
As the mother of a sixteen-year-old and twenty-year-old, I've witnessed my young girls and their friends be so much more doubtful than their male peers, and I know that this can carry over as they get older into the workplace. As a society, I think we marginalize women from a very young age, and many enter the workforce already expert self-doubters. Then, their environment frequently does not support them to grow, but instead reinforces their lack of equality, insecurities, and any doubts they may have faced as children and teens.
This is why I share my lessons learned from my year without men-so that you can transcend these norms and reenter your work and home lives feeling fully empowered and equal from within. Only when we do this can we make empowered decisions that will actually impact the outer landscape of the business world to achieve true equality and, most of all, freedom for all.
Three Essential Questions
I think it is essential to look at the following three questions to understand how we can all move forward: What relationships do you need to be joyful? What job or occupation do you need to be successful? And who do you need to be to find joy and success?
The first question: What relationships do you need to be joyful?
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When I was in my late twenties, I'd look around and see a group of women in their sixties walking down the block. As I passed them, I thought, All these poor women don't have husbands, or, How sad that their husbands couldn't be with them tonight. I'd see two young girls on the street without a guy, and I would think, How sad that they don't have dates tonight. I know it sounds crazy. The people that know me well always saw me as a liberated woman, but I was brought up to think that you need to have a relationship with a man to make life meaningful and happy.
I always believed that women should work for a living, be independent, and speak their minds, but I was still attached to the construct about having a relationship with a man, thinking it would lead me to a happy life. I believed that whoever didn't have this type of relationship should strive to get it. I didn't judge single people, but I'm now ashamed to admit that deep down, I believed that something was missing in their lives, and I hoped that they would find it.
It is clear to me today that this construct about needing a man is sold to us to separate us from our true economic, social, and political independence. A bunch of women in their sixties walking together down a block could be just as happy - if not happier - without any men, and two girls walking outside on a night out? Well, maybe it doesn't get better than that. I'm sure many women did not buy into this construct when they were in their twenties, and there are likely even more today who don't believe it, but I didn't know that this construct had been sold to me. I didn't know there was another way.
I have spent this year looking for peace and trying not to regret any decisions I've made with relationships in my life. I now know that I was sold a narrative of what my life needed to look like, and I never continuously evaluated deeper questions, which I try to do every day moving forward. I know people who have no partners and are very content living alone. I know people who are divorced and live very fulfilling lives. I know people with relationships in their lives of all different kinds and embrace the joy that it brings them.
It's a vast undertaking to allow ourselves to figure out the life that we want to build for ourselves because it might exist outside the "norm," but how can we know what we need in our lives without first asking what brings us joy and what structures in our lives no longer work for us? Without asking ourselves these questions, we get trapped with what society tells us is right or best.
Now to the second question: What job or occupation do you need to be successful?
Ask yourself, "What's going to make me joyful?" You might choose to make a lot of money and not care that much about what you need to do (of course, legally!) to earn it. That's fine. You just want to create your own structure for your life and not live in the constructs created for you by other people.
When we're looking to choose a career, people might tell us to go to a particular school for this occupation or pick this job. "Go to law school or become a doctor, and you will make a lot of money," we'll hear. But there are many other jobs and occupations you can do that might align more with your passions and creativity. And yes, it's great to be an attorney or doctor if you love it. But the narratives around where you can make money and where you can't, which is the safest path, and "what you should want for your life" steer us into certain jobs until many of us we wake up one day in our thirties, forties, fifties, or sixties asking ourselves, "What did I do with my life?"
Many of us feel financially obligated to support our spouses, kids, friends, or communities, but looking more in-depth at our true desires leads us to more creative, expansive, and fulfilling lives. This allows us to take care of ourselves, and often those around us, even better.
I've repeatedly seen people pursue more authentic lives to create the abundance they both need and desire. It takes hard work and determination, but so much more is possible when we live with an open heart and mind. Some of my most successful clients over the years have started businesses that seemed outlandish at the time. Yes, some failed, but others created new industries, and one of them just sold their business for hundreds of millions of dollars!
The last and most important question you need to ask yourself is: Who do you need to be to find joy and success?
You don't need everything that our society and culture say you do to find joy and success. We must look beyond these walls, these houses that were built for us, and look deep within to find what will make us whole - and not apologize for it.
Some people will look to societal norms for these answers. They need the job. They need the husband or wife. But those of us who are willing to look beyond and acknowledge our truth - "I'm in pain because I'm not living an authentic life"; "I'm in pain because I'm staying at a job I don't like"; "I'm judging other people's lives because I'm not satisfied with my own"; "I'm accepting less in my relationships"; "I'm not speaking up"; or "I don't like the rules that I've been taught I need to follow to succeed" - have a chance to find ourselves and be free.
This is about finding yourself beyond the world you may have been taught to accept and showing up as your authentic self to achieve equality, find fulfillment, and accomplish your mission on your own terms.
Many Different Ways To Be Okay
We need to look at all of these ideas and decide which parts of our lives we are willing to accept and which ones need to go. For me, this journey happened during a year without men. Maybe I would never have fully embraced myself had my husband not left me and had my work life not conspired to surround me only with women. I certainly would not have seen all the things women give up in the business world to get along and survive instead of succeeding and thriving.
I am not sure if things in life are always meant to be, but I do believe that we need to make the best of whatever life gives us, and that comes with being responsible for our lives, learning our lessons, and loving ourselves unconditionally.
I didn't see all of the places I hid my power or accepted less for myself. I have worked hard this past year to create a new foundation in my life. I am building on this new foundation with strength and resilience to help me stay on solid ground.
Looking back on this year, even through the pain, suffering, and anguish, I love myself more, accept myself more, and trust myself more. My heart is open, and I am compassionate toward the suffering that everyone feels at some point in their lives. But the biggest lesson might just be that there are so many different ways to be okay. And when life takes an unexpected turn, I still believe that life is full of possibilities.
It's been a year. How do I feel? Hopeful. For myself. For my girls. For women. And for our world which, because we are women, we are working to make better every day.
Copyright 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission.
Published by Skyhorse Publishing.
A Year without Men: A Twelve-Point Guide to Inspire & Empower Women
by Allison Carmen
Using the events of a very painful year in her own personal and professional life—her husband left her, her consulting business took an unexpected hit, and she faced a serious health scare—business consultant and life strategist Allison Carmen explores the forces in women’s personal and professional lives that hold us back.
In A Year without Men, she offers twelve simple, practical tools to help us look within, find our own values, morals, and passions, work on our skills, call on other women, and forge new ways to do business. Together, we can create a new way to earn money, a new way to look at beauty, and so many other new ways to be in the world.
For more info and/or to order this book, click here. Also available as a Kindle edition.
About the Author
Allison Carmen holds a B.A. in accounting, a J.D. of Law, and a Master's of Law in taxation. After working for a large law firm in Manhattan, she founded her own law firm and built a successful practice focusing on real estate, corporate, mergers and acquisitions, and taxation. After 15 years of practicing law, Allison transitioned her practice into business consulting, business coaching, and life coaching. Allison is also the part-time CFO of The Motherhood Center, a mission-driven female-run day hospital for women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
Allison is the author of The Gift of Maybe: Offering Hope and Possibility in Uncertain Times, and A Year Without Men, A Twelve Point Guide to Inspire and Empower Women. Allison's podcast, 10 Minutes To Less Suffering, focuses on helping people alleviate daily stress and worry. She also writes for several large online publications, including Psychology Today, and is sought after guest on radio and other online media platforms. She is also a certified health coach and Reiki master.
Visit her website at http://www.allisoncarmen.com