Firstly, a confession: I love Disney films. I love the songs, the charm, the jokes, the surreal images of beauty, the animals that clean houses. All of it. I watch a lot of Disney films. It goes with the territory of having a 3 year old daughter.
I also coach women stepping into their next level of leadership and power (did those words make you cringe? If so, read on). Recently a client identified her own tendency to adopt the Cinderella role: supporting others, quietly getting on with things and not being fully acknowledged for everything she does. It can feel safe there, being a “good girl”, waiting for the fairy godmother to give you what you need, and the Prince to come along and give you what you want. My client described hiding behind the safety of the to-do list, and the enjoying of approval that comes from being “productive”. She became aware of gold plating the mundane things as a way of avoiding stepping up. Avoiding stepping out of supporting others and leading. The beautiful paradox is that by becoming a leader, she is doing far more to truly support those around her.
The Evil Queen has kinda made ambition a dirty word. Power crazed, jealous and controlling. She, the wicked witches and the cruel stepmothers, have given power a bad name. Ok, so I know we’re talking about polarised archetypes here, but they are deeply ingrained in the psyche of our society and no one wants to be them. So who do we want to be if not Cinders or the Wicked Witch? Women fear stepping up and it’s understandable when there are few positive role models. Women do not tend to be power hungry, and I’m glad about that, but not when we forget that we are powerful. Accepting and owning how powerful you are, is true humility.
Leading doesn’t necessarily mean being in a senior role, it means speaking up about your ideas, taking action that you know is right without someone having to confirm it for you, it means trusting your intuition. Often it also means getting stuff done – Cinder’s skills are not unimportant in this – not just coming up with and talking about ideas but making them happen. In my client’s case it also means having a lot of fun, being sociable, calm, relaxed, creative and inspiring. It also means enjoying the success that results from her being a leader in her own life.
Cinderella is an archetype, a role, a way of being. Archetypes are not human beings, they are roles that humans can play in a certain context. We will all have archetypal roles that we’ve learned over the years and choose to play.
Authentic leadership is about being a full, messy, brilliant human, far more than archetype. However archetypes are useful to identify as they help us get clear on our motivation and intention. Check out the work meditation for tips on setting your intention at work.
To be clear, I don’t care how you earn your living. I care if you are the leader of your own life. I care if you are waiting for someone to notice how valuable you are before you’ll acknowledge it yourself. I care if you are following your intuition and enjoying the riches it brings in all areas of your life. I care because once you are leading in your own life, you give others permission to do the same. I care because you will do amazing things for others this way. I care because the world needs you to do that.
My daughter loves Frozen, Elsa is her favourite. Partly because she’s blond and wears a foxier dress it’s true, but mainly because she is the one who is recognised as having powers. My daughter role-plays being a princess, getting married (usually to me rather than a prince,) but she also role-plays being a queen, who uses her powers to get what she wants, and often that means helping others. Thankfully Disney recognised the need for empowered female characters quite some time ago. I look forward to seeing what they produce next as I know it will help me teach my daughter to have sovereignty over her own life, without needing to have it over anyone else’s.
Do you ever play Cinderella? What archetypal role do you most slip into at work?
How does this hold you back from being the authentic leader of your own life?
What do you want more of?
What do want less of?
Share your findings with someone who will listen and support you in this. Beth or I would be glad to hear from you, in the comments below or by email.