Changing behaviours – both individual and societal – requires changes in the beliefs and assumptions which determine our behaviours. Some of these beliefs and assumptions are in our conscious awareness but many sit ‘beneath the surface’ and continue to derail our attempts to change.
As we strive for gender equality, it is important for all of us - men and women - to do some work to surface any unconscious beliefs we may have acquired about gender, so that we can progress without any hidden impediment.
We receive messages from the world around us when we are young and impressionable. These may be messages from our society, our culture, or from significant people in our lives. The messages may be directly about us or about the “rules” by which we should live: “always smile, don’t be angry, put others first, nice girls don’t…”
We absorb other messages by ‘osmosis’ from how others around us behave. Remember – our children learn what we do, rather than what we tell them to do - and we learnt what our parents did, often without realising it!
I was born in the 1950s, in the era when Good Housekeeping magazine gave tips for stay-at-home housewives. They advised women how to stock their store-cupboards, how to help their husbands get ahead and reminded women "your husband expects you to be perfect in every detail."
At school I was the only child in my class whose mother went out to work. My mum, Joy, was forward-thinking and a self-professed ‘feminist’. But – in addition to her full-time job, she still ran the house, sacrificed her own needs daily and prioritized everyone else in the family.
As I grew up I consciously, and proudly, adopted her beliefs about gender equality. Only later in life, embarking on my own therapeutic journey, did I realise how much I had also unconsciously internalised my mother’s self-sacrificing behaviours and the dominant beliefs about gender roles from society at that time.
Coaching can help us make the unconscious conscious. It provides a unique learning space in which you can:
· Have time to pay attention to the life you are in
· Explore the psychological space between where you are and where you want to be
· Bring into conscious awareness hitherto unseen blind spots
· Experiment with new ways of being and relating
· Make new meanings
· Challenge and change deep-seated beliefs and assumptions
· Enable shifts in self-identity
· Allow certainties about ourselves and the outside world to loosen
· Re-write our ‘stories’ with new possibilities
If we engage in the challenging process of making the unconscious conscious then we can expand our self-knowledge and embrace change in our lives, making new opportunities for ourselves, our children and families, our colleagues and workplaces.