Therapist Jody Ripplinger shares how learning to balance masculine and feminine qualities leads to better performance in your professional and personal life.
Anyone living in New York would agree this is one of the most fast-paced, competitive and impersonal cities in the world. Yes, we New Yorkers are notoriously driven. If we weren’t raised in New York, we gravitated here because we felt drawn to the idea of excellence and success. It makes sense that we fall into the habit of bigger, better, faster to keep up and excel. But such a relentless approach to life can have unwanted side effects and ultimately, is unsustainable.
As a high achiever myself, I moved to New York way-back-when to pursue a career on Broadway. I was driven, competitive, aggressive and determined. These qualities served me well, as they do for many of us New Yorkers, but still I suffered from high anxiety, feelings of loneliness, disconnection, and “not good enough” as I constantly beat myself up to do better. I lacked empathy, compassion and patience with myself and others. I succeeded in my career, but at the expense of my relationships and emotional wellbeing.
Like most of us, I was relying exclusively on my masculine energy and capacities to function and succeed. I had lost touch with my feminine attributes because, like most of us, I mistakenly thought vulnerability needed to be avoided at all costs in order to excel. When we look at masculine and feminine traits, we see that many of us New Yorkers who cope with symptoms of anxiety and depression also lack access to our imprisoned feminine nature. We believe feminine qualities are weak; but to the contrary, feminine traits such as empathy, humility and compassion, are necessary alongside our masculine competencies to achieve holistic functioning personally and professionally.
I am quite convinced that many of us New Yorkers suffer from the same imbalance of masculine and feminine that had plagued me for years. Contrary to what our culture would have us believe, masculine and feminine qualities are a part of being human and are not exclusive to male and female. Unfortunately, many of us either reject or objectify feminine skills, traits and values and we’re suffering as individuals and as a culture.
Many of my clients at Citron Hennessey Private Therapy, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, are high achieving New Yorkers who appear to have it all. Meanwhile, they carry a sense of hidden shame for their inability to connect to themselves or others and the feelings of fear, loneliness and sadness that result. Permission to allow oneself such emotions is rarely given, especially when “there’s nothing to complain about.” Using drugs and alcohol becomes standard practice to dull or numb ourselves on the inside, which over time make things worse.
Developing qualities universally identified as feminine to balance and complement their overdeveloped masculine competencies is helping my clients tap into an intuitive knowing of what has been missing in their lives. In particular, men both gay and straight, who as boys were raised to deny or reject their feminine sides are increasingly frustrated with the constraints of their gender roles and don’t know how to do things differently. They feel disconnected and anxious and then beat themselves up, using a masculine approach to fix the problem of hyper-masculinization. It doesn’t work.
New York women, as well, seem to have adopted an overly masculine approach to life and career, as I did, in order to “make it” and perhaps more importantly, to share power in our hyper-masculine city. Over-identifying with the masculine can occur across sexuality identities. However, straight-identified women are especially prone to either deny their feminine side, or if they cultivate it, do so through the male lens and become hyper-feminine and hyper-sexualized.
We all have access to our masculine and feminine energies and both are needed for full, meaningful and healthy lives, regardless of our biological sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Identifying and choosing to cultivate feminine traits is a process of addressing your internal needs. Doing so will create a deeper sense of inner peace, improve your relationships and – according to the Harvard Business Review – may even help you climb the corporate ladder, if that’s your aim.
Here are 7 human competencies that are commonly identified as feminine, and thus often rejected in ourselves:
- Empathy: Being sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others.
- Vulnerability: Owning up to one’s limitations and asking for help.
- Humility: Seeking to serve others and to share credit.
- Inclusiveness: Soliciting and listening to many voices.
- Generosity: Being liberal with time, contacts, advice, and support.
- Balance: Giving life, as well as work, its due.
- Patience: Taking a long-term view.
Lastly, receptivity is an important feminine trait that many of us lack. Try opening receptively to your own inner experiences, especially the difficult ones, and you’ll begin to notice more ease and energy at your disposal. Try opening receptively to others and you’ll find defensiveness and hostility will reduce and relationships will improve. By learning to value and freely express feminine competencies as a core strength, you’ll discover a previously untapped inner resource for holistic living, well-being, power and success.
And what New Yorker wouldn’t want that?
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