Attuned Leadership for Women Podcast

Episode 001: The Solution to Women’s Invisible Challenges



Tune in to the very first episode of Attuned Leadership for Women as we delve into the urgent need for change in women’s leadership. Specifically, I share how to say goodbye to burnout, middle management stagnation, and unfulfilled success at the top by unveiling specific Attuned Leadership skills. Listen to learn what the Perfection Paradox and Body Wisdom mean and how to practice the important skill of Toggling Out to ease the invisible challenges you face, as a woman, and that traditional approaches overlook.

Show Notes:
[00:00:11] Gender Disparity in Executive Positions.
[00:04:26] Women and burnout.
[00:08:49] Feeling stuck in your career.
[00:12:57] Women leaders and inner knowing.
[00:19:12] Body wisdom is your compass.
[00:24:12] Toggle out for perspective.
[00:25:26] Perfection paradox and worth.
[00:30:12] The Perfection Paradox.
[00:31:12] How Body wisdom sets you free from the Perfection Paradox.

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Mentioned in this episode:

Kelly Diels – Feminist Business Strategist


Prefer to Read? Here’s the transcript!

*Just a heads up – the provided transcript is likely to not be 100% accurate


I like to say that we are the pioneers of modern leadership. Here’s why. Half of the working population in the US is female, but women only hold 30% of executive positions. For every one woman-owned business, 13 are owned by men and only 12% of women business owners bring in over 100,000. Women are making 82 cents for every dollar paid to a man. A number that has increased only 1.3 cents in 15 years. So it’s no wonder that half of women surveyed last year said they were burned out. 

I’m going to tell you straight here. Traditional leadership approaches fail to address or solve the invisible challenges women are facing today and every day. The solution needs to be systemic, but there are also ways that we, you and me, can move the needle as individuals and collectively. 

In this first episode, I’m going to share with you what Attuned Leadership is, and why I believe it can help us shorten the timeframe, not just for equity, but also to make sure women enjoy the journey and find the work they’re so dedicated to fulfilling. Plus, I’m going to teach you an essential skill to get you started. 

Main Content: 

Oh my goodness. I’m so excited to be kicking off the show with you today. Thank you so much for listening. I really hope you get a lot of value. I’d love to become the leadership coach in your back pocket that you tune into every week. To me, starting this show and spreading the Attuned Leadership movement is urgent. 

Now, I know I’ve already given you a lot of numbers, so I’m sorry about that. But this is so important because it’s estimated that women aren’t going to see pay and representation equity for another 175 years. Google tells me that 175 years is six generations. I can hardly comprehend that. Do you know anything about your family six generations ago? Sadly, I don’t. But I do want to think that my actions now and the way I’m living my life can improve the quality of life for the generations that are following me. 

My work as a leadership coach and my intention with you here in the show is to teach professional women just like you realistic ways to reach your goals more easily so you’re more sustainable and satisfied along the way. Now, there are a lot of things I’m going to share with you over the course of the show. But really, when I think about what I do most often, there’s three specific scenarios that I want to point out and I want to help you either recover from or avoid altogether. And they’re near and dear to me because most of the clients that I work with fall into these categories.  

So the first one is a woman in burnout. And sometimes she sees the signs along the way and knows the ongoing high stress she’s been facing and how it’s taking a toll. But most often what I see is that women tune this out until the body forces them to pay attention and course correct. We aren’t going to get more women climbing the ladder if they’re burning out, downshifting or leaving the workforce altogether. Now, I believe as a women’s health expert that there’s this correlation. I think there’s a reason why we have women with four times more autoimmune diseases than men and why cardiovascular disease is by far the leading cause of death for women. It’s one in five female deaths is due to heart disease. And why women are so susceptible to certain cancers. Burnout is a warning sign to type a women that something needs to change. Now that something that needs to change is a better understanding of stress and how to actually manage it. We are so good at tolerating difficulty and challenge that we just keep going. Is that true for you?  

Now managing stress doesn’t have to take an hour. You don’t have to go to yoga class. It doesn’t require appointments for massages and acupuncture or equipment. Okay. What I want to teach you is something that’s very realistic and practical so that the life that you’re living doesn’t have a negative effect on your health or your performance or your ability to enjoy your life. Now all the things I’m going to share in the show should be common knowledge, but it’s not.  

My goal is to teach you exactly what you need to know and nothing more. Let me just say I don’t have a problem with you working hard and hustling. We all need to. There are seasons where that’s just what it takes, but you do need to know how to respond to higher levels of stress so that the stress chemicals in your body don’t make you ill. It’s pretty simple. I want you to learn that there’s actually a rhythm of push and pause in your day that allows you to get more done. And I can help you learn things that go with that, like pacing yourself and stress resilience and stress recovery. So you know with confidence that when you are hustling, when you are facing more stress, personal or professional, there’s simple things that fit in your day that help you be resilient to the impacts of that stress. 

Now I also want to say that I’m not being critical of the fact that so many women are in burnout. The system is set up to cause us harm and slow us down. The system is not set up to support us for thriving. And women that struggle with burnout, it’s just they’re under supported. It’s not a personal failing. And those that burnout get actually an A++ with stickers and gold stars because they’ve actually done everything perfectly they were trained to do. And that’s the problem.  

I’ve been there myself as a mom of two little girls working full time, running a business, and working in healthcare for a period of time as a sole provider due to some unexpected life events. And yeah, we’ll dig into that much more in later episodes. But I have a lot to share with you on this topic. And Attuned Leadership can help you clearly see how the ways you may be investing your energy, your time, your attention could be out of alignment and how to bring yourself back. 

My goal is to teach you how to be burnout-proof so that you are unstoppable. 

The second situation I want to help you steer out of is being in middle management or at a director level, somewhere in your career, but you feel stuck. The women I’ve worked with like that feel they were trying harder and harder to do more, but we’re not getting the recognition they knew they deserved. Whether that’s something inside that was holding them back like lower confidence, their communication style, or you know, something outward like their leadership strategy, or just a simple truth that they’re actually in a toxic work environment. The solution of feeling stuck in your career and not fulfilled and frustrated has a solution where you finally get the missing puzzle pieces and move to where you want to be. And sometimes there’s a crossover where something similar can also be happening at home feeling stuck in one of the roles that you play there. 

Attuned Leadership skills are going to give you an upper hand, not just at work, but in your personal relationships as well because it’s an inside-out transformation. As you get crystal clear on what you want, your standards rise to allow it. So the way you hold yourself and present yourself and the quality of your thoughts and beliefs shift so that you become magnetic to the vision that you set. 

In the show, I’m going to show you how to resolve the situation by teaching you skills for things like having tough conversations with grace and doing things like negotiate, advocate, and respond to others when they push back with agency. There’s so many skills that we’re going to add to your tool bag to help you get out of this situation. And do you know where it starts? It starts right now in this moment if any of this is resonating with you deciding, yes, I want something to change. 

That awareness is the key that unlocks the door to the beginning of the change that you want. Even if you can’t put words to it right now, feel inside your body and notice if this is resonating in any way and know that I’ve got your back. I’m going to spill the beans on how to take control of your life. 

And lastly, the third scenario that I see often that I work with clients to resolve and that I want to help you prevent or correct if you’re there is if you’re a business owner or executive and you wake up one day only to realize you’ve put your heart and soul into your career because you believe that someday you’d get air quotes here there wherever there is and then you’d be able to relax that then you’d be happy that then you’d feel worthy then you’d have the unshakable confidence you’ve been waiting to just arise. But now that you’re here, it’s not living up to what you thought the sacrifices that you’ve made would deliver. 

Now let’s be real here. It’s lonely at the top and women leaders do not have the support they need. There’s such a huge lack of representation and most of us do not have legit role models that we can look to for answers. The truth is really that the higher up you go, the more support you need at home and at work, and the more you need inner skills to manage all of the outer pressure. You benefit from skilled guidance and how to navigate these double binds that only get more pronounced with more visibility to help you stay calm and in control under fire and to know how to make hard decisions from your own intuition and how to deal with blowback because it’s inevitable. 

Now in this situation, you kind of need someone asking you really tough questions so that you can make sure that the way you’re navigating the path and just the path that you’re on is one that you’ll look back and you’ll say at some point that was absolutely worth it. This is so important. You have this one precious wildlife. Let’s spend it well. You deserve that. You don’t have to wait and get to some pinnacle of your career to feel like you deserve having that. 

When you’re in upper leadership, it is so critical to be able to tune into yourself, to understand a tuned leadership because that’s how you leverage your inner knowing and it supports you at every step of the way. Honestly, it’s what sets you apart. I envision some of my favorite women leaders, people like Oprah, Jacinda Ardern, Reshma Sajjani, they have tapped into this. They are embodied. They lead with conviction and you sense they have a deep knowing of where they are, where they’re headed, and how they’re going to get there. 

In my very strong opinion, traditional leadership fails to address the invisible barriers you face as a woman. The lack of access to coaching and knowledge is why we have all of these grim stats that I started the episode with and why these three situations that I’ve listed off in the show happen so often. Burnout, feeling stuck, and rising to the top, unfulfilled, or with the feeling somehow that we’re still not enough, that’s what we’re here to change. 

Now maybe you’re wondering, huh, this is all very interesting, Crystal. It feels like feminism, women’s leadership, and the women in power conversations are growing. So why aren’t the stats reflecting that? Well, culture and gender norms are to blame. Specifically, it’s what I’ve coined the Perfection Paradox. And keep listening because I’m going to share with you in just a bit what you can do about it. 

Just think about this. There’s so many messages from early in life to tune out your body’s messages. Things you could be feeling like physical pain, having your instincts ignored or being silenced, especially from voicing emotions, things like anger, disappointment, or disgust. Now here are just a few examples. If you think back, did you ever have to go to school and perform academically or in athletics despite having menstrual pain and being expected to act like nothing was going on, or being expected to hug a family member like Uncle Bobby because it was the polite thing to do even though he made you very uncomfortable, or a situation where you did not have your big feelings validated even when they were fair and called for? And these examples are just scratching the surface. The Perfection Paradox is actually the real villain in all of these three scenarios that I’ve described and so many more. Not women, not you. 

The struggles that we have are not our fault. It’s really just the cultural waters we’re swimming in here. The Perfection Paradox is, let’s define it, the cultural gender expectation to be pretty, quiet, kind, and nurturing. But because I’m from the deep south, I also like to throw in obedient and selfless to the list. So young, ambitious girls learn how to get safety and validation in who they are from striving to be, “good girls.” 

But the tricky thing I want you to realize about the Perfection Paradox is that it can never be reached or attained. It’s just a moving target. Think about it. Every new role you add in life, like the new job position, entering a relationship, or getting married, starting motherhood, or home ownership, all of these new roles comes with a new set of double standards. This unconscious expectation of how you’re supposed to fulfill that role. So just think about your own life for a second. When you moved into a new role, what is one of those roles in your life where you unconsciously and without discussion with anyone just assumed a new set of responsibilities? You woke up the next day and somehow you thought to yourself, well, now this is a part of my identity. I guess I should do X, Y, and Z. And if so, and I’m guessing it is so, it’s because you already had internalized what it meant to do a quote, good job at that role. 

But here’s the news flash. There’s no finish line. The recognition for our perfect efforts can never be reached. We’re never done. We never get the A plus, the gold stickers that we’re working so hard for yet women still try navigating womanhood like this is really complex on a daily basis. You’re spending time, energy, and precious attention, keeping up with the Perfection Paradox. 

It’s all unconscious. Of course, none of us wake up and intend to do this, but it is something in your life and it is not addressed by traditional leadership. And it causes you stress and has the potential to steer you away from the path of true satisfaction. And that’s my complaint with the lean-in movement. Yes, go for your dreams, speak up, be in the room, right? Be aware of how you hold yourself. But some foundational skills can make it a lot less scary and more meaningful, like the ability to answer these questions in the moment. 

Right now, what do I want? What do I need? What do I feel? So few women have the skill to answer these questions without jostling psychologically from inside themselves to outside of themselves. And naturally, right? Because you’ve spent a lifetime prioritizing the needs, wants and feelings of everyone else at home and at work. 

I’ve literally spent the past 15 years chewing on these issues. And in the past nine years, especially since I’ve had my daughters, you know, they’ve inspired me to search for a solution and try to live that solution. And now to share it with you. And I’ve discovered something amazing. Body wisdom is the answer. It’s the antidote to the perfection paradox. It’s how you resolve those three scenarios. And it’s how you answer those three questions I just asked you, what do I want? What do I need? What do I feel right now? It’s really like your inner compass. It’s what that gut instinct is. It informs you how to handle any situation. And it’s something in the show I’m going to help you learn. Can you feel the power in that? To have a way to stop the psychological gymnastics where you’re trying to do something, but you also have to consider 50 other perspectives and how you’re being seen in every single one of them. Oh my gosh, it is so exhausting. 

Let’s take a second and define Body Wisdom to help you. Body Wisdom is the ability to tune into your body, to put your awareness inside of yourself from the neck down, and to know what messages your body is giving you to have some literacy, some vocabulary, to know what the message means, to understand what your body is saying to you, what’s it communicating, and to know how to respond. And I believe that attuning, hence the name of my work, is the answer to all the unsettling stats that I shared in the intro. It will equip you with inner skills to navigate every challenge that you face outwardly and how others relate to you. So that whole, you know, Goldilocks Syndrome starts to shift. 

Body Wisdom is a gateway to having a magnetic presence and being able to co-regulate others so that you influence other people without even needing to use your words. It’s just something about you. It emanates from the inside out. Body Wisdom is how you know your capacity for how much you can do without redlining your energy levels and pushing yourself too far. It’s how you draw strength internally so that you can set boundaries and have direct, honest, clear, and calm conversations. And leveraging your body wisdom as a professional woman is something that’s just not taught by traditional leadership. But women have been shown to have more emotional intelligence, connection to their body, and intuition capabilities compared to men. So let’s shift this body wisdom and the profound change it can bring in our lives from an unknown secret to common knowledge and allow it to be the strongest skill in your toolbox. 

Now, in case you didn’t catch it in my intro, I’m an author on this topic. I have a lot to say and a lot of skills that I’m planning to teach you through the course of the show, which by the way, if you like what you’re hearing, please, please, please take a second and subscribe to the show and leave a review. It helps a new podcast out tremendously. This is a lot of effort to share this with you to put it together. I’m a solo business owner doing this all myself because I am passionate to get this information to you. So please say thanks by subscribing to the show and your favorite player and leaving a quick review for today. 

I want to leave you with one very specific tool to try out yourself. First, I want to give credit to one of my very favorite mentors, Kelly Deals, a feminist business strategist. And the terminology I’m using is hers, although I may be using it a little differently, but it’s called toggling out. I want you to imagine a recent time in your life when you felt tension and stress because you were pulled between two decisions. Here’s some examples. Maybe it was something between your personal life and work or resistance to making a hard decision or feeling overwhelmed by something that was lingering on your to-do list and full confession. Like I still haven’t finished either of my children’s baby books. This tension is usually there because there’s a conflict between what’s best for you and what you want and what you feel outwardly is expected of you. 

So can you think of something in your life where you kind of were like, hmm, I should do that, but, and then you felt some tension and this tension has sensation, it has qualities inside your body and I want you to start to pay attention to it. Now for me, there’s a tightening in my throat. Sometimes my teeth touch like they’re squeezing together and there’s tension in my upper belly, upper stomach. My breathing gets a little constricted for just a second and I’ve really gotten to know that feeling. 

What is that for you? Can you think of a recent moment and do you have a sense of what happens in your body when you have this experience? So however that feels to you in your body, it’s fine. It’s going to be different than what I feel, but whatever it is for you, it’s repeatedly happening in the same pattern and I want you to pay attention to it so that it becomes your cue to toggle out. And when we Toggle Out, it’s how we get perspective and context of how the Perfection Paradox is showing up at the moment and causing that tension. 

An example is I had a client that was feeling this tension before starting a meeting where she was planning to oppose the opinion of her all-male board in support of the values of the company and the future direction and lots of positive reasons. But she was feeling this tension and so she toggled out and when she looked outside of herself and asked, hmm, what historically could this feeling be from? Maybe this tension isn’t about me. Maybe the issue isn’t that I need more confidence. Maybe the issue is actually that there are systemic forces that are making me uncomfortable because it’s legitimate that I feel uncomfortable because of them. But she saw that her stress was understandable given the context and it gave her all the more determination to show up in a grounded way so that she was unflappable. And she had those skills in her tool bag. 

Now just this week, I was talking with a woman that downshifted in her career in the past year only to find herself in a nonprofit where she’s working just as hard for less money. And every time her employer, her team asks her to take on something else, she feels this tension and she’s struggling to say no and manage her workflow in the way that she intended to when she made the choice to downshift and accept this job. So she could toggle out and get perspective that she feels a pressure to meet everybody else’s expectations and that seems to take priority over her desires. So she could toggle out and realize, wow, it’s just really hard for me not to deliver a minimum of 100% at everything that I’m doing because I really want to over-fulfill expectations because it’s been hardwired into her like since kindergarten that her worth is tied to her work and how she shows up. 

But when she Toggles Out and gets this perspective, the problem isn’t about her. The problem is accepting that her worth is not related to working long days or that she has something to prove even in this new position. By toggling out, she takes what feels personal in this moment that she internalizes as being something about her that needs to change and instead sees how the Perfection Paradox is to blame. And although it’s not a solution, it doesn’t erase the tensions we feel. It does give us a moment to take a breath and to soften and to feel into ourselves and to see the truth. And I hope that you can see how by toggling out and zooming out to get the big picture of how gender norms and conditioning from places in your life like your family of origin, your local culture, and even your work environment may influence how worthy you feel of your time, energy, and attention. Those are your three most precious resources. The gift of life and health is to have those to spend as you desire time, energy, and attention. And do you feel like you own them? Because when you don’t, I want you to Toggle Out and see how gender norms and conditioning have made you feel like they don’t belong to you. And the context is so critical because it shifts things and gives you choice in a way that you didn’t see previously. 

So before toggling out, things feel fixed and the “shoulds” feel non-negotiable. But after toggling out, you can see how the Perfection Paradox is influencing you through an imaginary story. It’s all made up of how you should be. And it’s like we get to see the absurd and laugh at it and then choose more wisely, more authentically, more powerfully for yourself. 

Are you with me on this? I hope you’re understanding the Toggle Out tool. When you toggle out, you notice things like your inner voice and how it’s bossing you around with a critical tone. That doesn’t match you. It’s not how you’re authentically feeling. And when you toggle out, then you get that perspective, then toggle back inside yourself and be curious for what your body and not your thinking mind, but your body has to say. And that’s where you find the Body Wisdom. And the Body Wisdom is there when you say, what do I need? Right? You feel the tension. You’re in conflict between two perspectives. You toggle out, you get the bigger vision, and then you toggle back into your body. You ask yourself, what do I need? And you listen for the answer, which may not come for a while, because you’re not used to asking. And that’s okay. 

The takeaway today is that you’re not going to get where you want to go by doing what’s always been done. You are worthy of success on your terms and you have the agency to achieve it. You’re already worthy of doing what feels satisfying without needing to prove anything first. 

Think of it this way. Okay. The Perfection Paradox is the cultural parasite that eats away at women’s confidence if you let it. And by toggling out and calling it out and saying, no, thank you, you’ll notice that hard decisions get easier. And then you toggle in and you start to develop the invaluable Body Wisdom. And that’s where you are. And I believe that we, you and me and all of us listening, we can speed up the timeline to equity in our own individual lives by using these tools. 

Now, I don’t believe in imposter syndrome. I don’t believe that mindset work is the revolution that women need. But an honest reflection on how unjust gender norms are and how they show up in your personal daily life, followed by listening inwardly to your body wisdom. Now that, that is the catalyst that will set you free. 

I hope you enjoyed the show. I have loved sharing these big ideas with you and I’d love to hear your thoughts and share a conversation. So please come by Instagram and share your thoughts with me. Instagram and shoot me a message and say hello @drcrystalfrazee. And I’d love for you to subscribe and leave a review of what you’ve heard so far on Apple podcasts. 

To do that, in case that’s unfamiliar to you, you go to the app on your phone. It’s so much easier than being on a computer. Go to my show and go beneath all the show details and click on Write a review. And it’s very easy to do that way on your phone. It really, really helps a new podcast get discovered. And just think of the other women you can directly help get access to this show and this information just by doing this one tiny little thing that’ll just take you a minute because it’s going to take all of us to get this movement off the ground and spread the word. I hope you’re feeling as excited as I am.

Next week, we’re going to pick up where we left off with toggling out and talk about what to do next on this powerful journey to success and satisfaction without trading sustainability.