How Successful Leaders Handle Stress and Family

Did you ever think about what it means to be a grown-up and a child at the same time?

In every society, once you reach a certain age, you are deemed an adult. And yet, there is always that inner feeling of being someone’s little one, even if just for a moment.

It’s not about age, it’s about memories and ingrained behavior patterns.

The behaviors that stay alive from childhood not only impact relationships with family, they also show up at work. ,

Living with the paradox

Today I will talk about the stress of being a successful adult with tinges of your childhood still in the air. No, not you as a parent. You as a mature human being coupled with being an adult child.

For now, I will focus very specifically on mothers and daughters.

There is a different dynamic that occurs with fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, or fathers and sons. But that’s for another day.

The mother-daughter relationship

I am inundated with calls and messages recently from women, saying variations of, “My mother is driving me nuts.”

These are grown women, sophisticated business executives, and emerging leaders who have reverted to their teen years. Do you ever wonder what is creating that kind of tension?

For example, some complain they hate conflict and learned early in life to respond to their mother by saying, “Yes, whatever you want.” However, this mantra gets old, and they are sick and tired of being the good girl who succumbs to this form of tyranny.

These women are angry. Are you one of them?

Further, there are other comments, “You know, I was trained to put myself last. I’m tired of being at the end of the line to eat, get emotional support, or even be heard.”

Here exhausted women. Do you fit into this category?

Also, many women say, “I spend too much of my time hoping to fulfill the role my mother was never able to achieve. Therefore, I’m overwhelmed while I climb my own ladder of success. I often think I work super hard to make her proud, and it’s driving me nuts.”

The women in this group are close to burnout? Can you relate?

The three behavior patterns that cause stress

The major patterns that keep women filled with self-doubt, battling their inner critic, and close to giving up are:

  • Pleasers who are afraid to say no.
  • Martyrs always suffer and put themselves last.
  • Super-achievers feel obligated to prove they are the best at everything.

Not to worry, here are ways to break free from being held hostage to your past.

Pay attention to the process below. It will help you gain confidence and be a more relatable and more powerful leader at work and more beloved at home. This is the kind of help women in leadership need now.

Honest conversations

It takes gumption to get in touch with your GUTSY inner core. Once you do, you begin to untie those tension knots inside yourself. You know, the ones that have you saying stuff like, “I’m not good enough, not smart enough, not clever enough.” This mindset keeps you bound to outdated behavior.

Interesting that when I suggest a mother-daughter sit down, a time to rebalance the relationship scale, I get a lot of resistance.

However, when I suggest the following, it definitely makes a positive difference.

Importance of the generational perspective

Therefore, here’s what I’d like you to do. Take a generational view and begin to look at the cultural and socio-economic aspects of your own life. Secondly, go back to consider what your mother went through as she was growing up. Also, go back one more generation to understand the values that were handed to your grandmother.

Does it amaze you that women in the United States had to struggle so hard for the right to vote? Do you find it amazing that it took until 1920 for the 19th Amendment to be ratified? And did you know in Switzerland, the right for women to vote did not happen until 1971?

What other changes can you pinpoint?

Cultural norms are at the core of so many behavioral reactions. Once you put societal demands in perspective, you get a much more defined look at the “why” of past behavior.

After researching women’s role in society, you will be better positioned to sit down with your mother and have a meaningful conversation.

The value of asking questions

To clarify, ask your mother what I call ‘curiosity questions.‘ Here are some examples:

  • In what way were you trained or taught to be a pleaser, to say yes all the time?
  • In what way did you put yourself last?
  • In what way did you feel you had to make up for the things left undone in past generations?

Most importantly, this can begin an honest dialogue. And the last question is, “How did you learn to ask for what you need?” Or even better, “What do you want and need now?”

In conclusion, the behavior patterns we’re looking at here are the pleaser, the martyr, and the super-achiever. Once you begin to look from a broader perspective, the dialogue with your mom will change and grow, and, surprisingly, it will also change how you talk with the women at work.

Generational bonding is important

In short, we all have life stories to tell each other. So, talk with your mother after you’ve done the research, and if your grandmother is available, that’s great. The three of you can have a wonderful conversation.

In conclusion, here’s an opportunity to gain clarity about yourself by talking with your mother. Then, you can be more aware of how to fulfill your dreams. And, I guarantee you can have an increasingly positive relationship with this most important woman in your life.

To sum up, the bonus is you can also be a role model for healthy relationships with the next generation.

To your success,


P.S. You can get more tips on mother-daughter relationships and how they impact the workplace in my leadership book for women, GUTSY: How Women Leaders Make Change

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Sylvia Lafair