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Ask L2: Are we broken or is it the systems around us?

"After deep reflection in these situations, it’s impossible to shake that feeling in my gut or explain away larger trends."

Disclaimer: Identities are kept confidential. The advice given here should be taken at your own risk. If you are having true mental or physical issues, please seek professional assistance.

As women, how do we know if we’re broken or if it’s the systems around us?

For most of my professional career, I have struggled to untangle my personal shortcomings, missteps, and biases from larger systemic problems. I’m always the first to assume I’m wrong, it’s just me, or I’m misunderstanding.

But after deep reflection in these situations, it’s impossible to shake that feeling in my gut or explain away larger trends. Trends like not supporting women in leadership roles but fully supporting men in the same situations. Or telling women they are too confident and ego-driven and, when we pull back, we’re too quiet and not confident enough for leadership. Telling women who job hop to escape toxic teams and environments that we aren’t loyal or committed when we are honestly just fucking exhausted from fighting.

As women, how do we navigate this? How do we maintain the energy to keep fighting this? And also, how do we gain more allies because some of the worst professional treatment I have experienced has been at the hands of other women.

Not to be doomsday - but how do we fix a broken system that EVERYONE keeps telling us isn’t broken but that we just don’t understand it? That we’re just doing it wrong?

I would love to get diverse perspectives on this topic and hear how others may be approaching this and what they are finding to work well. Thanks!


I don't know that I have a diverse perspective. I know that I have a perspective. I hope that's enough, but I wouldn't recommend it being the only one that you take.

Yes, we're broken. Every single one of us. We were all built wrong. If you consider what we've been taught and what we've internalized to be our programming, then yes, we're all built wrong. We have the ability to fix it once we understand better that the call is coming from inside the house, but it's hard work, it's not always effective, and it requires a lot of returning to the scene of the crime, for lack of a better term.

De-programming from what we've been taught about being a woman, about perceiving other women, and about listening to the strongest voices in our workplaces is something you have to work at all the time. There isn't a day off. Once you start doing it right, you start questioning the motives of literally everyone and everything. You start asking questions about things that you just accepted before.

It's exhausting.

You do it anyway.

Sometimes, you're going to come to the same conclusion as the people before you, either because they weren't actually wrong that time or because it's just the best answer you have right now with the tools that you have access to. Those things will feel like losses, but they're not. They're just reality.

Most often, though, your changed perspective will inform how you handle things differently, and when you do it right, you will impact the other people in your world enough that they take parts of that with them and internalize it too. If we can internalize the bad stuff, we can internalize the better stuff, too. It just feels like more of an uphill battle because it requires all of the undoing too.

The good news is that you can both undo and redo at the same time. The situations that you see differently now aren't going to go away. You will still screw up. You will find yourself aligning with patriarchal notions even when you have worked very hard to rid that from your consciousness. It's just there. But you keep going. And you find ways to care for yourself in the process. You take a day to think about anything else when it gets to be too much, and you go back to it when your brain and body are ready. Your recovery time gets shorter as you get, well, better at it.

It will never feel normal or comfortable. Comfortable means that you're used to the work and you will never be used to this work. But it can become something you're more used to and less scared of, and that's a good thing to be when you feel like you're taking on the world alone. You're not. Look around. We're there too.



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Here to say - you're not alone. I feel this way too, all the time. Thank goodness we have each other.


It's all exhausting. I've wondered if men feel the same or just won't admit it. I'm seeing more online about "narcissistic personalities" and "narcissistic abuse," and think that maybe we're all more fragile. I appreciate this group because it tells me I'm not alone, that the workloads are insane, the laundry is never done, and haven't we cooked enough dinners?

I know you're right that we have to keep fighting. But I try -- and encourage others to try -- to stop every once in a while and do nothing. If we admit we have to fight, then we admit that some days it's just too damn hard. Find your inspiration and be a light for that cause/mountain/person. You…

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