Sample these scenarios:

#Scenario 1 –

You’re sitting at a client meeting and you have some really interesting questions, but you’re concerned about asking those questions because you feel that your boss may not like it.

#Secnario 2-

There is a great new opportunity that’s come up in your business and you would love to have that role and yet you don’t say yes to it because you believe you are not one hundred percent ready or competent.

#Scenario 3 –

It’s a regular team meeting and you have this niggling thought all through, that, everybody’s ideas are much better than yours.

Adaptive Patterns

It is observed that women get shaped into being more overly ‘adapted’. Many of these adaptations are irrational, and inappropriate and do not fit the present times. Many of these adaptations are limiting in nature.

These adaptations are some of the ways women give away power, lose their voice, and do not show up as leaders. ‘I am not smart enough’, ‘I need to be pleasing’, ‘I need to get it right’, ‘I can’t do this’, etc are all patterns.

Recommended Read: How to gain confidence and claim your space | Women at workplace

4 Maladaptive Patterns Seen in Women Leaders

#Pattern 1 – Being the pleaser

Women internalize the need to please others and care immensely about what others think of them and their competence.

This means that we’re constantly seeking approval. We may be smiling a lot. We don’t always speak our minds, we don’t express our thoughts. The impact of this is that we are often viewed as a pushover and a person of no significance in our team.

Do you resonate with any of these?

  • Yielding to others very quickly.
  • Not being able to ask for a raise or negotiate.
  • Not willing to make a complaint if something is not up to the mark.
  • Taking bullying from customers.
  • Not expressing displeasure at a poorly defined role.
  • Not being able to reject the poor opinions that others have of us.
  • Bending over backward to accommodate even when one cannot afford it.

#Pattern 2 – Not Feeling Good Enough

Many of us adapt by downplaying our intelligence. This hampers our ability to make independent choices, and make decisions for ourselves and impacts our capacity to be successful and ambitious for our own selves. The encouragement is to trust the judgment of others rather than our own.

There are several studies that show that women across all levels despite several accomplishments, still experience the feeling of not being good enough. Often, they suffer from imposter syndrome too. Not being good enough translates to self-doubt along with a low feeling within.

Do these sound familiar to you?

  • Lack of confidence.
  • Often having to ask others for help.
  • Feeling victimized at work.
  • Needing continuous feedback from others.
  • Feeling inadequate despite being good at work.
  • A feeling of not measuring up to others.
  • Getting depressed and deflated with criticism small or big.

#Pattern 3 – Being Perfect

No matter how much we do and how far we go, we are shown there is always another level of superbness possible. Hence we learn to strive.

This means that we want to be completely ready before we agree to take up a new role, a new assignment, or a new action. It also means that when we are in meetings, we will express our thoughts, ask questions, and share what we have only when we know that we are absolutely right and the impact of this is often a lost opportunity.

Do you indulge in any of these?

  • Striving endlessly.
  • Feeling what you have done is not good enough.
  • Unable to delegate work as you fear others might not do it as well.
  • Overthinking simple things so you get it perfect.
  • Not being able to start in the wait for the perfect time.
  • Needing to labor over all things simple or complex.
  • Belittling your own self often as you hold high standards on any task.

#Pattern 4 -The Waiting Game

We are doing great work however we believe that the world is going to spot us and celebrate us. The world is going to invite us and give us a meaty role or a plum job and put something precious on our plate. But, that often doesn’t happen. The impact of the waiting game is lost opportunity because we have lost the opportunity to shape our careers.

Do these ring a bell?

  • Sitting quietly in meetings, waiting to be spoken to despite having clarity of thought.
  • Waiting instead of getting on and doing what is needed.
  • Contributing thoughts only when invited.
  • Not being able to be direct about what we want.
  • Behaving helplessly.
  • Waiting for a better day, better time

Break the Pattern

These four patterns are the red signals of our career. They stop us. We’ve been practicing these for a long time and a conscious choice must be made to break these patterns.

It is important to have confidence in our own judgment rather than others. We need to be more daring in exercising our choice of speaking up and showing up.

Striving hard to show our perfect self and perfect work externally while being constantly fearful on the inside is a dimension of ‘imposter syndrome’. To be under pressure to prove competence leads to living a life of charade which takes us nowhere.

The passivity patterns stop women from showing up where they need to and stop them from effective problem-solving. To move out of adaptive patterns actively nurture your inner self. Being aware and recognizing these adaptive patterns as well as the inner chatter within ourselves is the first step to change.

You May Find It Helpful: Book Recommendations for Women Leaders

The Green Signals

The maladaptive patterns can be overcome by adopting certain mantras that serve as ‘green signals’. These remind us to exercise new options rather than stop at the red signal.


  • Choose any of these green signals from below that you resonate with.
  • Repeat them every day as you would any other helpful mantra in life
  • Make artwork if you wish or have it as a visual focus while at work.

The more these are integrated into our lives we begin to play bigger and better at work.

Green Signal messages to break being the pleaser

  • I will say what needs to be said.
  • What I think and feel are important.
  • At times I am going to please myself.
  • I value what I want.

Green signal messages to feel good about ourselves

  • I am enough as I am and I will keep learning.
  • I have strengths and gifts that I can use.
  • I have what it takes and I will start from where I am.
  • I will keep updating myself.
Listen to what Archana Subramoney (Director of Marketing & Advertising at Adobe) says about her journey to a more conscious life with “Power Up”

Green signal messages to let go of perfectionism

  • I can make mistakes and acknowledge them.
  • I will ask for support when I need it.
  • As I walk the path appears before me.
  • I learn by doing.

Green signal messaging to end the waiting game

  • My thinking is good and I will speak it.
  • My voice is unique and it is my own.
  • My thinking is as important as others.
  • I will be seen and heard.

Explore Further: Developing a growth mindset | Women and Leadership

Which of these adaptive patterns did you find in yourself? Which green signal did you choose for yourself?

Sailaja Manacha

Sailaja Manacha

Sailaja Manacha, a Master certified Coach from ICF, is known for her programs and coaching methods that combine psychology with leadership practices. In her work, Sailaja draws from Psychology, Ontology, NLP and Spiritual frameworks as well as rich, real-world experiences.

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