Mary Rose Burke

31st May 2017

I really enjoyed Catriona’s piece on learning styles and it caused me to wonder about women and networking. We know that women are high achievers in education and more than half university graduates are women, and in early days after graduation career progression and earnings match those of men- but not for long. A gap appears that never closes for most women. There are many theories as to why but no clear solutions. I wonder if women over value formal education where they do well, and undervalue other experiential skills developments settings such as business networking? Men learn early the value of networking and continue to do so throughout their professional careers, and I believe that networking and interpersonal skills and confidence developed in this way smooth their path to success in business. That different approach to networking and sharing insights makes me wonder if women can learn from how men do this especially when I consider the preponderance of women sharing innermost thoughts (and usually self-limiting beliefs!) in the blogging world. So this is a reluctant blog!

I think there is no doubting the value of reflection and keeping a journal of one’s innermost thoughts to help build key qualities of resilience and perseverance, to build insights into ones strengths and weaknesses, to aid self-discovery and develop and re-inforce self-love, enabling a strong sense of self and strong self-esteem. Without this deep understanding of one self, self-confidence and resilience are difficult. This understanding is built over a period of time by reflecting, and by having the courage to embrace self- reflecting. Self-reflection is not an easy journey and one cannot hide from one’s own thoughts actions and behaviour- but we can learn from them if we choose do so. Aristotle tells us that ‘knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom’

I understand personal values as being a deeply internalised philosophy that influences everything about how one lives one’s life, – how one set’s, goals, makes decisions and resolves conflicts. And I think reflection helps to align ones behaviours and attitudes to those values. I also believe it’s important to take responsibility for one’s own life to be fully accountable to one-self and not to blame lack of self-esteem, lack of self-confidence etc.-

With this knowledge that one can only empower oneself I question that current trend for blogging and sharing ones innermost thoughts and reflections. Does that not undermine the deeply personal nature of reflection and might it limit the honesty with which it can be done?

Given that most of the struggle on a journey of reflection and self-discovery is to do with identifying the true self and separating this from Ego, I am unsure how this is best done through a medium of public blogging. Once ones musings are public the tyranny of likes and number of views is difficult to resist (Ego- showing its ugly face?), likewise the praise or feedback from others- again is this about self-discovery or show and tell? If it takes real courage to embark on a journey of self-discovery through reflection, is not discretion the better part of valour?

Perhaps sharing key insights (in hindsight) may be useful to others but as the journey of self-discovery is deeply personal and necessitates reflection and consideration how useful really is it to ‘share’ one’s vulnerabilities. Have vulnerabilities become a badge of honour to be shared? And who does this enable? Truly? Or does it rather feed a voyeurism? Does it trap others in a world where it’s OK to be vulnerable rather than perhaps inspiring other by confidence and self-esteem? Is the public playing out of all ones musings not really playing into narcissism- an admiration of one’s own attributes- the very antithesis of the journey to self-knowledge, and is it the ultimate surrender to our old friend Ego?

This sentiment is best captured in the words of  Lao Tzu ‘ at the centre of your being you have the answer, you know who you are and you know what you want’- I say set your goals, empower yourself and go for it!

I wonder if ‘curated’ reflections offering key insights might better enable others (if indeed that is the intention?). I wonder where in the personal journey of discovery does public airing of ones thoughts, vulnerabilities and angst help or empower and why? I wonder if less but more personal (and private) reflection, while embracing proven techniques such as networking with purpose would enable women to succeed in both their personal and professional lives?