How “little girls” prevent women from fully claiming their rightful place

Our world is still deeply divided. Even after many years of empowerment and emancipation women still are at a disadvantage. They often tend to get paid less, they get belittled, seen as stupid, they get harassed and once they step into their power they are often being attacked by others out of sheer fear and jealousy.

It is clear women have to deal with many external challenges. But that’s only half the story. The other half is, that before claiming the rightful space, there are equally as many internal challenges to be overcome.

In general, internal challenges work like a radio that broadcasts into the world — the world then mirrors that broadcast back. It determines how we feel, how we see and treat others. At the same time, it determines, how others see us, feel about us and treat us.

The world as an echo chamber of our own inner workings. It’s one of the effects that most people don’t consider. Yet it is there and alive. Often people tend to blame their external environment before looking inside and understanding themselves. 
That means it is important to know what we are broadcasting into the world (and therefore getting reflected back to us). In that sense, it helps to acquaint ourselves with a common dynamic that often has a limiting effect on the lives of women.

Example of a disadvantageous system dynamic

An example: Monica, an attractive woman in her mid 30’s with a well-paid job and all the outward signs of success, came for a coaching session. The reason: She noticed that in the various jobs she had so far — including the current one, she had male bosses that would not allow her the freedom, options and development she needed in order to do a good job and thrive in that position.

At the same time, deep inside she felt an insecurity in dealing with a certain type of male authority figure. However, with other types of men, these issues were just not there. In these certain situations, she had problems asserting herself with people like her boss. She knew the way she felt inside in these situations did not correspond to what she had already achieved in life.

She wanted to know why she experienced similar unsatisfying situations in most of her jobs and why she tended to feel helpless with her bosses. Needless to say, she wanted to change that.

The “little girl” dynamic and it’s origin

When looking at topics like this from a systemic standpoint the family history, culture and upbringing play an important part.

It this case it showed in essence that her dad had married her mom mostly because he had a thing for asian women. Her mom wanted to get away from her family. Deal. Done.

Like many marriages that are based on (mostly) unspoken deals instead of true love, trouble arose fast. Her parents often argued. In these fights, her dad would threaten to leave the family quite frequently. It was a terrible situation spanning over years.

Now imagine growing up in such an environment. What feelings and thoughts would you have? How would you cope with the constant threat of being left by a parent?

In her case, she never felt secure. At any point, trouble and fighting could arise. Moreover, she felt the love of her dad was never secure since he was mentally already one step out of the door. At the same time, the mom tried to get her onto her side. She felt torn and she always felt she had to “do something” to be recognized, to be seen. In addition, she wanted to “do something” to keep her dad from leaving.

One of the coping strategies kids employ in such families is to appease their parents. One way they do that is by being the “sunshine”. They appear always happy, cute and loving. They rarely openly disagree or fight and they work hard to get approval and to be seen. Basically, they signal “look at me — all is good. No reason to fight or leave.”
Why do kids do that? Because kids don’t have a lot of choices. Their survival depends on their parents. If their parents threaten with breakup the child consciousness interprets that as a potentially harmful situation for biological survival.

Because the prolonged exposure to such a family situation continually forms emotions, beliefs and behavioral patterns of a young child,

these patterns become like a second nature. That’s why they often continue to run on “autopilot” even when the person is grown up.

that’s why even in grown woman these “little girls” can be spotted by behavior patterns that do not fit the age of the person.

How to spot a “little girl”

The key give away is that the beahviour does not match the actual age of the person and rather resembles the behaviour of kid. When someone displays that pattern it does not really matter how old the person actually is. The key aspects are:

  • They look for approval by others (sometimes desperately).
  • They want to please (their parents, bosses, partners etc.). Often they sacrifice their money, their time and energy for others, without getting properly aknowledged or rewarded.
  • They try to avoid conflict by being a “good girl”.
  • A “little girl” often speaks in a voice that is higher than her actual base tone. Mimic and gestures do not match the real age of the person.

Of course one can find “little girls” not only in business but also in love relationships and sadly there is a whole male-centric culture of favouring “little girls” as partners instead of grown women. But that will be another article covering the “little boys”.

The solution

The problem is, these early childhood strategies like the “little girl” do not just leave us. They go “underground” and pop up in disguise later.

The drama tends to repeat itself — just the names of the players change.

When Monica looked at her childhood strategy, all the emotions of the old drama came up again. Old imprints are best to get rid off by expressing the old stuck emotions that are associated with them. She cried and all the surpressed fear, anger and desperation came up again. That is how one can let things go — by actually allowing and expressing them.

After letting go, she realized where her insecurity really came from and that the bosses were just projections of a personal drama she had never caught up with. She also saw how and why she sold herself low while dealing with male authority figures. Until now, the old fear of being forsaken and rejected had always been looming in the background holding her back. Through letting go and looking at it, new positive beliefs about herself took shape.

Her whole mode of being changed from the inside out. New possibilities opened up and her thinking and feeling got clearer. She felt the need to rectify certain things with these men, she would have never dared before. Her posture, voice and actions got inline with her intention without inner conflict. The little girl finally grew up.

By changing herself, her broadcast of appeasement and weakness towards men in authority positions ceased. She left the trodden path of interactions with these men and was able to choose how to react without getting drawn into a low status position.

One can clearly see how elegant such a solution is. There is no need to fight or change others. You only need to change yourself and the world around changes. At times the results feel like magic. The reason is that others who used to play the complimentary parts in the daily dramas (like the boss), will not be attracted anymore and vice versa. Why? Because the basis of the interactional pattern has changed or is gone.

3 ways how people react towards change in others

When exiting such disadvantageous inteactional patterns with people, there are three ways this usually plays out. This is important to know in order to stay on the path and not get confused by the others:

  • The other person accepts that one has changed and is ok with the new set of rules, behaviour and attitude.
  • The other person looses interest and stops playing that certain game and/or leaves the relationship on their own account.
  • The other person is highly addicted to his/her game and tries everyhting to keep the former playmate in the game. Usually that happens through escalation and attack, trying to secure the upper hand and force the playmate back into the former position of weakness.

The first two point when one experiences them can almost feel like magic. However, if you experience the last set of behaviour this also is a confirmation for you that you are on the right path. The other party escalates because they rightfully fear that you either end their game or you will leave them. Stay on track and don’t get distracted by their noise and barking.

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