If there's one phrase women’s leadership expert Maxie McCoy hears over and over again in talking to young women, it's "I'm so lost." Not only do they doubt the direction their lives are going—they don’t even know where to start making changes. This book provides a straight shot of encouragement to change that.
You're Not Lost is the manifesto for a generation of women who don't have the self-confidence to trust their instincts and go for it. This compelling guide gets to the root of the problem, showing you how to drop the panic-inducing, big-picture obsession over "Where am I going with my life?" and instead shines a spotlight on the small yet impactful decisions that will take you from lost to found.
With step-by-step advice, thought-provoking exercises, and real-life stories from Maxie and other inspirational women who have been there and succeeded, this book is an energizing action plan for getting to the amazing career and life you deserve.
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|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
99 Problems but You Are Not One
Don't compromise yourself.
You are all you've got.
Lost is a feeling. It is not who you are. It does not define you. It's not your identity. And it's sure as hell not a reflection of your worth as a human. Is it a problem? Sure. But you are not your problems.
The sooner you peel away all the layers of what you think you need to change before you're ready to follow your gut, the sooner you'll step into an unobstructed awareness of where you're supposed to be. Peel and shed. Peel and shed. Your path forward will become clearer as you explore and unapologetically accept who you are at your core (according to you and only you). This return to yourself is so deeply tied to where you're headed.
A few years ago, a young woman asked me what my single best piece of career advice is. Only one? Yes, she said. And only my best? Yes, she said again.
At first I gave her a wide-eyed look that said, I don't think I can distill it all down to just one. And then as quickly as I wanted to give up on making a single choice, the answer pushed its way forth from the deepest chambers of my heart.
Ahhhhh, I know it, I said. Because I felt it.
"Work every damn day to be the highest possible expression of yourself," I told her. Because when you do, you'll attract all the right people and opportunities to your path in ways that didn't previously seem possible. Being exactly who you are is a powerful energy force. It's a sincerity that people can feel and see, and it opens up the doors to the next step more quickly.
So much of continuing to forge the right path and find the direction that feels so core and true to you is acknowledging the truth of who you are and not letting anyone squash it. No matter how much that expression fits into what other people think you should be or do. You are not to blame for being lost. And you are most definitely not at fault for your feelings of less than because you haven't found your way (yet). There are no fingers to point here. There's only celebration for who you are, as you are.
What do I mean by the "highest possible expression of yourself"? Everything. The way you express yourself is literally everything, from the hobbies you enjoy, the skills you're interested in, and the opinions you have to the hair you keep and the emotions you feel. It's honoring and loving and, most important, expressing what you really feel, are, and desire.
If you want to dye your hair purple and shave half of it off, do it. If you want to begin a company that no one understands, do it. If you've got thoughts on the future of the world that no one agrees with, say 'em and create them. If people think you're too this or too that, eff 'em. Holding onto all those things that flare you up and feel so right is you asking to be recognized from within.
The highest expression of yourself is doing what you want to do how you want to do it-and being as wildly you as possible while you do.
Seven-year-old me dancing naked in front of my floor-tofficeiling bay windows on the second story for all my little neighbor friends to see (because I was clearly feeling myself and just didn't give a damn) is the wildly expressed self I'm always trying to come back to. Not because I'm a now-closeted exhibitionist, but because the essence of that little girl was one that was so highly expressed and unashamed about it.
That person is there in all of us. She hasn't gone away. The young, wildly expressed woman is in there; you just have to let her take the reins. She's your key to feeling amazing in your skin. She's key to feeling unapologetic about your choices. To using your voice in the big moments and the little ones. She's key to pursuing the next step even when you're worried and unsure, and to continuing to do that in the face of doubt, criticism, and uncertainty. You'll see that you never were the problem. And the sooner you believe that (by identifying all the negative sources and cultural messages that led you there), the easier it'll be to move forward.
You've Got This
What three things set you apart or make you feel different from most of your peers?
Girls Gone Wild
We can't talk about building self-belief without also talking about all the reasons it can be hard as hell to be who we really are. That young, wildly expressed person living within you can be hard to come back to if you're not aware of why you got away from her in the first place. There's no cheerleading confidence without also acknowledging that we live in a society where being a woman is politicized, where we're consciously and unconsciously made to question ourselves so that our power is tempered. It's a well-oiled and methodical machine meant to keep us small.
The patriarchy is a bitch. It's characterized by being "male dominated, male identified, and male centered." And it's a system that we're born into that we're led to believe can't and shouldn't be changed. We're convinced by that very same system and all those who have internalized it that there are no alternatives. It's the same system that not only ushers us into believing that women should remain in subordinate roles in society but also contributes to other forms of oppression, like racism, homophobia, and sizeism.
And as Gloria Steinem says, oppression wouldn't work unless some of it was internalized. So we start to believe that until we look like X, act like Y, and have the success of Z, we have problems that need to be solved first. The only problem that needs to be solved is trying to fit into the patriarchy's mold.
Keep the TV on for two hours and you're given all the messages of the mold someone wants you in-a laundry list of things you should desire:
Skin that color
Partner that perfect
Clothes like that
Hair that soft
Friendships that cool
Thighs that smooth
Boobs that perky
Bank accounts that full
Attitude that chill
Lips that plump
A career that crushes it
And all the things you shouldn't be:
These qualities aren't wrong. The only thing wrong is someone or a group of someones making us feel like we need to change in order to begin. And as G. D Anderson wrote, "Feminism isn't about making women strong. Women are already strong. It's about changing the way the world perceives that strength."
Multiply this completely nondiverse cultural image of success and womanhood by decades and you end up with some seriously good reasons to believe that the highest expression of yourself is one that's not going to be accepted. But a woman tapped into her deepest power becomes a massive threat to the status quo. A woman who knows that she doesn't need anything else to forge her path . . . a woman who knows she already has everything she needs . . . a woman who believes in her right to be here . . . when you're tapped into that, your deepest power, there's literally no stopping you.
When I think about women who do this well, women who don't let anything stop them from saying and doing what they want, Maxine Waters, Jennifer Lawrence, and Beyoncé come to mind. They're vocal about what they believe. They are who they are. And they're different from most of the people we see and know. They're living proof that you can be fully yourself and still be successful.
You've Got This
List five women who are unapologetically themselves. Look to these women anytime you're second-guessing yourself.
The farther you get from embracing yourself, the farther you get from trusting your own path. And it's hard, I know, especially if you're already feeling lost. Because alongside the messages you receive from society saying you're not good enough, there are always going to be people telling you to be someone or something you're not.
I've never felt so far away from my truth than when I was working for someone who monitored what I wore, if my nails were chipped, how much I talked and how loudly, the phrases I used, the people I hung out with, and what I was writing on social media. The onslaught of opinions was a chute of water that, while likely not intentional, was dousing the fire of expression within me. I was gradually turning down the volume of who I was to fit who this person expected me to be. It heightened all of my insecurities about what I was in the world to do, and how to do it. Let's just say that a few months after I ended this job, my sister's first response was, "I'm so glad to have the real you back."
When someone is consciously or unconsciously squashing your self-expression-whether that's a partner, family member, boss, friend, or just the goddamn internet-you've got to fight like hell to gain distance from it. Because you need your differences, your true expressed self, as much as the world does.
Collectively, we aren't one version of a person, and holy shit if that's not the greatest gift. Our diversity in what we look like, how we act, what we desire-not to mention the color of our skin, the type of upbringing, our sexuality, our size, our way of life, and our viewpoints-allows others to rise. We know that in business, companies with more gender, racial, and ethnic diversity outperform their competitors who don't share the same levels of inclusivity. It should be intuitive, then, that when we individually embrace our differences, ignite them, and find our personal footing, the same will happen for our lives.
All Comparison Kills Is You
Sometimes I actually wonder if Instagram was created for the sole purpose of making us all feel like we're totally shit humans. Between the insanely trendy fashion bloggers, the fitness models who finish off dessert with ten-pack abs, and all of our friends' amazing vacations, accomplishments, and parties, it's no wonder we develop additional complexes when it comes to being ourselves and living our own lives-the ones we're missing 'cause we're too busy scrolling.
You know how this goes. You'll be trucking along, doing your thing, making some progress when wham-bam-fuck-you-ma'am, you see something that makes you feel like you're never going to get there, the there there. If you're feeling weird about your hair, you'll find the person with amazing flow. If you're feeling shitty about your job, you'll find the person who just won an amazing award doing what you wish you were doing. And so on and so on. You're so focused on everyone else that you don't see everything that you've done and everything you've created and everything you are that's going to get you exactly where you are supposed to be.
It really feels like ten steps back, and sometimes it can be, because comparison puts you into such a stalled-out place that you feel paralyzed and defeated and don't even want to act.
Researchers have found that more than a third of people reported being unhappy following their most recent experience on Facebook, and much of that unhappiness was attributed to envy. It's not surprising, and I'd venture to say that most of us can feel how much this constant look into other people's highlight reels plays into how we feel about ourselves and the path that we're on.
One place I can guarantee you won't find the answer to Where am I going? is in pictures of other people's lives. In their glossy display of their path, their career, their perfectly designed reading corner, something major is missing: the whole story. Logically, your brain knows that what you're seeing isn't the whole story, but the anxiety, weirdness, and envy that bubbles up in your chest makes you feel like you don't even have what it takes to get started. If you can't be there, you don't want to be here. You minimize yourself and your abilities because everything you're seeing looks so much better than where you are.
If you want to tap into the brightest you, then pay attention to how much time you spend paying attention to others. Finding your direction requires focusing on your greatness. Whether it's about social media, your friends, people in magazines, or humans on TV, you've got to pay attention to you. Because doing you gets way harder when you're trying to be them. And you are the only one who will determine the direction your life is going to take. You're the only one who's going to be taking step after step after step to realize your own path. You need yourself.
You've Got This
1. Scroll: Set a timer for five minutes. Browse through social media until the time is up.
2. Journal: Write for two minutes about everything you're feeling from scrolling.
3. Assess: Are these productive feelings? Because awareness is everything.
Go Your Own Way
Your truth is your map. And when it comes to not just being the most of you but doing the most of you, there will be an onslaught of opinions and templates for how you can move up and move onward. Being the highest expression of yourself includes not only who you are but also how you create what onward looks like. You've got to trust your map even if it's not the path you see everyone else taking.
Of course there will always be a good way of doing things. But listen here and listen close: If that way of doing things doesn't sit right with you, don't do it. We wouldn't have some of our greatest leaders if they weren't willing to be themselves, think for themselves, and create their own way.
We also need to remember that one person's desired outcome doesn't have to be our own. You don't have to want what other people tell you to want. You don't have to desire what everyone else desires right now. You can be on your own timeline for your own path. You have to get clear on what you want versus what other people are telling you to want. Separating the two matters.
One person's successful path may be something to learn from, but at the end of the day you have got to make your journey your own. You've got to do it yourself. I always look to Adele as someone who has gone her own way and made such a beautiful, big mark while doing it.