Leaning In or Reaching Out

Much fuss has been made recently about Sheryl Sandberg’s new book “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.”  I have only read the first two chapters of the book so far, but what struck me about the title (and its attendant message) is the visual and kinesthetic idea of “leaning in”.

Vintage Photo of Girls Team

Overcoming stereotypes. Surely these ladies “leaned in” to make the “netball” team. — Editor, suburbanmamas.com photo credit: Smabs Sputzer via photopin cc

My initial impression of her message is that its goal is to encourage *everyone* (not just men) to claim one’s destiny, to aim high, and to be the most effective ‘best ME’ one can be.  She urges women to not hide our light under a bushel just because society’s norms tend to require women to be more passive, conciliatory, yadda, yadda, yadda.   And I find that message inspiring, even at my mature, more cynical, age.

Ms. Sandberg and I are both fortunate enough to benefit from superb educational opportunities.  We’re both married and have two children.  And I believe we are both intelligent, thoughtful, ambitious women.  But when it comes to our careers, the similarities disappear.  I don’t think I have ever been as driven or motivated as Ms. Sandberg to achieve high positions in the corporate world.  Not that I lack ambition or motivation – it’s just that my ambition manifests itself outside of the arena of the executive boardroom.  Which is not a judgement of her or of me.

Still, her message intrigued me. But “lean in”?  I sometimes feel that if I lean in any further, klutz that I am, I will fall forward onto my face! Plus, I already spend a great deal of time leaning forward: hunched over a keyboard, playing with my children, feeding the cat.  So what movement resonates better with me?  Then I thought about recent instances in which I had been brave, had stood up for my skills, had taken professional risks to grow my skills and my career.  And the image / movement that I’m visualizing is not “lean” but “reach”.

Reach over to connect with someone new.  Reach forward to bridge a gap. Reach across, to join up with an interesting group.   To me, “reach” carries a message of interlinking, of strengthening connections, of a web of arms, and – ultimately – of attainment of a goal.  So I think I will finish Ms. Sandberg’s book, and I will teach both my son and my daughter to keep reaching!

Have you read the book?  What image do you see in your mind when you think of empowering behavior?

Watch the book trailer for Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.

ABOUT OUR GUEST BLOGGER:

DecaturMamaofTwo is a Gemini, a reader, a linguist, and a recently-inspired runner. She is mama to two kids (almost six, and two) and married to a very patient man. Some of her favorites include reading, laughing, eating chocolate and a-hah moments. Her secret vice is reading trashy romances. Currently she is teaching high school French.

7 thoughts on “Leaning In or Reaching Out

  1. Hi DecauturMamaOfTwo (and college classmate) –

    Thanks for this commentary on the lean-in philosophy. I particularly like this: “Reach over to connect with someone new. Reach forward to bridge a gap. Reach across, to join up with an interesting group. To me, “reach” carries a message of interlinking, of strengthening connections, of a web of arms, and – ultimately – of attainment of a goal.”

    I am going to “share” your post with my growing community here in MA. It’s a part of me extending my reach!

  2. Great post! I love the way you’ve shifted the metaphor to something more inclusive. “Reaching out” implies a genuine connection to be made, a way to become part of something bigger – without being forceful about it.

    As a wellness therapist and life coach, I advocate for approaches that are supportive and integrative, rather than interventional (although sometimes that may be necessary.) Taking risks doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing endeavor, and it is possible to find balance while still achieving personal and professional goals.

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