On a recent flight, I ran across a story about the first female pilot to fly for a major US airline. In 1973, Bonnie Tiburzi Caputo, at age 24 literally soared above that glass ceiling. Today, American Airlines continues to honor her feat by bestowing an annual $50,000 grant, aptly titled The Bonnie Award, to mid-career female filmmakers who are blazing trails and breaking through their own glass ceilings.
It got me thinking about my own personal glass ceilings and how great it feels to be looking down through the glass floor rather than up through a seemingly unpenetrable glass ceiling, where you can see it, sometimes feel and taste it but you just can't quite get there.
Some of the barriers were societally or industry-imposed and some were created and built by me. Can you relate?
Personal glass ceilings aren’t those imposed by society or industry, but rather are our own barricades that hold us back, barriers we place there out of fear. How to tell? If you’re constantly coming up with excuses for not getting what you want, then that's likely a sign that they are blocks you’ve placed there yourself. In other words, you become your own glass ceiling. Yikes.
When you think about it, even though it was a societal and industry glass ceiling that Bonnie Caputo burst through, she wouldn’t have stood a chance at piercing through the ceiling if she’d put her own fears and excuses in front of her. “They’ll never promote me because I’m a woman.” “It’s never been done before so why try.” “I have to be better than I am to do this.” It's certainly possible those thoughts were prevalent during insecure moments, but they never became her personal glass ceiling.
Shattering a glass ceiling sounds kind of messy and dangerous. I mean the notion conjures up the vision of being cut to bits by shards of sharp, cruel edges. The same kind of sharp cruel edges that come from imposing a harsh inner critic upon your dreams. Another yikes.
When put that way, how about a reframe on breaking through your own glass ceilings. Perhaps as you continue to blaze your own trail, the energy from your own heat will dissolve the barriers. Hmm, it’s a thought.
"I never thought I was breaking a glass ceiling. I just had to do what I had to do, and it never occurred to me not to." ~ Marian Wright Edelman
And, as more and more of us rise up and dissolve through more and more of our own personal glass ceilings, it stands to reason the societal and industry glass ceilings will dissolve as well.
Here are some heat-generating tools to aid your trailblazing journey upward:
- Be optimistic - “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Set intentions & goals - and write things down. There's power in committing the words to paper.
- Work smart and be diligent - one day after the next.
- Do things that scare you - stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone. Each day stretch a little bit further. You can break it down into bite size pieces that way.
- Recognize fear - give it voice and then forge ahead anyway. Often it's not as bad as you've made it out to be in your mind.
- Keep track of your progress - you'll surprise yourself when you recognize the baby steps that have grown into bigger ones. All of a sudden you're there and the glass ceiling as disappeared.
- Be assertive about your own worth - you are your best advocate and it starts with your own self-talk.
Here’s the thing about personal glass ceilings, as you break through one and continue to evolve into the person you’re meant to be, there will be more ceilings and barriers to dissolve. Because as we break through and start to get used to the air up there, we just keep rising and discovering and reaching for the next height or accomplishment. And, each one is a breakthrough!
So, keep soaring. Keep looking for higher personal ceilings to breakthrough.
Keep moving toward your heart’s desire.
And, take a moment to look back from time to time to appreciate your journey. Honor the accomplishment, no matter how large or small.