As a woman and a mother in a profession like accounting, it can be challenging to own your feelings and not make them a problem. With a limited number of women in leadership roles and the messaging that women often get about not being “too emotional”, it can seem like the formula for success is to sweep your feelings under the rug.
The unfortunate thing about the assumption that feelings have no place in business, or that having feelings or emotions make you “weak”, is that it’s incredibly short-sighted and actually creates an unnecessary struggle for a lot of working women. In a data-focused, analytical profession like accounting, allowing yourself to own how you feel can often be frowned upon.
Interestingly, one of the reasons that a lot of men in leadership roles will often discount feelings is that they’re not making the important connection between how they feel and what they do or don’t do; between how they feel as they achieve a level of success. They’re often equating success with hard work and hustling, focusing much more on the actions taken than on the feelings that fueled those actions.
Even as young children, boys are often admonished for crying and told to “man up”; to not be so emotional when they’re scared or sad. Even though young girls aren’t typically as discouraged about expressing their feelings as boys are, that can often change as a young woman enters the number-crunching world of accounting.
As female accountants-in-the-making continue their education, go to college for accounting, and then go into the workforce, there seems to be an unwritten rule that in order to succeed in this profession, you need to be more like your male counterparts. Unfortunately, that can translate to the message that if you want to be taken seriously, you need to feel less and do more.
This disconnect makes many in corporate America believe that feelings should be left out of business. The misperception is that if you want to make it in business, leave your feelings at home.
But what if the most radical thing you can do to have a successful accounting career, make more money, build your own business, or grow the business you already have, is to believe that feelings are information, not problems? What if everything you really want is directly related to feeling your feelings and processing them, instead of ignoring them?
If you think this is going to be a “touchy-feely” discussion, think again, because the practicality behind how you feel is really the driving force behind everything you want, professionally and personally. If you have a hard time acknowledging how you feel, or don’t really even know how you feel, it’s time to shake things up and take charge of the incredible information and power that comes with feelings.
But let me be clear – it’s not about trying to feel happy all the time, or having a Pollyanna-like attitude; it’s about tapping into the driving force behind having what you want for your career and your life. It’s important to understand that your feelings matter more than you realize because they are the building blocks for everything you want and every goal or level of success you’d like to achieve.
Of course the job of an accountant focuses on numbers and analytics, but if you want to achieve more success and have more balance as both an accountant and a mom, your feelings are hugely important. While your male colleagues might dismiss feelings as having no place in a business setting, I want to help accountant moms to see how to make your feelings a powerful fuel to help you achieve whatever you want in your career and in your life.
This week I’m going to discuss why your feelings matter and how to use the information you get from your feelings in order to get what you want.
Why feelings matter
First, let’s define what a feeling actually is from a scientific standpoint – a feeling, or emotion, is really just the energetic vibration that happens in our bodies when we think a sentence in our minds. So basically when we think a thought, our bodies release chemicals, and we immediately have a vibration in our body that we all label words like happy, sad, confused, or mad.
The confusing thing is that as humans, we will often start sentences with “I feel like…” and then believe that whatever comes next is what we’re feeling. For example, you may have the thought “I feel like this is going to be difficult” and assume that you’ve just described your feelings.
The truth is that “I feel like…..” is not actually addressing what you’re feeling. In the example where you had the thought, “I feel like this is going to be difficult”, that is really a sentence in your mind, but that sentence would then create a feeling in your body like resistance or overwhelm.
So when it comes to feelings, it’s important to delineate between a feeling and a thought as well as understand that the circumstances or situations in your life are never the cause of your feelings. The only thing that ever creates a feeling, as opposed to a physical sensation like hunger or thirst, is a sentence in your mind.
In the example I just shared, it’s important to recognize that you might feel the sensation of a tightness in your chest, maybe a pressure on your shoulders, or a clenching in your stomach that you might label as the feeling of overwhelm because you had the thought “I feel like this is going to be difficult”. Again, a feeling is just a vibration in your body caused by the chemicals released when you have a thought in your mind.
Basically, you have thoughts, your brain releases chemicals in your body, and you feel the effects of those chemicals. So things like your job, a deadline, or a pandemic are not the cause of your feelings; your thoughts are.
So now that you have a better understanding of what a feeling is, I want you to just take a minute and think about your life because everything you have came from a feeling. Your career, home, family, amount of money in the bank, good or bad relationships, etc., were all caused by your feelings, whether you realize it or not.
In addition, every single thing you want for your life in the future is because of how you think you’ll feel having it. That promotion, nice car, bigger kitchen, better marriage, etc., are all things you desire because of how you think you’ll feel when you have them.
The truth is that every feeling you have fuels an action, which is why it’s so important to understand what you’re feeling. Your feelings are always dictating what you do or don’t do, as well as the results you eventually get.
The issue is that once we enter the world of accounting and finance, we tend to turn off our feelings and become numb to them, believing that they’re not useful, or worse, a hindrance. We’re so used to being in our analytical minds for the work we do, that we habitually ignore our feelings or shove them in the closet, hoping they don’t find a way out.
Another issue is that we often label feelings as “negative” or “positive”, adding layers of pressure to feel more positive and layers of self-judgment when we feel negative. When this happens, we tend to buffer negative emotions in order to get a temporary sense of relief.
Buffering negative emotions means you do certain things in order to not feel a negative emotion, however, those actions actually produce a net negative effect. For example, you come home stressed from work and you buffer your stress with some extra glasses of wine, but then wake up feeling groggy and lethargic the next day.
The temporary hit of dopamine you get from buffering and distracting yourself with things like food, shopping, social media or Netflix, often becomes a habit that’s difficult to break. Over time you believe it’s completely normal, for example, to check your Facebook or Linkedin feed whenever you’re working on something that is confusing, complicated or frustrating.
But here’s the truth – your feelings are extremely important if you want to be more effective and more efficient as an accountant, and to be able to create what you want in any area of your life. Your feelings are ALWAYS there, whether you acknowledge them or not, so it’s important to become more aware of and consciously use them, instead of denying them, stuffing them, or judging them.
Feelings are actually at the core of everything you do and everything you create, whether you’re aware of them or not, so you need to pay attention to them. The reason they matter so much is because they’re foundational for having the level of success and the balanced life that you desire, as both an accountant and a mom.
Everything you do or don’t do, every way you act or react, everything you tackle or avoid, is all fueled by a feeling:
- You’re not going to get more done in less time if you’re frustrated
- You’re going to stay stuck in your current underpaid job if you’re not feeling confident
- You’re going to overindulge your children if you feel guilty
- You’re not going to create a vision of what you want and go after it if you’re feeling doubtful
Your feelings are packed with information and shouldn’t be ignored or judged, because they are the key to getting what you want. Whether you are conscious of them or not, your feelings ARE the fuel that drives every one of your actions, inactions and reactions.
For example, the reason you don’t have a better relationship with your boss is because of a feeling; the reason you can’t lose that extra weight is because of a feeling; the reason you were able to handle that challenging client is because of a feeling. Your feelings carry so much information that needs to be acknowledged and understood if you want anything to change or improve.
Honestly, if I was a salesperson and could sell you on anything, it would be to become keenly aware of what you’re feeling. There is so much to be learned when you get in touch with how you’re feeling and then how to harness that information.
How to use the information you get from feelings
As I’ve said, the only problem with feelings, when it comes to being an accountant, is that we tend to ignore, stuff or avoid them, believing that they’re getting in the way of being able to do our job. But the truth is that, if you want to do a better job, be more efficient, and have a more balanced life, your feelings are one of your greatest assets.
Again, your feelings fuel your actions, inactions and reactions, therefore, they hold the key when it comes to being a better accountant and being a more present mom. The best news I can offer you is that you will have SO much more control over everything in your life, both professionally and personally, when you learn how to pay attention to your feelings.
Your feelings matter for various reasons – the first is because when you resist them, you actually make them stronger; the second is if you’re willing to feel any feeling, you’ll be able to show up in the world in a way that most people are unwilling to; the third is because they’ll give you access to the sentences in your brain that are creating your feelings, many of which are often out of your awareness.
When you’re willing to become more aware of what you’re feeling and you’re willing to stay in that feeling, you’ll be able to gain some clarity and important information from it. Your feelings are the gateway to your thoughts, and your thoughts hold the key to more than you realize.
So the first step in learning to use the information you get from feelings may sound simplistic, but it’s incredibly important – ask yourself what you’re feeling. The feeling should be one word only; something like confused, frustrated, excited, doubtful, not something like “I feel like he’s not helping out enough”.
If you’re unsure of what you’re feeling, just Google “Image for list of feelings” and you’ll find tons of resources (I’ll provide a link in the show notes as well). It’s really helpful at first, to use a list of feelings to spark some recognition or clarity about the one word that would describe the vibration you’re having in your body.
Once you have the word that describes the feeling, the next step is to say “This is (feeling)”; for example “This is frustration” or “This is overwhelm”. Again, this might sound strange, but in this step I want you to start to get better at being able to label what you’re feeling; to get a better understanding of what different feelings feel like to you in your body, not in your head.
The third step is to start making the connection between the one word feeling and the thought creating that feeling. In order to do this, you’re going to say, “I’m feeling (fill in the blank) because of a sentence in my mind” and then be curious about what that sentence is.
For example, you might be feeling annoyed so you say, “I’m feeling annoyed because of a sentence in my mind”. Now you can start to be curious about what you were thinking that was creating the feeling of annoyed.
Maybe you feel annoyed because you’re thinking, “He just doesn’t help me enough” or “She keeps asking me to do things that she can do herself”. The reason this is incredibly important is because once you know the thought creating the feeling, you have the power to choose a better feeling thought.
Remember, your feelings are important because they fuel your actions. The feeling of annoyed is going to create much different actions and reactions than a more neutral feeling like acceptance, curiosity, or compassion.
If you’re willing to pay attention to your feelings, gather the information they provide and notice the thoughts causing them, you are going to be amazed at the power you have over your life. I promise you that the more awareness you have of your feelings, the more control you will have over so many things in your life.
Every goal you want to achieve, every change you want to make in your life, and every level of success you’d like is all driven by a feeling. So make sure you start seeing your feelings as information, not problems.
- The unfortunate thing about the assumption that feelings have no place in business, or that having feelings or emotions make you “weak”, is that it’s incredibly short sighted and actually creates an unnecessary struggle for a lot of working women.
- The only thing that ever creates a feeling, as opposed to a physical sensation like hunger or thirst, is a sentence in your mind.
- Everything you do or don’t do, every way you act or react, everything you tackle or avoid, is all fueled by a feeling
- If you’re willing to pay attention to your feelings, gather the information they provide and notice the thoughts causing them, you are going to be amazed at the power you have over your life.