Blog | Personal Finance

Leaning on Other Women Leads to Success

Everyone needs somebody.

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You’ve probably heard the term self-made millionaire before. Personally, I’ve never really identified with that statement or even understood it.

If you’re going to make a million dollars or more on a consistent basis, there’s no way you’re doing it on your own. At the very least, you’re relying on other people in business, customers, employees, investors, and more. Without those folks, you’re going nowhere!

How other women bring support

Usually, when people use the term self-made, I think they are saying that nobody gave them a helping hand or a silver spoon. It’s a shorthand way of saying they had to do the hard work of coming up from the bottom. But it really is a misnomer because rarely does that actually happen without the help of others.

For women, this is especially important to understand. Because we’ve been marginalized for so long from the world of money, it’s even harder to clearly see the path you should take to financial freedom and success. So, it becomes essential to “lean on” other women as Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said in an interview on Business Insider.

As Sandberg says, “"When you look at successful women, they have other women who have supported them, and they've gotten to where they are because of those women.”

This is an important truth. Often there is a perception that women don’t help other women. Marianne Cooper, writing for The Atlantic, shares some interesting research into the Righteous Woman and the Queen Bee mentalities. She contrasts women who live out Madeleine Albright’s, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” and women who seem like they live to undermine young women coming up from behind them. Cooper concludes that, “The point is, it’s not the case that women are inherently catty. Instead, Queen Bee behaviors are triggered in male dominated environments in which women are devalued.”

She goes on to say that, “There is plenty of evidence to show that women do indeed support one another. When women work with a higher percentage of women, they experience lower levels of gender discrimination and harassment. When women have female supervisors, they report receiving more family and organizational support than when they have male supervisors. And a preponderance of studies show that when more women are in management positions, the gender pay gap is smaller.”

Build a circle you can trust

It’s critical that while on your journey to financial freedom, you build a circle that you are confident will support you - and that you can support - along the way. Choose wisely who you associate with, and be very strategic with who is in your financial circle. Below are some tips:

Choose friends that will support your goals and truly believe in what you’re trying to achieve, and your ability to do so. They may have no idea how you’ll get there, but they know you will and will do everything they can to push you along the way.

Seek mentors who have experience and are more accomplished at doing the things you’re looking to do. This one is a little tough, as there’s no real formula on how to find a mentor; keep your eyes peeled….the mentor will come so long as you’re ready!

Join a group that is education and support focused. Also it would be wise for these purposes to be part of a group that is focused on financial freedom, or some sort of similar financial milestone as you.

The main point is this: surround yourself with people (and this is true in all areas of your life) who will cheer you on, who will be honest with you, and who will encourage you to keep going, during the ups and downs, to achieve your goals, specifically your financial goals.

Don’t confuse support with peer pressure

But beware, sometimes we can become overly influenced by our circle and lose sight of our initial goals. Before you know it, we’re caving into peer pressure quicker than we had the time to realize it and poof! You’re back at ground zero.

Mama always said "If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?"

When your mom or dad asked you this question, you knew the right answer was "no." But science says our brains don't quite work that way.

An article from the Journal of Neuroscience demonstrated that part of the human brain observes the confidence of those around us when they make their decisions, which in turn influences us. In other words, "someone else's confidence can sway and reassure our choices."

The participants in the study relied on their own experience to make decisions, but their confidence was greatly bolstered when they learned other people had confidently chosen a certain way. When they learned about other people's confidence, they were quicker and bolder in making their choices, demonstrating that our brain is responsive to the attitudes of those around us.

Being influenced by others' confidence isn't new in the investing world. Investor confidence is a prevalent metric often used to assess the market. It's not always the most accurate indicator of performance, but many people make investment decisions based on how other investors feel, often waiting for other, bolder investors to make moves before investing their own money.

How many times have you believed in someone simply because the person was extremely confident? Even if your own experience told you something might not work, it's tempting to listen to someone who has a tremendous amount of confidence in his or her beliefs. It's why so many people hand their money over to financial advisors, instead of taking the time to learn and increase their financial education for themselves.

It's also why people jump on certain "hot" investments without thinking about whether that investment is right for their financial goals.

As an investment technique, responding to others' opinions and attitudes rather than calling on your own experiences and gut feelings, is almost always a one-way ticket into hot water.

What is your gut telling you?

We are influenced by people every day, in every decision. There's nothing we can do to filter out all opinions. But we can be conscious about how we act, and what we base our decisions on.

As always, educating yourself first, and giving yourself the tools to see through other people's attitudes to the facts, will serve you better in the long run. Instead of listening to someone else who is confident, you should start by building up your confidence in yourself first. Increase your knowledge, rely on your experience, consider others' opinions, and then listen to yourself.

So, what’s next?

Sandberg hinted on it when she said that women need “to reach out to other women and ask for support, rather than hide behind false confidence and a sense of needing to be the perfect professional."

In short, we’re often either too proud or too scared to simply ask other successful women for help. No matter the root cause, this inability to simply ask for help is often our demise. Will there be rejection? Sometimes, but not all the time. Ask enough, and you’ll find those “Righteous Women” who do want to help. And you’ll be much better off for it.

Today, start thinking about who you can reach out to for help. Then make a plan to get over your fear or pride and simply ask for that help. Because we all need somebody.

Original publish date: February 16, 2017

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