Tag Archive for: embodied mindfulness

“Are you sure you can handle that project? It’s quite challenging”, one of your colleagues questions, casting doubt as you volunteered to take on additional responsibilities at work. “I’m not sure if you have the right expertise for that role, my dear” another colleague chimes in.  

Does this scenario sound all too familiar? Sadly, even in 2023, these deeply ingrained gender-based limiting beliefs persist, acting as roadblocks on the path to women’s progress and stifling their full potential. 

In our last blog post, we explored the transformative power of somatics and embodied learning, and the benefits they bring. Today, we dive deep into the challenge of overcoming the limiting beliefs that undermine women’s growth in a professional environment. And here’s the secret weapon we unveil: somatic practices. 

The Persistent Struggles 

It is an unfortunate truth that women continue to face significant barriers solely due to their gender, particularly when they aspire to occupy leadership positions. Demonstrating assertiveness often leads to being unfairly perceived as unlikable or even aggressive. 

Their proposals for process improvement are met with dismissive advice to ‘calm down’ or patronising explanations about why their ideas won’t work—an all-too-familiar occurrence known as ‘mansplaining.’ Additionally, job interviews and promotion discussions become battlegrounds where inappropriate questions about family planning overshadow their qualifications for the role. 

Take, for instance, the discouraging remark my friend received from her manager when she requested a training course to develop herself: “Isn’t it better to focus on your home situation now?”  This occurred two months after her return from maternity leave. 

If you are a woman reading this, I am sure that you, unfortunately, recognise these examples. Whether through personal experiences or stories shared by friends, co-workers, or family members, these examples strike a painful chord for women.

The stereotypes and limiting beliefs about women are not only frustrating, they are hurtful and have a significant impact on women’s mental well-being and self-confidence. 

So, what do we do? Do we just keep our heads down and accept this reality? Do we just shut up and tolerate these stereotypes because then “At least I won’t get criticised because of my gender?”. No, we don’t want that either. 

Breaking Illusions: Beliefs versus Truths 

It’s crucial to recognise that these limiting beliefs are not mere fragile constructs but deeply ingrained assumptions. While they may not represent the truth, their impact on women’s lives cannot be ignored. These beliefs persist within our societal systems, perpetuating the gender pay gap, reinforcing expectations for women to prioritise household responsibilities over career growth, and shaping how women perceive themselves, eroding their confidence and overall well-being. 

When society repeatedly sends the message that women are not deserving or capable, it’s no wonder that some of us begin to internalise these ideas. These societal norms have become so woven into our cultural fabric that we unwittingly absorb them, leading many to develop self-limiting beliefs rooted in these constraining assumptions. 

The Imposter Syndrome Phenomenon 


Now, let’s delve into one of the significant self-limiting beliefs that women often grapple with: the imposter syndrome. Perhaps you can relate to that lingering feeling of being an imposter, even after securing a job or receiving a well-deserved promotion. It’s that nagging thought that somehow you’ve managed to deceive everyone into believing in your competence, while deep down, you fear you lack the necessary knowledge or skills. Here’s the truth: you’re not alone in experiencing this phenomenon. 

The imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern that affects many individuals, where you start to feel like a fraud, regardless of your accomplishments. However, it tends to be particularly prevalent among women who are confronted with the gender-based limiting beliefs in the workplace. This harmful thinking pattern often gives rise to a pervasive sense of self-doubt and a persistent feeling of inadequacy. 

Harnessing the Power of Somatic Practices 


Do you remember our last blog post? We explained that somatic practices pave the way to creating a mind-body connection, enabling you to become more attuned to your physical sensations and their influence on thoughts and emotions. Well, you guessed it: somatic practices are the secret weapon challenging gender-based stereotypes and the feelings of self-doubt they bring. 

Dealing with pent-up stress 

In our pursuit of professional excellence, many have become used to keeping our personal worries to ourselves when entering the workplace. We take our  emotions and we stow them away in the back of our heads, making sure they cannot hinder our professional performance in any way.  

In our society, we have been conditioned to prioritise our cognitive intelligence while neglecting the rich source of wisdom within our own bodies. We have learned to suppress our emotions and hide our vulnerabilities, believing that displaying them in the workplace is a sign of weakness. This is especially true for women; We want to make sure not to provide our colleagues with ANY ammunition that supports women’s supposed emotional frailty. We don’t need to hear any “I TOLD you so’s”. 

But when we let stress build up like that, negative thoughts will grow. How often have all your worries felt so much bigger simply because you were not able to express them? 

What if I told you that tapping into the intelligence of your body—the realm of emotions, sensations, and intuition—could be the key to effectively navigating the challenges that arise in your professional life? 

Let’s consider an example: speaking up and sharing your opinion confidently in meetings. If this proves to be a daunting task, there is a somatic practice that can assist you in reclaiming your voice and taking up space. By engaging in a somatic practice called “centering,” you can connect with your body’s innate wisdom, allowing you to feel grounded, present, and assertive. 

Empowering Confidence 

Somatic practices emphasise and embrace the power and capabilities of our body. Through movement, breathwork or exercises using the body, women can explore and reclaim their power, cultivating a sense of strength, confidence and agency. The engagement with their bodies in such a positive and empowering way, serves as an antidote for women to the impact of hurtful societal norms and stereotypes. 

Amy Cuddy, a prominent voice on the subject, emphasises the critical role of your body and its intelligence when it comes to building confidence in her enlightening TED Talk. Her insights are particularly valuable for women confronting limiting beliefs and the imposter syndrome. 

https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_may_shape_who_you_are/c  

In summary, somatic practices can serve as a guiding light for women facing workplace challenges every day. Caused by hurtful beliefs that are deeply rooted in our society, impeding women’s growth opportunities and fulfilment, and negatively impacting their mental wellbeing. 


Doors Open invites you to embark on a transformative journey of self-discovery and empowerment through somatic coaching. In collaboration with Boudewijn Bertsch, a certified somatic coach with a background in evolutionary biology and neurobiology, we have created the Embodied Leadership Growth Programme – an immersive 7-day in-company experience designed explicitly for women navigating gender-based difficulties in the workplace. No more “You’re too emotional for this project”, or “you should gain more experience if you want to get that promotion”. By the use of somatic practices and embodied learning, this programme equips women with innovative and effective solutions to enhance their leadership.  

Want to know more?

Contact us to find out the specifics the Embodied Leadership Growth Programme. Together, we can shatter the glass ceilings, and embrace a future free from the constraints of limiting beliefs! 

Do you ever find yourself thinking this? For example when you say yes to your manager asking to take on that extra project while you’re barely make your own deadlines? Or when you had the chance to share your opinion in a meeting but decided to stay silent anyways, even when you did have something to say? We all find ourselves doing these things , going along with decisions we don’t really support, or saying “yes” to things we don’t really want to say yes to. And the only person who suffers from these unwanted behaviors, is us. 

Changing your behavior is a tough process. Once certain habits (good or bad) are rooted in your system, it is very difficult to stay away from that pattern. Behaviors are automatic responses in your brain, almost like reflexes. Like driving a car… when you first learn how to drive a car, you need to consciously think about each action you take. Which pedals to press, checking your mirrors, shifting gears, etc. Once you’ve been driving your car for years on end, you don’t even think about these actions anymore: you just do them. 

Do you want to establish sustainable behavioral change? Join us for the Embodied Leadership Retreat

Behaviors are created just like this. In response to repeated behaviors, neural pathways are formed in your brain. The more frequently you repeat a certain action, the stronger the neural pathway will become, making it easier for your brain to send the same signal down that pathway in the future. 

As this all sounds a little too science-y, it might be easier to see your brain as a dense forest, intertwined with many different pathways. At first these paths are overgrown and difficult to navigate. It takes a lot of time and effort to make it to the other end, and you might even get lost along the way.

But the more frequently you travel down a certain path, the clearer it becomes. With enough repetition, you’ll know the path like the back of your hand, and it will become easy to follow. 

When we repeatedly engage in certain actions or thoughts, the neural pathways in our brain strengthen and become more efficient, making it easier to engage in those behaviors in the future. Eventually, these pathways become so well-established that the action or thought becomes automatic, like a well-worn trail in that dense forest. 

Just like it is much easier to follow a familiar path in the forest than it is to follow an unfamiliar new one, it is easier for our brains to engage in familiar behaviors than it is to form new ones. 

For example, when you’re nervous for a big meeting and you have a smoking habit, it is much easier to have a quick cigarette beforehand to calm the nerves, rather than trying out a 30-minute meditation session you have never tried before. This is why it is so challenging to change certain behaviors: it is like trying to cut a new path through an overgrown forest. 

But we KNOW this, right?  

We KNOW that changing our behavior is hard. We promise ourselves to do things differently each time. This time I will actually say “no” when my colleague asks me to take on a few of his tasks.” But each time we find ourselves in the exact same spot as last time: working hours overtime, thinking to ourselves “If only I had just said “no”…”.  

Why is it so hard for us to break these unwanted behaviors, even when we really really want to? 

Traditionally, when trying to create behavioral change, we focus on intelligence (IQ) and emotion (EQ), and work on these as two separate things. This approach can definitely help you achieve results, but if you really want to make a difference, it won’t be enough.  

That is where somatic practices come into play. 

Somatic practices look at things a little differently. The word ‘somatic’ comes from the ancient Greek ‘Soma’ ( σώμα ), which means body. Somatic theory assumes that you don’t consist of separate parts, but rather that your body, brain and soul are one. And somatic coaching takes your body and its intelligence (BI) as a starting point for creating sustainable change in behavioral patterns. 

For example: remember the last time you had to give a big presentation? You might have known the material by heart (IQ), and you may be passionate enough about the topic to connect with your audience (EQ), but you will still struggle if you’re nervous (BI): your voice will still quaver, your hands will tremble, and you won’t be able to engage your audience as much because of that. 

Your body is much more intelligent than you might think. When looking at the human nervous system , you can see that these neuron connections (the forest pathways we were talking about before), are not only present in the brain, but they are spread out over your whole body. I mean, how often have you had that weird feeling that someone is looking at you? Or the sensation that someone is behind you? 

When you’re under a lot of pressure, like right when you’re about to speak up in an important meeting or before an important presentation, your body is aware of this. You don’t decide to get stressed out, you just are. In these situations you can be fully aware that you’re stressed out and need to calm yourself down. You think to yourself, ‘I know what I want to say’, but it doesn’t seem to help. You’re still trembling, sweating, your voice is all shaky.

Your brain knows that you need to calm down, but your body doesn’t.  

This is why traditional practices – where the mind, emotion, and body are seen as separate elements – don’t work as well as we expect them to when trying to change your behaviour. Somatic coaching, however, still lets the coachee engage in aspects of traditional coaching, but combines it with physical exercises that really make you feel what the different behaviour would be like. This way of learning emphasises the role of the body and the senses in the learning process, instead of solely focusing on intellectual knowledge and information processing.

This approach is called ‘embodied learning’, which recognises that the body plays a crucial role in the way we perceive, process and remember information. 

I think I have made my point very clear that somatic practices and embodied learning are highly beneficial for everyone. It can help you gain the confidence and assertiveness to really tell your boss ‘No’ when you’re asked to take on extra responsibilities when your own work is already piling up. It can improve your communication skills and reduce your anxiety to take up space in important meetings, to help you to finally get your points across.

Do you want to establish sustainable behavioural change? Join us for the Embodied Leadership Retreat