How patriarchy teaches you to talk yourself out of what you want

Patricia Gestoso delivering a talk in front of a screen that reads: Career vs Patriarchal version. Under career, there is a workflow that starts with goal, plan, people, implement, and ends with achieve. Under the patriarchal version, the workflow starts with play small, magnify obstables, do one test, judge ourselves, and ends with conform.

In May, I delivered a talk to the University of Manchester at the EDIA Colloquium “Women in Science, Industry and Academia”.

The title of the talk was How Patriarchy fosters your Perfectionism, Self-criticism and Self-doubt and what you can do about it”. To my surprise – and maybe yours – the title was not suggested by me but by the organisers of the event after reading my posts.

During the keynote, I shared with the audience how I talked myself out of launching my website focused on the intersection between technology and DEI for three years.

Reasons I gave myself:

Lack of role models: I hadn’t met yet anybody that worked in tech – I was senior manager of support at the time – and had a personal blog about diversity, inclusion, and equity.

Perfectionism: As a non-native English speaker, I catastrophised about the possibility to have a typo on the website or that my grammar may not be flawless.

Validation: The patriarchal structures had educated me that my worth was dependent on validation from others. I was concerned that people in my network and at work would see me as “less” for having a blog.

Credibility: I have a Ph.D. in Computational Chemistry but not in HR or DEI. At the time, I felt my lived experiences as well as my work advocating and spearheading diversity and inclusion initiatives weren’t “enough” to grant me permission to write a blog about DEI.

How did I overcome all those obstacles? I’d love to tell you that I “cured” myself by repeating in my head “Fake it until you make it” or “Be confident”. But it was not the case.

I had to do the work against two powerful enemies.

The first was my brain, that’s wired for survival and hates anything new. My brain knows me well so it would always throw me “thoughts” to discourage me to pursue a stretching goal.

The second was patriarchy, which is an even mightier adversary. Through the years, it has built for me a big encyclopaedia called “Good girl rules for Patricia”.  In it, it’s carefully detailed the very few things I’m allowed to think, feel, and do and all the other things I can’t even dream about because “good girls don’t do that”.

Among the patriarchal rules that are extremely successful at minimising women and people from underrepresented groups is the idea of the “role model”. It’s the perfect self-fulfilling prophecy.

Take women in tech.

Society says “Women need more role models in STEM”. That causes women to think that they need a role model to have a career in tech. And if they don’t find it, they abandon the idea because “you can’t be what you cannot see”. Not only that, if you’re indeed a woman in tech that has succeeded, society imposes on you the “obligation” to act as a role model on top of your full-time job. This can go all the way from agreeing to be the company’s speaker at STEM events to sponsoring the female employee network. All that whilst the men around you prioritise their careers.

How convenient, isn’t it?

That’s the reason that I told the audience that instead they should cherish the opportunities when they don’t have a role model. That means they are creating original work. That means they are trailblazers!

Moreover, I invited them to think about being role models themselves and have impossible goals. In my case, I want to be a role model of what’s possible for an immigrant woman in tech.

In the end, I shared with the audience a tip and a quote

The tip is that you need to learn how to move whilst feeling fear. There is no “imposter syndrome” vaccine. Fear will always be there when you attempt greatness, when you disrupt the status quo. The trick is to acknowledge it and explore the techniques that will suit you to still go ahead in spite of the discomfort.

The quote is

“If someone is unhappy with your life, it shouldn’t be you”

Brooke Castillo, Life Coach School

BACK TO YOU: How are you talking yourself out of doing what you want?


Do you want to get rid of chapters in the “good girl” encyclopaedia that patriarchy has written for you? Book a strategy session with me to explore how coaching can help you to become your own version of success.

1 thought on “How patriarchy teaches you to talk yourself out of what you want

  1. Pingback: Mid-year review 2023: Savouring my DEI wins in a world not made for me - Patricia Gestoso

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