Trailblazers are role models, leaders, rule breakers, and humans who experience a full range of emotions. They feel motivated, passionate, and curious. They also feel exhausted, lonely, and afraid. Trailblazers persist through obstacles to make the world a better place for others. It’s one of the traits that draw us to them. After all, who doesn’t love a story of overcoming all odds?
The road to that overcoming does not feel like a Hallmark movie when you are neck deep in backlash. Like other disruptors, I used to live in a persistent ebb and flow of confidence and fear. I spent years steeped in self-censorship and self-sabotage while trying to be a brave leader. It was the backlash whiplash.
That pattern became less intense when I adopted three specific mind shifts that I learned from my own role models.
Backlash is a metric. It measures the edges of societal norms, power, and success. Backlash is a way to analyze the landscape of the workplace, relationships, inequities, and leadership strategies. It’s an opportunity to assess, process, and take action. Does your boss tell you that you take up too much space? Did someone cancel you on social media because you shared an opinion? Were you overlooked for a promotion? It’s all data that inform your next steps.
Backlash isn’t about you. It is an expression of someone’s fear of you and your power to make a change. It is an adverse reaction to you because you are a trailblazer who challenges the status quo or does not subscribe to expected behavior. Ultimately, the backlash is also the effort to push disruptors back into assigned roles because the dominant group feels uncomfortable. It is intended as a form of silencing and an object lesson to others about what could happen to them if they stepped out of line. And, while it’s directed at you, it’s not about you. It’s about the fragility of others.
Backlash is an initiation. It is a sign of your success because trailblazers, by nature, disrupt the old rules to make a way for equity and expansion. There wouldn’t be any backlash if you weren’t making an impact. Ask any trailblazer and they will tell you a story about job loss, harassment, relationship ruptures, and paralyzing self-doubt. They will also tell you about a moment when they chose to persevere instead of giving up that became a powerful transformation into their own authority. They built self-trust and deepened their authentic selves. They found courage to become a differently empowered version of themselves. The challenge became their initiation into excellence.
Set aside the burden of someone else’s reaction to your liberatory practices. Imagine a clear pane of glass between you and the backlash. That glass catches all the nonsense coming your way so that you can discern your next steps from a healthy distance. You deserve to feel free to be your trailblazing self.
Check out examples of trailblazing women around the world countering backlash. https://giwps.georgetown.edu/nevertheless-she-persisted-countering-backlash-to-womens-progress/