• Buffi Neal
  • Don’t be the victim of your own glass ceiling.
Don’t be the victim of your own glass ceiling.
Written by
Buffi Neal
June 2010
Written by
Buffi Neal
June 2010
If you don’t strive to attain what might be unattainable,
you'll never know the limits of your potential.
I believe we all fall victim to our own limitations.

Wikipedia defines Glass Ceiling as:
Ceiling: “a limitation blocking upward advancement”
Glass:"transparent because the limitation is not immediately apparent”
Break the Ceiling
Shatter it, climb up and don’t look down.
Here are 5 steps to help you find that ceiling:
(after all, it’s invisible and you might not even know where you put it!)

1) Pick one aspect of your life that you want to progress or a new goal you feel is unattainable.
(for example: money, job, family, blog, writing, preaching, coaching)
Me: I want to be a published author.
2) Find an example of someone who has achieved your unattainable goal.
Me: There are so many, how can I choose? Ok.. here are two of my favorites. Both of these women are accomplished authors of memoirs.
Sarah Saffian author of Ithaka: A Daughter’s Memoir of Being Found
Elizabeth Gilbert author of Eat, Pray, Love

3) Tell yourself why you CAN'T do what they did.
Me: I can’t be a published author because: I’m not famous. I don’t have a degree in English or writing. I don’t have an agent. I don’t have the financial means for editors or publicist. I’m just a jersey girl, ex computer geek, who knows nothing about publishing a book. Wow… I feel worse now than I did before this exercise.
4) Take off the blindfold, you’ve just found your ceiling.
Me: Ok… All of the reasons stated in #3 are true. I can’t change them. BUT… my ceiling is that I ASSUME these are reasons I won’t get published. If I let these doubts rule me, then I won’t even try, hence the ceiling. If I let my own limitations prevent me from climbing, then one thing is certain, I will never get there.

5) What next?
Seeing clearly is the first step to success. Tune in next week for: How to keep yourself from keeping you back
Now go. Find your ceiling and let us all know about it.
Thanks for stopping by.
Please support me with your honesty.

Take a moment to checkout My Wonderfully Dysfunctional Blog.

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  • Elizabeth Towns

    I have been stuck pounding on the glass ceiling, waiting for someone to magically carve an orb in it so I can gracefully step through. How about today I just bust through and let the splinters shatter around me - it can't hurt, it's an imaginary ceiling. Great post - inspiration in simplicity. Thank you.

  • Sharon Goodier

    Thanks for breaking down the mental algorithm that programs this. I can't wait for installment #2!

  • Sharon Goodier

    #1: becoming a better poet
    #2: women in the She Writes poets group
    #3. I can't because i write too plainly; I read mostly non-fiction; I need to grow more language.
    #4: That's my ceiling -- not reading enough poetry and developing language
    #5: So i should get off my *!*!*! and start watering my language garden with others' poetry

  • Sherrice Thomas

    This is a great post. The proverbial glass ceiling exists in reality AND in our own mind. In most cases, if we overcome the one in our mind, it is a piece of cake to overcome the real one. Your tips are great!

  • Crystal Calhoun

    @Lynne: The "Westerners studying Westerners and then generalizing to the entire planet" tendency is definitely one of the reasons I love modern anthropology (my chosen social science) so much ... It really breaks one of believing in vast generalizations, except when presented with copious evidence that they may be reasonable. But that's a discussion for another thread, I think. ;D

    And glad you like my self-label. ;) I'm stuck at a strange place between "wannabe" and "professional" right now, so it seems appropriate.

  • Crystal, I googled "are men more competitive than women?" (don't you love Google?) and this article cites a study of non-western societies that seems to conclude - and it's still under study - that the culture has more to do with it than innate drive. If you were looking for a lifelong avocation, social science would keep you interested forever! Here's another article that confirms once again that just as soon as we think we know anything about human nature, we find out that what we know is only reflective of western culture: http://www.newsweek.com/2010/07/23/what-s-really-human.html
    PS I love your description of yourself as an in-progress social scientist.

  • Crystal Calhoun

    @Lynne: You have a lot of valuable points, and I do and always will support research into inequalities, whether sex-based, gender-based, age-based, or something else.

    I also wonder, as both an in-progress social scientist and as a woman who owns a business, how women's attitudes toward competition and "being on top" differ — if at all — from men's, in aggregate. Far be it from me to blame women for creating their own glass ceiling (although if enough research showed that we are, I'd have to accept it — as a necessary step on the way to overcoming it!), but I do know that my own (current) attitude toward business success has nothing to do with competition or with making more money than anyone else. My idea of business success has strictly to do with meeting personal goals, not with comparing myself to anyone or being on the top of anyone else's list.

    And again, I may be odd in that. There's also nothing wrong, IMO, with being motivated by numbers or competition, if that's true to one's personality. To each his or her own! But the social scientist in me wants to know if others feel the same way as I do, since that seems like a factor that could potentially contribute to lower percentages of women in the Fortune 500. Of course, I severely doubt that even a widespread occurrence of the perspective I have could be the sole cause of the inequity. I'm sure that behind those statistics are some pretty complex human equations. ;)

  • I understand that this discussion was about breaking through your own self-imposed limits, and that's a great message to remember. I'm a great believer in self-reliance, and a can-do attitude, but if you'll indulge me, I'd like to explain my earlier post.

    When I asked Buffi if she knew the OTHER meaning of "glass ceiling", it was because I wanted to know if she was aware of the way it was used in the 80s, and she told me she absolutely is. That was nice to know.

    But the term is kind of, well, not sacred exactly, but important, to women in another sense. Can I elaborate? Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, women started to climb the corporate ladder with greater success, but then you looked around and noticed they were only getting so far up and then stopping. Was it because women were uninterested? Afraid to compete? Losing ground due to taking time off to have babies? What was the reason women weren't running more big companies?

    As people started to wonder about it, somebody used the term "glass ceiling" to mean that there was an invisible barrier to women becoming CEO, etc. That barrier might not have been intentional; well-meaning male execs might have subconsciously promoted those workers with whom they felt most comfortable (i.e. other men). But it's still happening, according to this report from less than a year ago: http://www.womenonbusiness.com/new-us-women-in-business-statistics-released-by-catalyst/

    And here's why I took the time, and the risk of being seen as preachy with my SheWrites sisters, to write about this: it's still happening. In 2009 only 2.5% (13) of the Fortune 500 companies are run by women. Statistically speaking, I think it's unlikely that the problem is with the women, and my main reason for writing is to raise that issue again. So thanks for listening, and now I'll yield the soapbox.

  • Crystal Calhoun

    Maybe it just proves I'm odd, but I thought the usage of glass ceiling in this post matched up all right with the more traditional usage — possibly because the title specifies "your own glass ceiling," so I knew to start with that we weren't dealing with the usual definition?

    Or maybe it's just that I identify so strongly with the self-imposed glass ceiling, while I've never hit the authority-imposed one.

    In the past few years I've discovered that I unknowingly built a glass ceiling for myself while I was in high school. Silly me, I listened to other people talking about their own glass ceilings, and I believed that because they thought their glass ceilings were real, solid boundaries, there was literally nothing to see beyond them. It figures that even though I questioned almost everything, the things I didn't have enough information on to thoroughly question turned out to be pretty important. (You know how it is when you don't even know enough about a topic to really form effective questions? Yeah. I know how that is NOW. ;))

    Anyway, thanks for bringing this up. It's nice to hear it from other people, since I'm still working to take down my self-created and arbitrary ceilings. :D

  • K. Jayne Cockrill

    Oh, I loved that little exercise. I actually would have answered exactly the same way you did in your example, so you kind of did the work for me. ;-) Okay, I know, I do the work myself. But this was really useful in taking a look at the self sabotaging we do. We can't let ourselves get away with it!

  • Amy Hartl Sherman

    Well-meaning sisters can be part of the "ceiling." Follow your passion, it's a great leader. (Okay, maybe that's getting a little too preachy.)

  • Buffi Neal

    Lynne> Thanks for bringing up the topic – I did wonder how those who knew the term would take the post, but you’re the first to ask.
    Amy> Thank you for the compliment. My sister told me this post was too "preachy", but I posted it anyway because this is what I’m passionate about. You inspire me and I hope to inspire you!
    Thanks for reading.

  • Amy Hartl Sherman

    For what it's worth Buffi, I understood that you understood the original meaning and simply added a new angle for people to use personally for self-motivation. I believe it's brill.

  • Cool. Thanks for clarifying.

  • Buffi Neal

    Lynne > Yes, I know the different meaning well. I worked for 20+ years in a male-dominated field. I was fortunate because I did not experience a "glass ceiling" in my career, but I knew some women that felt it. I started telling myself "Don't be the victim of your own glass ceiling" almost 15 years ago.

    I didn't intend to make light of people who suffer from discrimination. I just feel that the world puts up enough obstacles; I don't need to add some of my own.

    Thanks so much for reading.


  • Um, I don't want to be unsisterly or anything, Buffi, but the term "glass ceiling" has a different meaning for us older broads. You know that, right?

  • Amy Hartl Sherman

    Nicely put. I hope my glass ceiling is ultra thin and will shatter with the slightest provocation. Waiting for the next posting!

  • Very motivational! Thanks.

  • Neasha Clarke

    I loved your blog, it was very inspiring and encouraging to me. Can't wait to check out some of your work.

  • Nicole Alicia

    Excellent post! Just what I needed to hear...I feel the exact same way. WOW! Time to stop preventing myself from actually climbing further.

  • Catherine Dowman

    Oh so true for me, thanks for the push!

  • Great post! thanks for befriending me and following my blog.