Shine On! You are a Superstar!


A study published  in Self & Identity Magazine in May of 2011, claims that “stereotype threat can vary in source, with targets being threatened at the individual and/or group level.” What that means is that a preconceived notion of a threat to someone’s reputation, particularly a woman, can lead to self-sabotaging. To prove this, the psychologists performed an experiment: They gave groups of men and women a math test. The scientists allowed them to use either their real or a fictitious name. The results were quite puzzling. But ultimately, if you are woman, you may understand why the women who used a fictitious name scored higher, than the ones using their real name. While men were not affected one bit. They could care less, if someone would think less of them. Yes, it’s exactly about that! The findings suggested that women

stereotypet threat graphSo, think about it, if all women perform their daily tasks under their real names, and their real reputation is at stake, they perform probably at only 50 percent of their real capacity. Why? Because they think less of themselves, and are afraid that if they make a mistake, the rest of the world will see them for who they think they are, and what they think they can do…All the while, putting triple the effort to perform the task at their best, to keep their reputation in tact, to overcome the fear of making a mistake, and ultimately, to persuade themselves that they are good enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, popular enough, successful enough.. and more…


stereotype threat 2






This takes me to another example. I was recently invited to an evening of mentoring by successful women in marketing. The roaster boasted names of Vice Presidents, Corporate General Managers and CEO/ Entrepreneurs of Fortune 100 companies, they were all women. I thought what a blessing for everyone invited, to learn from women who have made it in the business and in their personal lives and have found that golden coveted work-life balance (what a myth!). I’ll spare the details of overbooked, under-seated, overpriced, under-delivered event, and just lament on the speeches I heard


.Stop-Sexism-Photoxpress_1924891-225x300 I entered mid-speech of the first speaker and heard “I don’t give out Kleenex in my office, if you are gonna cry, go cry in the bathroom like I do, cause I don’t get the special treatment by the CEO (man) when I’m in his office…. So you won’t get it from me because you are a woman.” Ok, fair.. It’s unprofessional to cry. But let’s dissect that incident. Say, the successful VP (woman) has a big personal crisis and has to deliver this to her CEO (man) and God forbid! can’t hold her tears…. What do you think would happen? What happens when a woman cries at home to her husband, or father, or brother, or boyfriend? Guys freak out. They don’t know what to do when women cry. They are stripped of their armor. They can’t be mean (usually! Unless they are violent offenders), they can’t continue on the track that they were.. they usually would try to find a way to awkwardly console you, and pretty much agree with whatever it is that you want, because they just want you to stop crying and make them feel so inadequate..












As a matter of fact, men are in general so taken off track when they communicate with women, that it’s a miracle so much work gets done in this world. The study was published in Experimental Social Psychology and it concluded that male cognitive performance significantly declined after men communicated with women, even online.. even if they were anticipating communication with a woman… even if they didn’t like her.. In other words, men are dumber around women, period.





Now rewind to our “tough iron lady-like” VP of Marketing. How disingenuous of her to promote this “tough-love” for women employees. Then she goes on to deliver the kicker of the speech: “Women employees have to be treated harder than the men, because they need to perform twice as much and better than any man on my team to defend the position that I’m in on behalf of all women.”





Well that’s enlightening….  So much for women helping women break the glass ceiling!





Wait, wasn’t it already proven that women perform better in the same positions as men, and oh, btw, are paid way.. way less.  So let me get this straight Madame “Thatcher,” not only will the women working for you drive themselves over the edge to over-perform to keep their reputation, but now you will pile up the guilt-tripping for the entire female earthling population on them, cause they don’t have enough on their plate already. Oh and speaking of plate, they are also thinking what will be for dinner tonight, and how will it cook itself, when they’ll have to work on the extra homework you came up with for them so that you can “stick it to the Man” and take all the credit for it. How will they excel?





I took a break. Got outside. Got a bottled water. Stared at it, thinking, I shouldn’t be drinking out of plastic, so not healthy and eco friendly. Yet took another sip and went back for some more “enlightenment.”





Next was a perky mother of two who landed the job of her dreams that she made possible by creating an elaborate excel sheet/ turned powerpoint/ turned flashcard/turned… aahgrh forget it. It was all about math, graphing your interests, rating your priorities from 1 to 10, extrapolating from them, going through a 12 step program (?!), defining (graphically) areas of interests, adding and subtracting, then dividing them by the coefficient of the “non-negotiables” arriving at a detailed map for navigating an elaborate and speedy drive up the corporate ladder, all the way to the top. Then she went on to quickly mention that before her big career jump, she consistently met with several management members (men) whom she had identified as her mentors.





I believe I lost her on slide 9, and continued observing the young college graduates who were taking copious notes or holding their smartphones with the voice recorder feature on. They really believed that by following her immaculate formula for success, it would happen for all of them. But who am I to shatter their dreams and to stop them from believing that “if someone like her did it that way, if I follow all the steps to the dot, there is no way it would not happen to me as well.” There is certainly a degree of charm and hopefulness in naiveté.





What I am taking a stand here against, is not the mentoring of young women, nor is it the fact that women should work harder, and they do.





What I object and lament about, is that deceitful and hypocritical sugarcoated bitter pill that women like this, hand to young women with a smile, and tell them to swallow it and everything will be all right.





No, it won’t be, because what you failed to tell them is that there is no magic formula that would work for everyone the exact same way it worked for you. What this is, is a witch’s brew that would make them work harder on something they already are great at, but they’ll overkill it in an attempt to outdo anyone who may be a potential competition (read another woman), create value-added relationships (read: if the person can help them excel, then they will be friends. anyone who doesn’t fit that column in the equation falls to the side), and last but not least if their master grand plan to follow the magic success formula doesn’t take them to the top, they will resort to either giving up all together and losing every ounce of self confidence they gained in college. Or, they will continue the way up even more ruthlessly and will then stand in front of other young bright-eyed hopefuls, and tell them another fairy tale.





Well, who can argue with these “values” instilled in young women? Trample your competition, create every intrigue, gossip, derogatory tweet known to man to discredit the other women. The weak will give in, the strong will push back, but then you just pull out the bigger guns.. That’s how it’s done, right? At least on “The Bachelor” or on “The Real Housewives..”  They are learning from a young age. The lingo, the drama, the gestures.





Woman in a rowing boat

Woman in a rowing boat (Photo credit: National Media Museum)


What we need is not another personal experience, formula, or biography, but strong girls, who will make strong confident and unwavering women, who will make their own equations, weave their own tapestries, write their own stories of success. What we need is not be tougher on girls but actually to engage them on their most creative level, giving them responsibilities and letting them soar higher and larger than life. Because what they each have is unique and enlightening,  and only through nurturing will it come to life and grow to its true potential.





Or, what Maryanne Williamson said:





Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.





Show a girl today that she’s perfect the way she is and she will illuminate your world.. 
















There are certain days when the light comes and goes. Clouds cover the sun, only to open up for a second and release a bright sliver of blinding sunshine… On days like this, it’s impossible not to appreciate the transient nature of everything material. The moving shadows of the clouds on the river’s surface, the grass is a deeper emerald, and the branches of the trees are more prominent.
And then you blink, and everything has changed again. It’s not better, it’s not worse, it’s just different and we accept it. Our lives sometimes experience the same blink of an eye changes. And it’s nothing that nature doesn’t experience every second of its existence. So why is it so hard for us to accept change as the constant, and permanence as the variable.





Zenocratic Destinations: Tuscany’s Castello di Casole


Sun streamed into the beautiful room, which looked like the lair of some Tuscan aristocrat with soft terra cotta tile floors, massive chestnut beams overhead and powder blue walls. With the windows open, the autumn air induced a languor, so I settled into the plump sofa upholstered in nightshade velvet with another cup of tea and read the morning papers. The sleigh-shaped extralong bath tub in front of the window guaranteed we’d be getting off to a seriously slow start on this Saturday morning. Sure, there was a tempting new restaurant I’d heard about in Sienna, and friends in Florence, plus several good museum shows, but none of this was going to happen, because I’d very quickly figured out that the best thing to do at the just-opened 41-room Castello di Casoleresort is to rusticate.


To be sure, even if you eat elsewhere in Tuscany, there are lots of things to do besides have a meal on this 4,200-acre, newly renovated estate, the largest privately owned one in in the region. Paddle around the gorgeous heated infinity pool, swoon in the spa or grunt in the gym. You can also hike, bike, learn to make pizza, hunt wild boar or opt for a tutored tasting from the brilliant winemaker Paolo Caciorgna, who manages the estate’s 88 acres of vineyards and whose organic label Dodici, a blend of merlot, cabernet and petit verdot, is one of the more suave and original Tuscans I’ve tasted. Or you can just idle, which is what we did without actually making a decision, and ultimately the reason why this hotel is such a great addition to any tour of Tuscany, because the one thing everyone always forgets to include is a day or two to take it easy. Although we did scoot off to the excellent Osteria del Borgo in the nearby hilltop hamlet of Mensano for some pappardelle ragù di cinghiale one day, and went on several wonderful long walks


What a difference a day makes. The previous afternoon, I was apprehensive to see whatTimbers Resorts, a Colorado-based American time-share company and hotel group, had done with the hilltop hideaway of the late Luchino Visconti, a magnificent property of forest, fields and vineyards. It was almost as if Martha Stewart had been hired to freshen up Versailles. I’ve witnessed some pretty queasy resultswhen eager marketing-driven Americans disembark in the Old World with not just a can-do but a know-better attitude — the sorry sacking of the Italian hotel chain CIGA, now part of Starwood, and Paris Disneyland immediately come to mind.


But no. By spending 35 million euros and working closely with the inspectors of the Belle Arti, the body charged with preserving Italy’s cultural heritage, Timbers Resorts pretty much admirably aced it. During a delightful weekend at the handsome hilltop Castello, which is also the centerpiece of the time-share villa project on the surrounding estate, the only false notes I clocked were the ugly metal shopping-mall-style sign indicating Tosca, the hotel’s gastronomic restaurant, and an overuse of balsamic vinegar, a flat-footed gastronomic flaw that’s oddly more American than Italian, in the same restaurant’s otherwise very good and imaginative cooking. (Try the buckwheat spaghetti Felicetti, a surprisingly good riff on Roman cacio e pepe with the ur-American addition of grilled chicken strips.)


To be sure, I preferred the Castello’s second restaurant, the Pazzia Pizzeria, because it was more in keeping with the rustic chic setting, and the service style throughout the hotel is very North American, since many guests here like the odd mix of deference and intimacy implied by having your waiter orwaitress remember that you always have a soy-milk cappuccino before your egg-white omelet, or some such. One can throw darts at the evolving codes of plutocratic privilege in the 21st century, but the bottom-line reality is that the young staff here, mostly local hires, really are blushingly eager to please; their sincerity originates from the ancestral customs of rural Tuscan hospitality, which protect and honor a stranger, so in the end everyone goes away happy from this very successful aesthetic high-wire act.


Castello di Casole, Località Querceto, Casole d’Elsa, Tuscany, Italy; 011-39-057-796-1508. Suites from about $815.