The Corporate Ladder Illusion: The High-Powered Woman's Journey to Breaking Free and Finding Her Own Path

Have you found yourself on a predetermined path, following the expectations laid out for you in a certain career? Maybe you've experienced the pressure to attend a top business school or pursue only certain jobs deemed legitimate. It's not uncommon for high-caliber, high-powered women in the corporate world to face these challenges. In my recent conversation with Jessica Lackey, for The Driven Woman Entrepreneur Podcast, she shared her journey of deconstructing her predetermined path and finding one that aligns with her authentic self.


Lackey's story begins a decade ago when she realized that consulting was not her true calling. However, she felt trapped as there were limited options seen as legitimate after leaving such a prestigious field. Lackey moved from consulting to working for one company, and hoped that a smaller city could provide relief. Instead, she found herself caught in the relentless demands of her job at Nike, where she was often put under challenging roles, even earning a 15% pay raise for one lateral move because it was considered the equivalent of  "combat pay."


As a high achiever, Lackey initially excelled in her role, using her giftedness to keep up with the demands. But eventually, she hit a wall and realized that something was not right in her body. She found herself breaking down multiple times in her boss's office. Despite attempts to slow down, she found herself back on the same path she was in consulting, a path that was leading to burnout – a path she no longer desired. Lackey observed that the women at the next level in her industry had stay-at-home husbands, while there were no single people at that level due to the demanding nature of the job.


In this interview, I delve into the concept of identity and how it shapes our lives. I believe that children have no identity other than what adults tell them until they form their own self-concept. Many high-functioning individuals, like Jessica and me, tend to follow a set path without realizing the missing elements in their own lives. They often prioritize meeting the expectations of others while neglecting their own needs.


One key aspect highlighted throughout the episode is the importance of trusting our instincts and being true to ourselves. Lackey discovered that hiding parts of herself for a long time led to discomfort, anxiety, and depression. Only by embracing her authentic self did she find a sense of fulfillment and alignment. Being authentic and genuine to oneself feels good – it's as simple as that.


Another intriguing aspect of this episode is the exploration of alternative healing modalities. Both I and Lackey share an interest in ancient teachings, such as the Buddha Dharma. Sometimes the most effective solutions have been around for thousands of years. Lackey's experience in Portland, Oregon was instrumental in her healing journey. In a city where holistic modalities are normalized, she was open to trying practices like energy healing, Tarot readings, and holistic nutrition certification based on Chinese medicine. These modalities, along with life coaching, helped her clear energetic blockages, connect with her body, and realign her values.


Lackey's story also touches on the challenges faced during the pandemic. Working from home allowed her to reflect on her career and realize that she no longer wanted to be a sacrificial lamb in her job. Breaking away from the pressure to please others, she made the courageous decision to leave on her own terms rather than waiting to be fired for speaking her mind.


Throughout the episode, the notion of impostor syndrome and rejection sensitivity arises. Many high achievers, like Lackey and I, have struggled with these feelings throughout their lives. But we emphasize the importance of questioning those knee-jerk reflexes of self-doubt and seeking alternative explanations. Learning to trust oneself and others is a vital part of the journey toward authenticity. Building something authentic requires taking off the mask and having the courage to be true to oneself. Lackey's story is a testament to the power of recognizing and reevaluating our personal values, even if it means making choices that may not maximize wealth or sustainability in the traditional sense.


In conclusion, Jessica Lackey's journey of deconstructing her identity is a powerful reminder that there is more to life than following the predetermined paths society sets for us. Stepping off the hamster wheel of toxic productivity and reconnecting with our true selves can lead to a more fulfilling, authentic life. So, if you've been questioning your own path or feeling trapped in a cycle that doesn't align with your values and potential, it may be time to listen to that inner voice and embark on your own journey of self-discovery.


Feel free to DM me on Linked In or IG @coachdiannwingert or send me an email at [email protected]. I’d love to hear your thoughts! If you’d like to hear the full episode on The Driven Woman Entrepreneur Podcast, you can do that here:


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