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The Problem With Women’s Real Potential – The Possibilities Enigma

Written by: Michelle Margaret Marques, Senior Level Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Women of today are the most educated, powerful generations of women in history, yet studies show that we’re less happy, lonelier, and more depressed than we’ve ever been.

Woman sitting on couch at home feeling sad

As many as 50% of us are living alone, and those who do have partners, are having less sex than our grandmothers did astonishingly.

90+ percent of us have an unhealthy relationship with food, our bodies, or both.

Over 20% of women are on antidepressants, and that's without counting those of us who feel unhappy and unfulfilled that are not on antidepressants.

6 out of 10 women experience overwhelming financial stress, and many to the point where they can’t sleep at night. Not sleeping is the number 1 cause of chronic illness.

And even though we are starting businesses at higher rates, a staggering 95% of us never break through the six-figure barrier or go on to have the larger impact we want to have or make the contributions we desire to make.

The problem is women’s real potential, and the realm of exponential results is outside of our current self-concept. We cannot even imagine creating, having, or receiving them.

These hidden barriers act as an “inner glass ceiling” that makes it impossible for women to succeed in creating an outcome that doesn’t line up with their own current internal “set-point.”

80% of what shapes women's expectations come from internal and invisible beliefs about themselves, others, and the possibilities for their life, rather than from external circumstances.

This set-point is an unconscious set of core beliefs that create her self-concept or “old stories” about who she is, who others are, and the possibilities for her life in the area where she is most stuck.

These, in turn, shape her behaviours, patterns, choices, expectations, decisions, and development of skills and capacities (or lack thereof) and the structures in her life. Inside these “old stories,” she is making choices and taking actions that create evidence for her truth without even realising it. Only by breaking through this “inner glass ceiling,” can women have the power to create their new story.

We must work with women to directly address and raise their “set point” otherwise no amount of action-taking will create exponential results.

A woman can't increase her earning power if she is carrying an old story that she’s not good enough.

She can’t transform her health and become radiant, vital, and alive on top of a belief that other people’s needs have a higher priority than her own.

She can’t attract great love on top of a belief that she’s not lovable.

Women more than anybody have three core shadow beliefs that live innately inside of us, I’m not good enough, I’m not lovable and I’m not worthy, another form of I’m not good enough. It’s not about hating it; it’s about embracing it and asking yourself:

Why do I have this? How do we feel worthy enough? How do we feel strong enough? We have been born with so many gifts that have been so suppressed. That we can’t allow our real selves and if we can’t allow the dark to exist, then we can’t allow the light.

Although there are three innate core beliefs that all women live with inside. There are, however, twenty-one core patterns that hold women back, and each one has a very specific corresponding series of habits, patterns, expectations, and behaviours that are the root cause of women’s blocks. Women are held back by invisible barriers that severely limit them from being in touch with their real potential.

This is what I call The Potential Enigma” and certainly explains my own experience. I have begun to identify it in my work with women, so I asked this question:

Why is it that so many women feel so powerful and yet powerless to create the things we’re now most desiring?

Women will aim way lower than their actual possibilities.

The research shows that women’s expectations for themselves and their lives are 50% lower than those of men with the same abilities and qualifications, and it’s even lower for women of colour.

Women are also held back by what Claire Zammit calls the “Ambition Penalty”.

The research also shows that women who are ambitious and reach higher are judged as being less likable. Women underestimate their own competence, downplay their achievements, and are hesitant to be seen as overly ambitious. They have a tremendous fear of being judged for reaching higher, as well as a fear of failure, which results in them disconnecting further still from their natural aspirations and impulses.

The good news is that finally, women are now feeling the “Self-Actualization Impulse” that has had their values, priorities, and aspirations radically shift beyond the realm of achievement alone.

Huge things are happening for women.

Women’s rise to power has resulted in women’s values, priorities, unique challenges, and opportunities shifting dramatically. Women no longer simply want to achieve traditional perceptions of success, and they certainly don't want to return to traditional roles. Or strive for the illusion of work/life balance by combing the two. Millions of women desire something much more.

Women want to achieve more than success, they want to cultivate their higher potentials, which they have difficulty expressing, such as the desire to:

Discover her higher purpose

Unleash her creativity

Create a prosperous livelihood aligned with her values

Create growth-oriented relationships she adores being part of

Become visible, seen, and known by the people she values and wants to help the most

Deepen her spiritual connection

Cultivate her body confidence and radiant wellbeing

Have an impact and make a difference in the world with her gifts.

Such higher potentials are so often outside of our current self-concepts and set-points. Not only is it difficult to name these deeper potentials, but we are also often in conflict with the priorities that we currently identify, making it challenging to articulate or identify our deepest desires. Female clients come to work with me because they have reached a point where the risk, energy, and pain required to change is less than the pain of staying where they are, not simply to improve themselves.

Female clients reach out at a point where their struggle has become somewhat extreme in the area that they are seeking my help with.

The research shows that when women and girls are challenged, they make “shame-based” meaning about themselves 80% more than men and boys do.

Shame-based meaning misattributes the struggle a person is having and is seen as a struggle with their character or identity, they unconsciously interpret challenges as character failure.

For example, “I struggle with money” is not seen as a lack of financial management skills but instead is interpreted as being because “who I am is not good enough.”

“I struggle with love” is seen as “who I am is not loveable”, and I struggle with weight as “who I am is unworthy”.

Why is this problematic?

When shame-based meanings are made by women we get anchored into “fixed mindsets” that disconnect us from the other parts of ourselves that are powerful, creative, and resourceful.

I often see female clients show up as way more hopeless, helpless, powerless, and radically less competent than she is in other areas of her life. This is the root cause of the struggle she is having that is deeper than the problem she’s describing, she’s unable to locate her power, creativity, and resources in the area in which she struggles.

I've also witnessed women lack self-awareness of the extent of their absolute brilliance. As well as their own possibilities, capacity, competence, and gifts, and will generally underrepresent their achievements due to the Possibilities Enigma.

In addition, women can also de-authorise their authority in relationships with others who they perceive to have a higher status (including me since I am “the expert” who they’ve hired to help them). In the face of experts, women give away their own inner authority way more than men do, women are trained to be humble to authority.

In conclusion, you can't get incredible results unless you reconnect with your brilliance, your inner resources, and the powerful woman that you are in all aspects of your life. I recommend that you authorise yourself as the “powerful woman you are. Harness your power and possibilities and then create your life from that place it makes progress exponentially greater.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Michelle Margaret Marques, Senior Level Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Michelle is an author, leader, change consultant, mindset expert, thinking partner, and special advisor to clients who play a big game and are serious about creating a huge impact in the world. Her clients include leaders who are led by their integrity, vision, and purpose. Her bold, fierce approach to coaching supports the kind of clients whom you may not believe would need to change their thinking.



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