For women fighting to earn a seat at the table among the leaders of their industries, the external barriers appear to be never ending. However, as a woman who set her sights on the success and power found on the other side of the glass ceiling, I have been unknowingly ignoring a far greater danger that has kept me from reaching my goals and standing in my true potential.

We are all too familiar with the term “the glass ceiling” which refers to the external barriers that have been preventing women from securing high-level positions of power for decades. However, the symbolic “glass ledge” refers to the internal battles, or self-imposed glass ceilings, that distort our beliefs about who we are and what we can accomplish. In my first ever book, The Glass Ledge, I share my experience navigating self-inflicted barriers, while exploring the many ways other women can easily find themselves in the same self-destructing predicament.

For me, the road to shattering glass ceilings left me teetering on the edge of my own personal glass ledge as I fell victim to internalized oppression and self-sabotage. After my company, SWAAY, suffered a major setback due to the loss of a life-changing investment, my life was flipped upside down as I was forced to reprioritize my strategy for recovering from this devastating fall. I had officially hit rock bottom: I was in a lot of debt, broke, unemployed, and battling severe anxiety disorder. Despite having a range of diverse experience in business, pageantry and STEM as safer options to reroute my career, I found myself unable to give up on the company I had built from the ground up or my life’s mission that inspired it all.

Diving deeper into a state of self-reflection, my initial instinct was to blame society and the external circumstances I had to go through as a female founder: sexism, sexual harrassment, pageant bias, lack of support and resources, etc… But at this point I also began paying attention to the voices within me, voices I’d internalized, which trumpeted patriarchy, xenophobia, and women’s inferiority, voices that actually led me to believe I wasn’t good enough and wasn’t meant for greatness, which led me to act in ways that were detrimental to my self-interest. 

These voices were to be expected. After all, women do work twice as hard in a system that isn’t designed for our advancement – and we have all the statistics and research to prove it. But while reflecting on my own shortcomings and journaling my thoughts, my perspective began to shift from ‘things should be different’ to ‘what can I do differently for myself’.

I realized that in order for me to get back up on my feet and fight for my business and for the life that inspires me, I would have to first turn inwardly to dismantle my limiting belief system and eliminate the self-defeating behaviors that had been holding me back. 

“It took me years to recognize that while external barriers do exist, my biggest barrier has been my own flawed self-worth. I wore down, I burned out, I failed, I went broke, my mascara ran and ran out, but ultimately I came out the other side with a different perspective on success, one that aligns me with living my own truth rather than falling victim to expectations set by the outside world.”

I confide in my book, the glass ledge

Having committed myself to reshaping my internal dialogue to rewrite my narrative, I once again took the reins in building myself and my company back up better than ever before. Although the work was painful and tireless, I successfully accomplished my goal of attaining financial freedom and living a more meaningful life while reveling in the success of my company, as the self-publishing platform now reaches more than two million women. After having successfully made it out on the other side, I was determined to share the many lessons in hopes that all women can change their own stories faster than the outside world can change for us. 

I carefully designed my book to serve as a disruptive guide for curing self-sabotage and building your self-awareness by exploring 10 common themes that women most often struggle with such as likeability, conflict, confidence and more. Each chapter is organized to address these nuanced themes in the order that they often occur, providing stories from high profile women, academic and scientific research, as well as tips and exercises that will transform teachings into actionable steps forward. Not only do I want women to ask themselves the difficult, yet necessary, questions in order to call to the surface their uncomfortable inner truths, but I also wanted women to regain control of their internal narratives rather than allowing preconceived societal expectations to define their limits.

Unlike the act of shattering through glass ceilings, my mission has been to equip women with the tools and information needed to master the balancing act of standing firmly on the glass ledge or gently stepping off it entirely—but what does this mean? There is a very clear distinction between balancing on and tumbling right over the edge. When women are tripping over the glass ledge, they have lost control over their paths and retreat into familiar feelings of fear, panic and hopelessness. However, balancing upon the ledge is achieved when women begin to break free from self-deprecating behaviors and thoughts by acting from a place of self-assurance.

Although I recognize that every woman’s story is different-and their barriers all the more- there is only strength to be gained from swaying our narratives without constant blame as we approach the glass ledge with a clear mind and steady feet. 


  • Iman Oubou

    Author of The Glass Ledge, Founder and CEO

    SWAAY Media

    Iman Oubou is an award-winning entrepreneur, author, published scientist and former beauty queen (Miss New York US 2015 and 2nd Runner Up at the 2015 Miss United States pageant) on a mission to democratize publishing using the power of A.I. Through her diverse experience in business, pageantry and STEM, Iman noticed gender disparities in the workforce and an omnipresent bias across printed and digital media representation of women which inspired her to initially launch SWAAY in 2017 as a mediatech platform providing content creation support and editorial tools to underrepresented voices and thought leaders. Over the years, SWAAY has steadily evolved into launching the first A.I. powered end-to-end writing tool and publishing solution that supports creators through the entirety of the content creation flow. Her podcast, Women Who SWAAY, which was syndicated by media conglomerate, Westwood One, was number 2 on iTunes, and was ranked in the top 5 best podcasts for women entrepreneurs by Inc. Magazine. Iman has also recently written and published her first book, The Glass Ledge: How to breakthrough self-sabotage, embrace your power, and create your success (available at all retailers including Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Target, Walmart, etc...).