Unleashing the power of sisterhood
“We are not held back by the love we didn’t receive in the past, but by the love we’re not extending in the present.” ― Marianne Williamson
I recently spoke at a girls empowerment conference to a group of three hundred ten to thirteen-year-olds. As I was waiting to go on stage, I overheard a small group of four young girls talking about their day. One of them was really on fire after learning about civil engineering, and she was inspired to share her career dreams with the others. I could see her face quickly shift from a state of open excitement and joy to one of embarrassment and withdrawal as the other girls subtly expressed their discomfort at seeing their young friend so clearly own and express her personal power. And just yesterday a successful author and dear friend poured out her heart to me, sharing through tears how a long-time mentor was suddenly threatened by her success and was now “shutting her out,” and challenging her very right to be seen and heard.
This is so not ok. Not on any level. Not ever. And it needs to end once and for all.
Growing up, I don’t specifically recall being around women who modeled true “sisterhood” for me. But, when I was in my late twenties, I took a communications/leadership course with a woman who ended up being a life-long mentor to me. She modeled some beautiful ways to “be,” but most importantly she challenged me to stop playing small and she held an oceanic space for me to blossom into the fullest expression of who I am. And slowly, I learned to do this, not alone, but with many incredible women by my side.
Today, as a wife, mother, business owner, mentor and community activist, moving in the world with the support of my sisters, is the only way I know how to be.
What does sisterhood mean to me? It’s a way of being with other women—both young and old— where I:
-Hold the highest and best for them and see them as their “future selves”—especially when they’re going through a rough time
-Encourage vulnerability and authenticity in our relationship and communication (I’m a “get real or go home,” kind of woman!)
-Practice forgiveness (with myself) and have the humility and courage to initiate tough, but necessary conversations when appropriate
-Truly accept them exactly where they are right now and mean it when I say, “come as you are”
-Allow my sisters and myself to show up in our relationship “warts and all,” and fully exhale (unbuttoning the top button of my jeans helps here!)
-Derive joy and exhilaration from sharing my sisters’ wisdom/gifts with others and delight in seeing them shine big and bright
-State my needs AND ask them on a regular basis, “How can I support you?” and really mean it!
-Freely share my successes and don’t feel I need to shrink or dim my presence when I’m with them
-Enjoy reciprocity—giving and receiving in equal measure and serving my sisters in a way that “feeds me rather than drains me”
-Invite in a level of intimacy—with a chosen few—that allows me to share the deepest parts of myself
-Am willing to lovingly acknowledge what’s not being said or seen—even at the cost of having someone not like me
-See their innate worthiness and remind them that “their ordinary self is enough” (thanks Carol)
One fall I led a week-long self-renewal retreat for women at the Omega Institute in upstate New York and heard–as I always do at our retreats–“I was so amazed at how comfortable I felt in this group …how quickly we dropped into “real, heartfelt” conversation …how healing it was to have dialogue with such depth…how powerful it was to be with other women and to feel so supported.” And, “I have never experienced anything like this; I didn’t even know being with other women in this way was possible!”
I really took these words to heart. For many, this IS a new way of being with other women. It’s a courageous path that requires us to practice extreme self care AND fully show up willing to be both seen and heard.
On the last day of that retreat, an author/speaker who had been on campus all week, commented to me how brave I was to have invited these amazing guest teachers to share the spotlight (thank you again dear friends Deb Kern and Deb Roth for sharing your gifts). I looked at her with wonder, not fully understanding what she meant. Then, as her words sank in, I responded, “Hey, we’re all in this together. When I help my sisters shine, we all shine.”
Shine on sisters. Shine on.
Lounging on the hammock at Omega with my dear friends/guest teachers Deb Kern (L) & Deb Roth (R).
-What does sisterhood mean to me? Who in my life models this for me?
-Do I have women in my life that provide a soft place to fall and allow me to show up “warts and all?”
-What would it feel like to interact with other women in a more vulnerable, authentic way?
-What do I perceive as barriers to experiencing a deeper sisterhood in my own life?