“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 once 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 twelve year-olds 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 NOW.

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)

I just finished leading a week-long self-renewal retreat for women at the Omega Institute in upstate New York and heard–as I always do at these 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!”

This time, 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 the retreat, an author/speaker who had been on campus all week, commented to me how brave I was to have invited all these amazing guest teachers to share the spotlight (thank you again dear friends Deb Kern, Deb Roth and Karena Virginia 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 guest teachers Deb & Deb.

Lounging on the hammock at Omega with my guest teachers Deb Kern (left) and Deb Roth (right).

Sisterhood~Your Journey:
-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?

INVITE: Craving authentic sisterhood and wanting to find your tribe? Join me for two upcoming retreats at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health (MA) or learn more about our global sisterhood of RTA-Certified Facilitators  and empower/support other women in your community!  More here on how to become trained or find a group in your area.

Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance teacher/speaker and Career Strategists president, Renée Peterson Trudeau. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining self-renewal groups based on her award-winning curriculum.  She is the author of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 12 year-old son. More on her background here.




  1. Thank you, Renée, for this lovely reminder. As you well know, I spent 6 years focusing on women’s issues, needs, dreams, goals and accomplishments as the executive editor of Austin Woman magazine (which just celebrated it’s 12th Anniversary!) Melinda, Sam (and now Deb and her team) continue to celebrate, connect, inform, inspire and entertain their readers, in a spirit of cooperation and true support, especially to women starting their own businesses and foundations.

    I’m proud I was able to contribute in that way, as well as thru my experiences in the New York Junior League, countless women’s networking groups, my college sorority alumnae chapter in NYC and pledge class in TX, as well as my all-girl high school (both had big reunions last year!) What I’ve noticed is as we get older and wiser, all the silly stuff (SO high school!) like rivalries, bitchiness, jealousies, gossip, all-around mean-girl stuff seems to fall away, be forgiven (and forgotten) and the deep connections, life experiences and wisdom we’ve gained matter so much more. Too bad we don’t know this in our ’20s! Time to enlighten our youth! (As best we can.)

    • Ah, if only we had known this in our 20’s, but thank God we know this now AND can model this for younger women. Be the change sister. Thanks Mary Anne!

  2. Thank you, Renee. This is a very important topic… I am reminded of what Oprah said one time about how she used to worry about people (and specifically other women) saying, “Who does she think she is?” when someone shines. It’s time for us to teach our daughters and nieces and little sisters and every young woman we can influence to SHINE and MAGNIFY others’ shining!!! I love that you wrote this, thank you for your vulnerability and your Truth. Love you.

    • Thank you Lorie-so true and such an important to reminder to model this for all the young women and girls around us. Amen, shine on sister!

  3. Sweet beautiful Renee – thank you! Your words and wisdom on SISTERHOOD have weighed firmly and positively on my heart and soul over the past few days – and it caused me to remember something I heard recently which said: ‘your light doesn’t shine brighter by snuffing someone else’s out’. I was actually going to write a blog around that theme for the preemie and special needs parents I serve who many times feel like they are being ‘snuffed out’ in many different ways and on many different levels. Few things are more beautiful or powerful than when we lift one another up and allow ourselves to be lifted up as well.

    I am always uplifted and left with a smile on my face either when I see you or when reading your words – this time is no exception. Thank you for being your lovely, transparent, authentic and compassionate self – and for reminding us to SHINE.

    Big hugs,

    • thanks for taking the time to share your wisdom wise Gigi–sending gratitude and light back your way, shine on sister!!