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 tweens 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 recently while attending a networking event, I saw a zealous young marketing consultant get pushed to the periphery of a conversation by more senior consultants –dismissing her very right to be seen and heard!
This is so not ok. Not on any level. Not ever.
Growing up, I don’t recall being around women who modeled true “sisterhood” for me. But when I was in my late twenties, I took a leadership course with a woman who ended up being a life-long sister and mentor to me. Margaret 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 and generosity (with myself) and others and model this freely.
- 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 “truth tell” and 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).
Last month while facilitating a women’s leadership retreat I heard–as I always do at my 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!” (Hear more from women at this retreat and from clients.)
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. Shine on sisters. Shine on.
Sisterhood~take time to explore the following questions this week:
-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?
- Craving authentic community and want to find (or create) your tribe? Learn more about our global sisterhood of RTA-Certified Facilitators and empower/support women in your community! More here on how to become a RTA-Certified Facilitator ($100 off through 3/31!) or locate Personal Renewal Groups in your area.
- Once a year I offer a Texas one-day self-renewal retreat on Mother’s Day weekend (but they sell out quickly!). We just announced our May 11 New Way of Being: Women’s Self-Renewal Retreat (check out our bring-a friend special and reserve your spot today). Learn more.
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance coach/speaker/author and Career Strategists president, Renée Peterson Trudeau. Passionate about helping men and women experience balance through the art/science of self-care, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, US News & World Report and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining self-renewal groups based on her award-winning self-care curriculum. She is the author of three books on life balance including the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 16-year-old son. More on her background here.