"I advocate that every woman be a part of a circle and a circle that meets at least once a month, or if you can’t do that, once every two months or every four months. But you have to have a circle, a group of people, women - smart, wise, can-do women - who are in the world doing their work, and you need to meet with them as often as you can, so that they can see what you’re doing, and who you are, and you can see the same. And you can talk to each other about the world and about your lives. In a circle of trust and safety. It’s crucial. It is crucial for our psychological health and our spiritual growth – it’s essential." --Alice Walker
As I get older, I believe more than ever that each of us has a genius talent. My friend Justin can solve problems in a way that creates an air of peace within a hectic situation. My brother knows how to joke around in way that unites a room with ease. My girlfriend Erin is such a powerful listener that without even speaking, you feel understood in her presence.
As for me, I think my genius talent is uniting groups of women for healing and growth.
Since I can remember I've had incredible circles of close girlfriends--from high school, college, the Peace Corps. I never looked for them. They just formed around me. These are powerful ladies whom I still see regularly for weekend get-aways and are always just one inspiring phone call away.
I love my girlfriends so much but I'll be honest that being part of these groups hasn't always been easy for me. Like so many of us, I've let competition and comparison get in the way of the friendship and love that I always wanted to feel. I've held myself apart from this support and beat myself up in the process for not being able to be a better friend.
My guess is that I'm not the only one here. I think there is good reason for why we feel like we need to compete with each other. Although I am not anthropologist (not my genius talent), I still have my theories on why this is. They go a little like this:
1. Way back when, it was harder to find food and good shelter for yourself and your babies. Evolutionarily it was beneficial to get ahead of the other women in the food line. This maybe lead to some pushing and shoving and hurt feelings. Some women were shunned and probably died because of being excluded from the group.
2. As we evolved in our human race, male dominance became the ruling force. This made women more like property than people. Our inferior position made us beholden to the men in our lives who perhaps wanted to keep us subservient. Therefore, we were not given the time, space or independence to invest in female friendships. Pitting women against women is a powerful way for male dominance to continue its reign undisturbed.
3. In this spirit, throughout history, collective female enterprises were often shut down violently. My guess is because they get so powerful so quickly. This scares the people in power and makes them do crazy things. Hello Salem witch trials? The underbelly of the US suffragette movement? Seeing your lady friend burned at the stake or abused by the police probably made engendering strong female bonds feel pretty scary.
4. All of this has affected the way our brains have developed and is still being reinforced through modern mean girl culture. Our collective history makes female circles feel exclusive, illusive and maybe even scary. This understandably blocks our path to move forward into the powerful work of true female support.
A note here. Some girlfriend relationships are decidedly not supportive (read: not really friends) and need to be put aside. I fully support this and think setting these boundaries is essential for your own self care. What I am talking about here are the people you know are your friends yet have a hard time letting in and trusting.
For me, I found that although I prized my awesome network of female circles, I often felt like I wasn't good enough to truly receive the support they offered. I felt like I couldn't be included because I...
...wasn't smart enough, thin enough, funny enough, properly fashionable, pop culture savvy or that didn't have a boyfriend, a girlfriend, kids, a happy childhood or.... (the list could go on).
Yet despite all of this, I kept showing up to the weekend gatherings and choosing to collaborate with my girlfriends to plan yoga retreats. I knew this collective female energy was too good to miss.
Instead of abstaining, I choose to work on my feelings of jealousy and inadequacy by journaling about them, getting coached on them, talking to my girlfriends about them, and sometimes just simply letting myself feel them fully with radical self acceptance.
The result is that I've seen through the huge, blaring untruth that I don't belong. Of course I belong,--I'm there. I've realized that many of my female friendships have played out a projection of how I saw myself. I felt judged and excluded because I didn't value myself and my own truth.
As I'm folded back into my lady friend circles over and over again, I've learned to rest in their deep support. This support washes away the false illusion that I am not enough. My girlfriends have held the space for me to develop real self esteem which provides the basis for me to live my truth in this world. It's been a beautiful process and a challenging one. I most definitely could not have done this healing work alone.
The best part of all is that I get to pay back this support I've received by creating circles for other women to do their healing.
Seasonally, I take 20 women through a 10 week habit-change process. The group work is so cool. We are excited and nervous about meeting the other women who will walk alongside us for this transformation. Despite these feelings, we maintain a strong network of support. This holds all of the feelings of inadequacy, jealousy and fear that arise during any authentic healing journey. As we our held in our hardest feelings, we can truly let go and grow.
I use my genius talent--honed through so many difficult moments in my own history--to hold a safe , inspiring container for each of us to do our work and for us to grown collectively.
Within that fierce love and safety, we discover our true self esteem. It's always been there, of course, yet most of us didn't have the prior support to really see the power of our own light. My main intention in this work and in my life is to help each of us see our light so we can use it to heal others. Nothing else makes sense to me.
Does reading this bring up your own feelings of inadequacy around powerful women? Do you need a supportive environment to work through these blocks? Are you ready to really see your own light and help others with it? If so, then I want you to join my Winter Self Care 101 coaching group.
If something inside of you says yes, then please apply here and make sure to schedule a free 30 minute phone chat with me by clicking through until the last screen. Together we can decide if it will be a good fit. Together we can talk through anything that is keeping you small. Together we can get bigger and brighter and finally feel at home in our world.