Shining & Showing Up
The World of Women
I’ve been wanting to write this particular blog post since before I started the blog and I kept thinking about how to go about it. Several things have fallen into place in a way, that only the universe can do, to give me the boost that I needed to start seriously researching and writing. The first nudge was international women’s day. That day got me thinking about all of the amazing women that had gifted me with their time, energy, and care while I was on my own journey. From my mother, grandmother, sisters, and wonderful friends (who are also my family), to the professors, professionals, and mentors that have touched my life knowingly and sometimes unknowingly. I found myself reflecting on memories when I could’ve taken one path or was determined that one strategy was right for me and another woman intervened and shared the insight that I needed to breathe into my choices in an intentional way. Memories of deep conversations and opportunities offered, a shoulder to cry on, and the voice of reason when I couldn’t be my own. I found myself wanting to shout out to each woman that had been an influence on me. I couldn’t quite find the way to show up in that way so I put it on a back burner to simmer a little.
A second gentle shove from the powers-that-be was the pandemic. As an introvert who needs lots of alone time to grow and truly be me, the pandemic moved me along as a person but it cut me off from a lot of my social supports. Now, a year later, coming out of the pandemic has left me looking around wondering where all my people are. My sister-friends are still with me and I have so many people who would drop everything if I called, but the growth that naturally happens as I move through life had slowed and I find myself thinking about how I need to put time and energy into my existing friendships as well as grow some to feel whole. I’m an idea person and I ask for a lot of feedback from my precious people, constantly. I even like it when they disagree with me or find problems with my ideas because I enjoy a good challenge to stretch my thoughts and perspectives. I’m super curious and other people are like whole universes all to themselves. I want to be part of that as much as possible!
The next nudge was that I find myself more and more able to offer support and opportunities to other women in my life. Whether I know them really well or we’re just meeting for the first time, the want to invest in other women and build a community is something that is really important to me. Those around me can tell you that I am constantly offering ideas and opportunities to others, I want to bring as many people with me as I travel through the world as I can. If I have a chance at something, one of the first things I do is look at who in my circle could benefit from it. I think about who would be interested and how can I build it up for others. It’s clear to me that the idea of a self-made person is a mirage, we all get where we’re going because someone went before us, put in some hard work, and invited someone else along for the ride.
Another nudge was a book that I read early last year by the amazing Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman called Big Friendship. In their book and in their podcast (Call Your Girlfriend) they talk about something called Shine Theory. This theory of women’s friendships and relationships got me all excited way back when. The idea centers around the value of an investment in other women, lifting others up, not seeing other women as competition but as mentors and partners, and putting the required work into building strong bonds that move us along in life and allow us to do the same for others. The authors describe Shine Theory as “an investment, over the long term, in helping a friend be their best – and relying on their help in return.” There’s nothing like an empowering relationship model that gets my Person-Centered Feminist heart beating fast. I never could find a way to bring Shine Theory into my therapy practice, my slogan is “dare to be your best self,” despite trying several different approaches. While listening to the Call Your Girlfriend podcast yesterday morning, episode 293: More Shine Theory, it hit me. I could bring all of these things together and show up on my blog in a way that moves others along while growing support for myself so that I could support others.
In my work with clients, often we do work on accepting ourselves and meeting others where they are. We also take a good hard look at boundaries and where our energy goes. We only get so much energy and we need to guard it jealously. Protecting our energy is hard for women. We are constantly fighting against the stereotype of being natural caregivers to everyone in our lives. When we ask for what we need or want, we are labeled as aggressive, loud, entitled, or bitchy. It’s even harder for women of color & transgender womxn to get the platform and time that they need in life. This is what makes it so important to have groups around us that will band together with us to help us amplify our voices and advocate for our spaces in the world. There’s no way I would be where I am without the women who have poured so much into me.
So my challenge to you is to pull your people close and pour what you can into them. Bring them up with you as you can and lean on them when you need to. Some ways that we can give back to our support systems and grow in the acceptance of our groups are to do check-ins often, catch your people up on what’s going on with you, ask for their updates regularly, make time to make memories, share experiences, invite other women in, look to your left and to your right and see who you can build a bond with. This isn’t something that is meant to grow your business or support you emotionally if you aren’t trying to grow and give back, this is a chance to be your best self and bring your people with you on the ride. This is a space to give feedback and support as you can while asking for what you need in return.
This is barely a scratch on the surface of the world that women inhabit. I want to write more and learn more and hopefully, you do as well! I can’t recommend Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close enough, also Professional Troublemaker: The Fear Fighting Manual by Luvvie Ajayi has the same type of sentiment in many of the discussions of success and supports. (and she has a blog!!!!) Also, Call Your Girlfriend the podcast by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman is a happy dose of the real and the enlightening.
Links to all the goodness here: