“Self- development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice.”- Elizabeth Cady Stanton
I have struggled to KNOW myself for as long as I can remember. Since the time I was a young woman I have had countless conversations with friends, colleagues and strangers alike, and when we’re brave enough to be real it seems that I’m not alone. How can this be? Where did it start? And when? More importantly, why? I don’t think this phenomenon is easy to dissect, because I think it’s due to a myriad of reasons.
If I think back to my childhood I can definitely pinpoint many instances where I was indoctrinated to believe that women should behave a certain way, dress a certain way and move through life in a predictable manner. My upbringing was not unlike many other girls. I was taught as a young girl that you grow up, find a man (preferably a rich one), get married, have kids and stay home to raise them. My mother was the youngest of seven children. Her own mother died when she was just a teenager. Though my mother did go to technical school for nursing, she was not a college graduate. Your upbringing may not be exactly the same as mine, but we need not go back too far in history to reveal the societal conditioning that influences our lives.
Today, more women are interrogating these ideals that have been pressed upon them for decades. Many of the barriers that women and people of color have had to overcome are being challenged with more and more ferocity. We are at a crucial moment in history that is demanding change in many systems. We have seen this on a national level over the past year with social, political and scientific issues. We are finally starting to listen and learn that “history” is in fact highly subjective. Author and teacher of women’s studies for over 50 years, Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner said “History isn’t what happened. It’s who tells the story.” This is our collective growth edge.
So, how do we evolve and grow as women? Speaking personally, it hasn’t come easy. And I’m sure I’m one of the lucky ones. As a white middle-class woman I have been afforded many things that other women have not. Even so, I have found it difficult to find my place in the world. I did marry, twice. I eloped at the age of 17, and at the age of 23 had my first child. My son quickly became the light of my world and I enjoyed motherhood. So much so that I did not want to go back to work. Unfortunately, my husband at the time insisted that regardless of what I wanted, I must return to work. We fought. I cried. Ultimately, as my husband, he prevailed. “Obey”, they say, and obey I did.
How will today’s young woman be shaped by current events? What is expected of today’s woman? Who is today’s woman? Who are YOU? A seemingly simple question, yet complicated to answer. Many women have been so conditioned to be the caretakers of everyone, but themselves that they truly don’t know what they need, what they feel or who they are.
The journey to the self is a life-long pilgrimage. Long regarded as “the hero’s journey”, this pilgrimage to discover the self has been written and spoken about for millenia. And largely from the male perspective. Acknowledging the male influence, and their own conditioning is helpful in loosening the grip on many of the beliefs that hold us back. This awareness can serve to bring compassion to all parties, which will in turn help to move us forward, collectively, as well as individually.
The source of much of our suffering is in thinking that we are the only ones. Nothing could be further from the truth. Being vulnerable takes courage. Each time we open ourselves up to share our stories we learn that we are not alone. Brene Brown, a noted author and researcher has championed authenticity and wholehearted living. It is my experience, and the experience of many of the women that we have coached that the shame and guilt that keeps us from sharing our stories is what keeps us stuck. Maya Angelo said,“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
“Truth is powerful and it prevails.”- Sojourner Truth
Our next Self-Centered Women’s group begins on Sunday, January 31st. This year-long journey is a pilgrimage of sorts. We get together on a group call once a month to facilitate conversations meant to connect to the deeper parts of ourselves and each other. We also interact on a private Facebook page and each month meet on an individual one-hour coaching call to design and work towards a personal wellness vision. It’s not just about goal setting. It’s more about recalibrating and compass setting. Which direction are you headed in all aspects of your life? Are you getting closer to your truth, or further from it? I know we are all missing travel right now, so this may be a bit of a tease! But, there is no point in traveling the world, only to miss real moments of connection and real opportunities for growth! We only get one chance! Make your chance count for all it’s worth!
Self-Centered Women allows you to listen to that dull ache that you’ve ignored for far too long. It allows you to foster self-compassion and forgiveness. It allows you to put down the shame and the guilt that, as women, we’ve carried for centuries. We can’t change the narrative outside, until we change the narrative inside. You can’t BE THE CHANGE, until you’ve changed.
Self-Centered Women is not about getting to a certain number on the scale, becoming a gym rat or a yogi, or going to bed religiously at 9pm every night, though any of these things may happen. Self-Centered Women IS about lightening the load and traveling on the path to your truest self. It’s about finding YOUR sacred yes and speaking your Holy no in an authentic way that honors YOUR needs. We are not here to serve others exclusively. In fact, we serve NO ONE AT ALL when we do not serve our own needs. Our group cultivates the practices that support the healthiest versions of ourselves- The Four Seeds of Self-Care, which are eating real food, sleeping well, meditating and moving your body. Each of these practices promote a healthy brain and overall physical and mental health. When we feel better, we do better.
Look for the beauty and magic that is present in each day. Relish the night sky. Honor your talents by sharing them with others. Savor those precious, fleeting moments with your family and friends. These are the real gifts. When you become “self-centered” these are the gifts that you give yourself, and the world at large.
With Love and Gratitude,
Kinda and Rachel