Find Your Own Strength
At the Omega Women’s Leadership Center 2013 Women & Power Retreat, Carla Goldstein solicited presenters’ advice on how emerging women leaders can find their own strength. Here are her six big takeaways.
When we are riding the waves of life and feel especially tossed and turned by its storms, Elizabeth Lesser beckons us to drop anchor and root firmly in our emotional center of kindness, compassion, and interconnectedness no matter the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Elizabeth spoke of the daily acts of courage, backbone, and strength of caretakers such as teachers, nurses, nannies, parents, farmers, healers and social workers and told the story of Antionette Tuff, the bookkeeper at an Atlanta elementary school who prevented another massive school shooting from happening. Antointette, who calmly and lovingly spoke to the gunman, says that she practices what her pastor called anchoring, first anchoring in one’s inner strength, and then letting empathy and compassion lead the way. Anchored strength in service of compassion averted a national tragedy. To anchor is to remember who we are, what we are doing, how we are living, and what values we are serving and why.
2. Soft Front, Strong Back
To travel through life equally receptive and assertive; to know when compassion calls us to be yielding and when it calls us to be firm. Joan Halifax Roshi guided us to walk tall with soft bellies and strong, upright spines rather than harden our hearts, and to cultivate balance and wisdom with love and confidence.
3. Don’t Shrink, Don’t Puff Up
“It’s not about winning. It’s not about losing. It’s about the courage to show up when there are no guarantees.” Brené Brown reminded us that the most important thing is to get in the arena and make our authentic voices heard. It’s the choice between comfort and courage, between the sidelines and making a difference. Brené shared her personal mantra for keeping centered especially when pushed to the edge: Don’t shrink; don’t puff up; stand your sacred ground. When you are vulnerable and weak-in-the-knees, that’s when your truth is strongest.
4. Change the Point-of-View
Those in power determine the cultural, economic, social, and political point-of-view. Kate Clinton, through her radiant wit and humor, rallied us to assert our point-of-view as women in all its complex and invaluable facets.
5. Celebrate Greatness
When scanning those common lists of Greatest Leaders, Thinkers, or Artists one might notice that women are often conspicuously absent. Sarah Peter reminded us of the groundbreaking women left off those lists and encouraged us to make lists of our own recognizing women artists, politicians, scientists, and cultural leaders who have influenced us and changed the world, individually and collectively.
6. Build an Economy and Culture of Valued Care
Many of us have young children and aging family members and there is an imperative for us to give and get the care that is essential to support both our personal lives, enabling all of us to be productive; care-giving allows us to do our best work and is foundational to our national economy. How we value care giving and how we are compensated is a question the answer to which will affect generations to come. Heidi Hartmann and Ai-jen Poo talked to us about the economics of women and care, asking us to build a future that supports and includes all of us, and reminded us that “giving care is life’s greatest gift” in the love we share.