An Open Letter to My Colleagues in the Feminine Empowerment Field

Dear Women,

Each of us has probably spent an enormous amount of time reflecting on what the term “feminine empowerment” means, especially now, when we are actively learning that we do not need to conform to the limiting paradigm of masculine power that has been the default in our culture for way too long.

All of us are simultaneously teachers and students who know that one of our most important lessons is learning to navigate and create a new model of feminine power. But I had a recent experience that made me wonder what we, as leaders, are actually doing to empower both ourselves and our sisters to live from our deepest truth.

A couple months ago, I was launching my very first online class, Truthteller: A 5-Week Course for Boldly Sharing Your Story. As a strong advocate for women from across the globe who yearn to share their truths, creating this course was a significant and exciting step for me. I asked my colleagues to promote my course. I was simultaneously nervous and excited. Excited, because I passionately believe in my life’s work, which is all about creating supportive, dynamic forums for women who long to express themselves and discover the beauty and magnificence of their voices. Nervous, because this was the first time I was making a bold “ask” that directly promoted an endeavor so close to my heart.

When I reached out to my peeps, I was open to whatever their responses would be. Because as much as I would have loved everyone’s support, I wanted those who agreed to promote my course to do so from a place of integrity and a sense of alignment with my vision.

At first I was completely blown away by the enormous amount of support I received. However, I also got a couple responses that felt “off” to me. They were in the ballpark of, “Darn, I’m going to be really busy in the next few months, but good luck!”

As someone whose life’s work is all about truthtelling, my gut told me that some of the excuses I had received were inauthentic. This was way worse than dismissiveness, or no response whatsoever.

For me, there is nothing more powerful than a “yes,” or even a “no,” that is direct, authentic, and from the heart. I believe that when women practice being clear and direct about where we are coming from, we learn to express our truth and bust through the toxic conditioning that sometimes keeps us stuck in fake politeness. So for me, hearing “no” was definitely not the problem. In fact, there are times when I totally welcome it and it makes for a terrific conversation starter!

However, what I felt in this particular situation was something that is one of the constant unspoken shadows in the movement around women’s empowerment.

Despite the message of girl power that many leaders in this movement seem to be delivering, we don’t always practice what we preach. Although our field offers much in the way of genuine sisterhood and support, it is still laden with the kind of competition that is based on scarcity and a limited definition of success. For many of us, “success” is still strongly associated with things like money, image, and a persona that is attached to outdated notions of what it means to be powerful. Those outdated notions include the  false idea that the playing field is too small for each and every one of us to shine.

As someone who has built my personal brand around a genuine love for women—all women—I believe that if we can’t all shine, none of us really benefits In fact, as a gender, we lose the opportunity to fully bask in our power and brilliance.

When we operate our businesses, friendships, and lives on the myth that there can only be a few “queen bees,” we defeat the very purpose of that which we wish to build. When we’re afraid of sharing the spotlight or when we feel the need to trademark every single one of our ideas so that someone else won’t come along and steal them, we succumb to a toxic belief that sounds something like: “Look out for number one,” “Every woman for herself,” “Kill or be killed,” etc.

To me, that doesn’t feel like feminine leadership or women’s empowerment. It feels like the old, fearful stories that have worked to bring our world into a state of collapse, anxiety, and desperation, and that have been used to keep women down for centuries.

Many of us have straight up bought into a classically masculine way of thinking about marketing, networking, and the “bottom line.” The “What’s in it for me?” attitude is generally not something we wish to speak about or even cop to, but the global sisterhood is haunted by it. There is no doubt that I’ve also succumbed to it. It’s hard not to! Every single one of us is eager to share our passion with the world, and we’re simply using the resources and knowledge that we have picked up along the way to do so. But it’s high time that those resources be given a much-needed upgrade and a big dose of the feminine.

That’s why I’m inviting all of us to expand into a new paradigm. To renounce fear and embrace sisterhood.

I know that we are all still discovering what feminine leadership means to us. After all, even though we are sharing ancient wisdom, we are working within a relatively new field. As much as we all recognize the need for dramatic change—in politics, in the way we treat our planet and each other, in interpersonal relationships, and in the very structures of our society—many of us are doing the necessary and difficult work of separating who we want to be from who we were taught to be.

We are still figuring out how to move beyond our conditioning—which includes everything from how to “efficiently” run a business, to dealing with the cultural stereotype that women can’t trust each other. Birthing a new paradigm that is based on what we truly value isn’t easy! We are learning to define success, sisterhood, and what it means to lead meaningful lives on our own terms.

But we’re not in this alone. We have each other.

I am committed to helping other women uncover and unlock their genius, and I am convinced that we can work together from a model of collaboration, connection, and community. To me, that is the very definition of feminine power: operating from the knowledge that a world in which each of us can shine is the place we want to be.

That doesn’t mean we have to support everything that our colleagues are doing. It is totally acceptable to respond to each other’s requests from a place of authenticity, transparency, and integrity, even if what we are offering is a “no.”

Together, we can consider how closely our commitment to feminine empowerment is aligned with our personal practices—in life, love, and business. There is no need to judge ourselves if we discover a disconnect. Our awareness is the first step toward transformation. Instead of continuing to turn a blind eye to the issues that keep us divided, let’s take a stand and address them—and in the process, contribute to building a world full of empowered women.

Big love,

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About the Author | Kelly McNelis

Kelly McNelis is the founder of global community, Women for One, a speaker, coach, facilitator, and bestselling author of Your Messy Brilliance: 7 Tools for the Perfectly Imperfect Woman. With more than 25 years of experience as a nonprofit and small-business consultant, Kelly empowers generations of women around the world to build the relationships, community, and confidence they need to achieve their wildest dreams. She finds daily inspiration in spending time with her husband and children in her home outside of Seattle.

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