For years, I felt like I had to tap into stereotypically masculine qualities in order to feel powerful in my body. It wasn’t that I was butch or unfeminine in appearance. But who I was, how I operated, how I navigated my life was all based on a "masculine" way of doing things.
It isn’t surprising. The environment I grew up in encouraged achievement and hard work and success in what was still very much a “man’s world." I was fortunate that I always did well in school, and often could out-perform many guys intellectually. I even soon found that I could compete with the best of them in very "masculine professions" such as manufacturing, tech and banking.
There was just one problem: despite my outward appearance of success, I felt like I was slowly dying inside. Going to work every day felt like putting on a suit of armor to show up and be who I needed to be in order to get by successfully. I associated "being feminine" with this idea of having to take what I was given passively, rather than actively pursuing what I wanted.
I believe women all over the world are feeling the need for a new paradigm for gender expression. The first waves of feminism gave women rights and freedoms our mothers and grandmother’ didn’t have. But the bottom line was that these developments simply allowed us to get a seat at the table already occupied by men.
As such, we still need to commit to a new revolution whereby we actually change the structures we are living and working in to allow a more feminine way of being and operating, unapologetically. We need to own and accept a new way that acknowledges women as powerful beings, just not in the ways that men typically are.
And as with most radical change, there isn’t a blueprint. So today I ask this: what would feminine power look like?
In my years of recovering my lost feminine energy, and over-compensating by trying to balance it with my healthy masculine (note: we all need both to be whole and balanced) I’ve discovered three key ways that you can embody a more feminine way of expressing power and making change:
1. Focus on the experience, not the results.
Culturally, we think of masculine energy as goal and results oriented. It’s about knowing where you want to go and getting there as quickly as possible.
On the surface, all of this sounds great; but it also makes a HUGE assumption — that you know what the best end result or destination should be. Can a caterpillar set being a butterfly as a goal? Would an acorn know all the steps required to become an oak tree? Of course not!
So if you want to create something truly magnificent you need to surrender knowing what the end place looks like. You can, however, articulate and focus on what you’d like to experience when you get there. By focusing on the qualities you want to actualize, and surrendering how it will show up, you set the potential to manifest something greater than you could envision on your own! Now THAT is powerful.
2. State your preferences, and let someone else do the footwork.
This is one of my favorites for explaining the difference between embodying unempowered feminine energy, and over-compensating with masculine energy. Let’s say you’re going on a date. The unempowered woman might tell her date, “Whatever you want is fine, you make the plans.” Or she would just let it happen without input. As a result, she’d risk being unhappy, disappointed and not having her needs met.
Having experienced this (or seen a mother, friend, sibling, or other soul sister in this role) many of us take on the masculine energy and make all the plans ourselves. That’s fine, too, but also realize then that you are trying to step out of your own truth, and embodying what our culture tells you to do in order to get power (e.g. "acting like a man").
The empowered feminine energy would involve being communicative, but also strong. You might say, “I’m into healthy, fresh food so a restaurant that caters to that is important to me; If they have outdoor seating that would be fun; I like to run after work so I can’t meet you before 7 and Tuesday and Thursday are my best nights.” Then once you state your preferences, you can still let your date make the plans and reservations, regardless of whether they are male or female.
3. Choose the power of connection and story-telling over rational debate.
We all know how hard it is to get anyone to change their minds about serious political and social issues.
This American Life recently featured a fascinating episode about how canvassers changed people’s minds about particular polarizing issues such as gay marriage and abortion rights. How did they do it? Not through debate, intellectualizing or even appealing to universal values like freedom and equality; rather, they did it by simply talking to people, sharing their experiences and probing why this issue was important to them. This is feminine power at it’s finest: it’s about connection and emotion more than analyzing and intellectualizing!
The beauty of all of these examples is that they are still about making change, getting what you want and doing it in a way that unleashes the power, creativity and connection that are the hallmarks of feminine power.
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