It is International Women's Day...
We have been taught, as women, that if we give, we will receive in return. If we provide for our family, our family will take care of us – love us, and support us. If I do this for you, you will do that for me.
In this contract there is an inherent assumption of reciprocity. But too often in our culture, this natural balance is interrupted – disrespected – forgotten.
Women have traditionally been in roles of giving – mothering, caring for the elderly, the sick, and even the poor. Cooking, cleaning, nurturing, birthing, rearing, volunteering and teaching have made up the work of our days. All are unpaid - or low paid - but expected and culturally relied upon nonetheless.
In the very first schools our country formed, it was decided that women would both be more suited for the role AND that they could be paid far less than a male – it was economically strategic. Our valuation of this crucial profession began with this assumption, and has persisted through today.
The valuation of womens' work has extended beyond the teaching profession and spread throughout our economy. Statistically, for every dollar a man earns, a white woman will earn .76, an African American .63, and a Latina woman .53. We have a long way to go to rectify our current reality of inequality.
It is a complex combination – it is a mix of our internal beliefs about ourselves, mirrored and formed by the deeply rooted beliefs of our external culture and the institutions that perpetuate them.
There is a collective female uprising happening in our country – a demand for recognition of our myriad roles as modern women. It is also a personal revolution, occurring within the very intimate chambers of our own selves, our own histories, our own homes, and our own families. It is causing tension, conflict, disruption and very often…anger.
Perched on a Jack Pine tree branch are pinecones that rest for years before they open – glued tightly shut with resin. It is only the tremendous heat of a forest fire that melts the resin, allowing the cones to open and release its seed to begin a new life.
The current energy being fueled culturally and politically is not unlike a forest fire. It is tumultuous, chaotic, destructive, and disorienting – and necessary. It holds old unresolved conflict, unacknowledged hurt, an imbalance of power, and pent up anger.
But its presence is opening up possibility – the seeds that have been held tightly, silently, invisibly, in patience – waiting for their own existence, are emerging.
I can’t help but notice the metaphoric connection between the Jack Pine and the women who are discovering what has lain dormant within them. It is a conversation arising with my clients, with my friends, and my colleagues.
It is common for women to wait to be given permission. To wait for approval before feeling they are worthy of a raise. To feed everyone before nourishing themselves. To tolerate being taken for granted. To give and give, and then give even more, waiting to receive fair compensation, often left feeling depleted – financially, energetically, emotionally, or spiritually.
We, as a culture, have it backwards.
If we look to nature, the female must first receive before giving. She must receive nurturing – nutrients, water, and sun – before bearing fruit - or new life.
Rather than giving first, and waiting to receive, we must receive first – SO THAT WE CAN GIVE...
What does this mean to you, as a woman, or a man supporting women?
This means respecting that you must first receive.
This is where WE hold power to shift this old cultural tide.
It is about identifying, honoring, and giving yourself permission to be a top priority: that your physical, emotional, spiritual needs matter. Satiating these needs yourself, or allowing others to help you meet them. It means asking for what you need. Clearly. Consistently.
It is about upholding healthy boundaries – so that what you receive from others aligns with what feels right to you, so that you can trust yourself to not allow anything to pass through you that will not support you fully.
It is about putting yourself first – letting go of the assumption that this is somehow selfish… indeed it is selfless. In trusting your ability to meet your own needs, you release yourself and others from the complexity of being dependent on others to fulfill you.
It is about receiving with gratitude, celebration, and an unquestioning recognition of your worthiness – to exist, to be powerful, to allow wealth, energy, health, and abundance in all its forms to flow into your life and support more growth.
Today is International Women’s Day - but tomorrow, tell me what tomorrow holds for you?
The seeds have been released… they are finding their way to new ground. Let them land in nurturing soil – receiving all they need to bear fruit.
Imagine what you can gift to the world from a deeply nourished self...
Don’t settle for less – we will all delight in the fruit that will drip lovingly from your branches...