Let me preface this article by confessing that I have hijacked The Butterfly Temple blog. I feel blessed to work on this global campaign but was unsure that if I showed this article to our fearless leader, Trudy, she would allow me to post it. I hope it inspires you to look around you, recognise and thank the warrior women among us.
If we’re lucky, we realise we’re in the company of a warrior woman as soon as we meet them.
They are the women fuelled by passion, anchored by experience and blessed with the generosity to share both.
They are the women who stand up for what they believe in when most would fall.
If we’re lucky, we realise we’ve met them straight away.
This was the case when I first met Trudy Johnston.
I was at a networking breakfast. You know the kind – each person stands up and introduces themselves.
When Trudy introduced herself, I knew I had to navigate my way down to her end of the table and meet her.
It turned out she waded through the participants before I could. She shook my hand, gave me her business card and said we needed to speak before apologising for having to leave for another appointment.
Call it intuition. Perhaps a gut feeling. But I knew there was something about Trudy that made me want to follow her.
She was an obvious leader. I wasn’t sure where she was leading us all. But I knew that I wanted to find out.
What I would eventually learn is that she is, in fact, a modern day warrior woman.
The Warrior Women of Chapters Past
There are warrior women dotted throughout the history of the world.
Those who have stood for justice and peace. Those who have changed the fate of communities, countries and the world in which we live today.
There was Nakano Takeko who broke centuries of tradition to become one of the only female power samurais in Japan’s history.
Or Queen Boudicca who as the Queen of a Celtic Tribe commanded a tribe of 100,000 to topple the Roman Capital of Britain.
In more modern times, we have Nancy Wake the World War II resistance leader who shot her way out of roadblocks and biked 70 hours through perilous Nazi checkpoints to deliver radio codes for the Allies.
Or perhaps Rosie Batty who now devotes her life to eliminating domestic violence across Australia after her 11 year-old son was murdered by his father
Look Around You
It’s easy to spot the warrior women of history. Hindsight gives us the perspective to see their actions for the ultimate benefit they afforded society.
It’s not always so easy in modern day.
Don’t forget, it took the Catholic Church 460 years to declare Joan of Arc a saint.
Our lives are so full of schedules, deadlines and the daily grind that we simply don’t see so many of the blessings that happen around us.
Here is a lesson I have learned.
When you meet someone for the first time – actually meet them.
Be in the moment. Take time to listen to their story and ask questions about their lives that will tell you about their values.
Then listen to your instinct, heart, gut…whatever sense you use to just know when you’ve met someone that you should cultivate a relationship with.
That’s how we identify the warrior women among us. That’s how we absorb their wisdom and begin the journey to becoming warrior women ourselves.
DNA of a Warrior Woman
I’m lucky enough to have a living, breathing example of a warrior woman & Women Self Esteem in my life.
Here are the gifts she offers us all:
Unbelievable Strength – Trudy is a female power and woman who has lived a big life. She has built empires from nothing. Lost everything. Found everything. In the face of every challenge she continues to learn lessons and rise up again and again. Her strength carries her and many others in a perpetual forward motion.
Uncanny Intuition – She just knows things. She senses them. She dreams them. Occasionally I’m concerned she can read my mind. She has an incredible intuition. And unlike most people she recognises it and listens to it. It serves her and anyone who follows her well.
Unbridled Passion – Trudy dreams big. Her vision is global. And unlike most of us this doesn’t scare her, it excites her. When you meet her, you know she will do something big. She will change the world.
Inability to Stop Teaching – Her drive to help others by sharing her wisdom, experience and knowledge is genuine, organic and non-stoppable. In her every action she is teaching someone something. And like the best teachers, she knows when to sit back and let us learn our own lessons.
The Warrior Within
From the moment I met Trudy I aspired to be like her. To become a warrior woman myself.
What I didn’t realise until just recently is that I am already on that path.
Every lesson I have learned from Trudy, both professionally and personally, has been another step closer to finding the warrior woman within me.
From Trudy I have learned the power of clarity, the gift of patience and the courage to keep standing up for the world I want to live in.
I will always be thankful to have Trudy in my life.
And now I know how to see every warrior woman around me and find the one within.
Every day we are bombarded with millions of social media posts. We document our lives in all of their glory and perhaps a little too much of the minutiae. We express our opinions, we open what’s deepest in us, we rant about the injustices in the world.
But does Facebook and Instagram actually help to feed our masks, of what we want others to see of us?
Do we construct our self-image by referencing how others might perceive us, rather than what’s real – and ultimately beautiful – in ourselves?
Paradox of social media
Social media is a wonderful enabler. It obviously helps us stay connected with those around us – our family, friends and those who we haven’t met yet.
But paradoxically, our hyper-connectivity and the pressure to be always ‘on’ 24/7 means that our relationships can something amount to 140 characters or a sum total of the selfies we take.
Digital empires are vast. Facebook has 1.038 billion daily active users (Feb 2016) and there are 70 million daily Instagram users – who share an average of 70 million photos per day.
These are staggering amounts.
Vanity – how much do we observe ourselves being observed?
But my question is about social media posting – and how do we live life too focused on being the ‘observed’?
Before we post, how much do we ask ourselves, what will people think of my post? How will they see me? Will I be liked? How can I get as many Likes as possible?
Are we hooked on vanity?
We’re observer and observed at the same time.
Or do we post what really needs to be said?
I work in PR, and my daily interactions with colleagues focuses on messaging (words, images and video content) and their channels of dissemination – how they reach their target market or audience (or not).
In my business we’re very strict. We do everything we can to represent our clients with text and images that are authentic and express the very heart of their work.
We know how important accurate representation is.
Gap between artful Instagram and how we really feel
However in the broader field, what I see so often is a gap between what is shown – artfully made and posted on Facebook and Instagram – and what is real in life.
As the world grows more digitised, we’re seeing a whole tribe of ‘experts’ who tell others how to live, eat, love and work. However what’s obvious is that there is often a huge gap between what is shown and taught and what is.
For us to come together as women to fully support each other, it’s so important to take off our Facebook mask, to remove the Instagram filters and to start to get real in how we communicate in the world.
Keep what’s private, private
And by this, I don’t mean blurting the inner-most revelations that show stay in the diary. There’s still a role for old-fashioned pen and paper. And privacy.
Keeping up managing businesses and/or careers with relationships, children (or a grandchild in my instance), exercise and self-care, learning, relaxation, having fun and quality ‘me time’ is a huge ask for any woman, let alone those of us who are single mums or trying to conceive or find a partner or who don’t have financial resources or are battling illness (and a whole lot more).
A big tension between the inner and the outer
I’ve yet to meet a woman who doesn’t juggle something that creates a big tension between the inner and the outer. Myself included.
The super-fit, gorgeous 20 somethings who drink green smoothies and appear to have the world at their feet but are frightened if they will ever make a living from their passion.
The sassy 35 year old at the height of her career who wonders if she’ll ever meet the father of her child?
The successful career woman in her 40’s who, as a single mum wonders if life will ever be different from the endless struggle to make ends meet, and if she’s missed the eligibility boat for re-partnering.
The mummas in their 50s who are terrified of changes in their bodies and of the unstable, increasingly violent world their children and grandchildren inherit.
There are many women in the media to take a strong position around the myth of having it all.
Recently I saw the excellent Dr Libby Weaver speak at an IWD lunch. In detail, she outlined the cost of what she calls ‘Rushing Women’s Syndrome’ and the high price women pay.
Toothpaste smiles and having it all
Our society strongly encourages us present a picture perfect, white-toothed smile where we successfully ‘have it all’.
So we comply with glossed images plastered all over Facebook and Instagram.
These images don’t reveal the extent of our exhaustion or our anxiety over money, life direction, concern for our children, ageing, loneliness without a partner and a lot more.
Having honest conversations
So I think it’s time to pull out our journals, talk to trusted friends and family and start to have an honest conversation with ourselves about how we really feel, with what’s really going on.
A conversation that is sacred and private, one that’s not plastered everywhere electronically and feeds ravenous digital empires.
A shared conversation to check in with what’s really going on. And to find ways of being honest and genuinely supporting each other.
It’s so extraordinary that when one woman speaks up and tells the truth, she opens the door and allows others to do the same.
I did this recently with a group of women – and it was remarkable how huge the level of support we all received – bigger than my wildest imagination.. Much meatier than a post or two..
Think before we post
So maybe it’s also time to consider that before we post the airbrushed version of ourself, that we take a moment to consider, is this actually real? Or is this part of the same story of how I want people to know of me?
How can I show my true beauty to the world, today?
I’m a Grandmother who has lived a big life. And I try to be what I call a ‘elder grandmother’ – a caring custodian who dares to speak up.
In my life I’ve worked hard to build every pillar of a happy life – friendships, career, family and relationships.
Successful yet missing something
Yet despite enviable success, I found myself feeling a deep sense of something missing.
I continue to see the same symptoms in women every day.
This gnawing sense of void pushed me to examine why even when we have it all, we can’t find happiness.
More silk dresses than day wear
When I was 45 I made a very big life change. I was super successful in my career and I had more silk opening night dresses than day wear in my wardrobe. I know that many people envied the life I had.
But they didn’t know the grind of what it was really like working 60-70 hours per week and the exhaustion of having to look good, smile and be everything to everyone.
I came from a background of poverty, I lost my parents young and was discouraged from achievement in my teens.
Letting go of society’s success markers
So to let go of ALL the pillars of success in my life felt like sheer, utter, blo*dy-minded stupidity.
But I did it. It was the most terrifying thing I have ever done. To face my mid-life with an empty hand.
Madness in fact. Something inside bugged me so deeply – there must be something more than this.
I saw similar situations in my friends and the more I looked, in women everywhere.
I saw the women feeling the same sense of emptiness as me leaving often highly successful careers, marriages dissolve and lifelong friendships end.
There seems to be a ticker box scenario.
There are all these external elements that we are ticking off – these pillars of what society defines as success…as happiness.
But we reach a point of great confusion.
Supposed to be happy – yet empty
We find ourselves thinking ‘I have all of these things that are supposed to make me happy but I still feel really empty.’
One of the most challenging things about this scenario is that it is often accompanied by an incredible sense of shame.
This is because we think ‘I have everything. I should be grateful.’
Like me, these women find themselves thinking that there are people starving in the world, so many refugees, people who don’t have a home or beautiful relationship.
Then comes the seemingly inevitable question, ‘What’s wrong with me?’
This is the time of decision.
We find ourselves either trying to maintain the status quo, keeping a sense of safety and routine. Carrying on.
Or we realise these external pillars don’t equate to happiness. We take steps to look internally, asking ourselves a series of confronting questions.
Making a choice
These women choose to begin a journey to change – to transformation.
Both of these decisions take tremendous courage.
My journey began with these kinds of questions, ‘Who am I outside of my career? Who am I outside of my role as a mother?’
‘Whose life am I living?’
The questions than began to address not so much the past and present but my future. I began asking myself:
It is a confronting, sometimes terrifying process, that was ultimately one of the most rewarding in my life.
I began to live my life not for my partner or my child. Nor did I hold my life to society’s expectations of happiness.
Finding your purpose
There is something incredibly inspirational to be deeply connected with a deep and driving passion.
It’s a sense of purpose. Not a purpose lived for any external factor.
It’s actually a deeper connection to the real you and your real reason for being here.
That is truly beautiful.
The only way is deeper
I encourage any woman who is feeling a sense of doubt, a feeling of something missing to have the courage to look deeper and start asking questions.
It can be incredibly empowering.
There is nothing more vital, more beautiful – and more happiness generating – than a woman who is living her true purpose.
All too often, we are told to go with our feelings. Yet, to truly make our contribution in the world, we must continue to teach, to heal, to write, to reach out even on the days that we don’t really ‘feel’ like it.
The way a soul-purpose unfolds is akin to each of the developmental milestones we bear witness to in our own children.
Talent, intention, discipline – mastery
Each and every stage of life we are in, contributes to a greater understanding about who we are, what we are naturally gifted at and how we make our gifts work in the world. Raw and natural talent isn’t enough. There needs to be an exertion of intention, discipline and will to achieve mastery.
Dharma is often not the smoothest and easiest road
After coaching several clients for hundreds of hours on the intricacies of finding and embracing dharma, I have come to the understanding that your unique dharma may not always be the smoothest and easiest road to take.
It may take more guts, more determination and more perseverance than you bargained for. Yet, it is ultimately, the road to your greatest freedom, fulfilment, soul growth and satisfaction. It’s worth suffering, for your contribution truly is profound. Yet we can also choose not to suffer if we know who we truly are at our core.
Our spiritual covenant
There are polarities at work at any one moment as we bring the expression of our dharma into being. Dharma is our spiritual covenant which is effectively like a contract we have made before we take human form. This covenant is our promise to carry out a specific set of duties while we are here. We can have several covenants including the duty of bringing other beings into existence (parenthood) and caring for another so that they can bring important work into being.
Anatomy of soul purpose – all parts of you
The anatomy of your soul purpose consists of each of the requisite parts that make up your constitutional state of being. These requisite parts are your mental, emotional, physical, spiritual and psychic layers. Each of these aspects make a contribution to the qualities of your unique purpose or dharma. Most importantly, these aspects carry a resonance or a blueprint that cannot be faked or fraudulent.
Will and determination for your unique expression to finds its place
They are as they are, divinely ordained and awaiting an expression which no-one but you can bring in to being. Holistically speaking, these aspects must also work simultaneously and in alignment with one another for momentum and flow to occur. Your role, as a human being, is to exert right will and discipline in order for your unique expression to find its right place in the world.
Not enough to simply know your soul purpose
Contrary to what you may have read, it is not enough to simply ‘know’ your purpose. Many of my clients come for coaching because they know their soul purpose already. The challenge is, that in the downloading of their purpose into worldly structure, they may have lost sight of their ‘why’ and their big vision has become more of a burden than an inspiration
Instead of resting solely on your natural and innate talents, there is very real effort required to put these talents into a coherent and productive form so that you can experience true freedom and honest expression.
Support and being witnessed
A good coach is like bread, completely neutral, bearing witness to your discipline and holding you accountable for the expression that has been eluding you. There is something powerful about being witnessed. The non-judgmental space of witness and observation alone can provide fertile soil for attenuation, healing, momentum, realisation, insight and inspiration.
It’s liberating to see the fruits of your labour. Yet, you are not supposed to journey alone. Having a witness can be the secret ingredient that bridges the gap between your current reality and your desired reality. Listen carefully as your soul purpose is calling you. Choose a mentor who can really see your strengths and proceed to reach for the stars.
Photo credit: jeronimoooooooo / Foter / CC BY