Settle in, get your coffee, grab some of your sister friends and get ready to share in some amazing wisdom from five fabulous sisters that work hard every day; they have dreams, and talents to share with the world just like you. These sisters range in age from their 30s to their 50s, and they hail from various regions of the country. They are powerhouses in their own right: entrepreneurs, ministry leaders, moms, wives, single ladies, corporate gals, and women of deep faith.
If you enjoyed Part I: How Successful Sisters Treat Other Women and Part II: Woman on Top Lessons from Successful Sisters in this series, you are in for a real treat with this final piece of wisdom and guidance from successful women making it happen every day.
I gathered this group of sisters who I know well (but who never met one another) for a 2 hour round-table discussion on what has made them successful, what lessons they have learned working with other women, and what advice they have for all of us on why building lasting, uplifting relationships with other women matters so much in this new 21st century.
Let me introduce you to Kimberly S. Reed (President of the Reed Development Group/Philadelphia); Esther Renee Daniels (founder of Titus Works Ministry/Houston), Robin M. Ware (President of The Ware Agency/Atlanta), Rev. Adriane Blair Wise (Minister at Metropolitan Baptist Church/Washington DC/former Chaplain at Howard University), and Christal M. Jackson (Philanthropic expert & social entrepreneur/Global). These women came together as a panel, and I moderated the panel to help us all better learn how to understand what true success in relationships is really all about.
Question#1: What trait do you believe successful women share in common when it comes to how they manage their relationships (home, work, church, with other women, etc.):
Kim Reed: Successful women must have self-value proposition. That means confidence and self-awareness of who they are and what value and worth they have in their souls. If you don’t have this and your vertical (with God) is not right your horizontal (with others) will not be right.
Renee Daniels: Successful women are humble and they have integrity. These are critical traits. If you are a “legend in your own mind” you will never serve others. People want to believe your “commercial” they want to believe who you say you are. Humility and integrity help that to happen.
Christal Jackson: Successful women are compassionate. They connect to people and in order to be truly successful you have to be compassionate, and be a connector to people. These women stop and serve others and do so with an open heart.
Robin Ware: Humility is critical; being able to take the high road because I see the bigger picture. A successful woman is able to listen and she is wise. She understands that she is always learning, she is wise because she accepts instruction with humility. (Cites Proverbs 9:8 & Proverbs 26:1).
Rev. Wise: The most important trait of any successful woman is that she is authentic. She knows herself. She is okay with who she is and she models it with a spirit of humility, honesty & wisdom. Authenticity of “self” is the greatest gift one woman can give to another. When I know who I am, I can celebrate and affirm another sister and what she is doing in life. I can lift her and honor her.
Question 2: What are the elements of self-love (it is easy to say self-love is what we need-but what does it mean):
Robin Ware: Self-love is liking the woman that you see in the mirror each day; its liking all of you from the exterior to the interior that others don’t see. You don’t involve yourself with jealousy and pettiness. You like yourself and therefore you can like and celebrate others.
Kim Reed: The first element of self-love starts with a canvas. Our individual canvases are painted by others from the time we are born: our families, friends, teachers, and other women paint an image of who we are. The key is to look at your canvas and redefine it, redraw it for yourself. Before you look in the mirror you have to look within. Your expectations have to be your own in order to love yourself. That is how you get to your destiny & God’s plan for your life.
Rev. Wise: I’d like to offer a scriptural piece. Romans 12:2 tells me to be transformed in my mind. It all starts with self-image. How do you see yourself? And if your self-image is negative, we have to teach you what God says about you. He says you are worthy, loved, precious, and purposely made. We have to stop believing the lies that we have been told as black women (and as women) about who we are, and start believing what God says about us.
Christal Jackson: The light-bulb went off for me when I was a student at Spelman, one of my professors said women do not understand our “intrinsic” value. It was a transformational moment. We as women are defined by what we achieve, who we marry, what we drive, where we live, and what we wear. And black women more than any group feel worthless unless we meet certain “markers” that says you are valuable. Self-love comes from having intrinsic value, worth and feeling valued for who you are.
Renee Daniels: My most important piece of advice is that women have to stop judging their inside value by someone else’s outside. I hit a place in my life where I wanted to die. I felt valueless. It was another woman at church who saved my life because she took me to the Bible and said, you need to know what this says, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made.” I had to discover my self-esteem by facing my past as someone who had been abused, been an alcoholic, and who felt worthless. I had to look at my choices and own them, forgive myself, and love myself. Those are the elements of self-love.
Question #3: Why are we so hard on each other as women. How do we manage conflict successfully as women so that we don’t damage ourselves or others:
Rev. Wise: It may sound simple but it goes back to self-image. We have a problem with self love. Thus we don’t know what real, unconditional, authentic love looks like. We don’t understand what it means to actually pursue peace, and pursue a relationship out of true agape love. When we love we pursue relationships, even when they may not want to be pursued as God does us. He sticks, He covers, He loves.
Christal Jackson: Why we do it — because we are hurt. Many of us simply have not had a chance to heal or even acknowledge our hurts at the hands of family, friends, the church, other women. So we run around mean and angry because we are hurt. We have an expectation of each other as black women that we don’t have with other women that I can act a fool with you, and you will still be there with me tomorrow. We need to stop needing to be right, and learn to diffuse conflict before it erupts worse. Learn “not to go there” with people. Learn to take the high road and diffuse situations so that there will not be a casualty.
Robin Ware: We don’t recognize that people are assigned to our lives for a reason. And we miss the blessing in conflict situations. If you have been “connected” for a season, don’t let getting pissed off at your friend, or getting offended destroy what God may have for you two together. Then we draw in other sisters and tell them not to speak to her. What we have to decide is that I love my sister and although we have had this altercation, I am going to let my “pride” go and pursue peace. One of the worst traits we have is that we don’t want to be “punked” by someone; we can’t let ourselves be vulnerable. That has to shift-pride is a trick of the enemy to block our blessings and relationships with other people.
Renee Daniels: I believe we do what we do out of fear. We worry that “she” will get ahead of me and then I won’t get what I want. We fear unconsciously that we will get left behind, so we may start out with good intentions, but fear creeps in and we start to sabotage other women verbally, we tear them down and talk about them because we fear we will never get to where they are, or that we can be “who” they are. Once again, all of this is rooted in self love. Do you love and believe in you?!
Kim Reed: Candidly the issue is we are just too critical when other sisters make a mistake. But when we need to be critical is at the beginning. This gets back to God for me. Some of us say we have God in us, and that we have God in our DNA, yet we will go off, we will go in on sisters like we never met Jesus. And here is where it keeps deep: We as black women value white women more than ourselves or others because we will count the cost of burning a bridge with them, whereas we won’t do that for a black woman who is a colleague, a dear friend, or even our superior in the workplace. As black women we feel that no-one has our back. So we always have to have the last word, we have to be in control, and we can’t admit when we are wrong. We need to learn to let “stuff” go. It is wrecking us, our ability to work together and build wealth, lasting friendships and spiritually healthy relationships one with another.
Sisters as we end this series, let me recap a few points that I hope we will all take away from this powerful three part life class on what it means to truly be successful in life.
1. Managing our relationships well with other human beings is critical to how we will live out our life’s journey, and find success in life. If you fail at managing your interpersonal relationships with other people, you will fail at life. Yet, what we found in this series is that everything starts with how you feel about you. You must conquer self before you can conquer life.
2. As women, given the shifting demographics and cultural changes of our time, we must learn to work together, build together, protect, cover and lift one another in and out of the workplace. We need each other. It is that simple. We need a code of conduct for how we handle conflict and strive to be at peace with each other no matter what challenges we may face together. Other women are worth it. They are. Show some grace and mercy as you need it yourself.
3. Self-love is the basis of all happiness and success in life. There is no substitute. We must teach our girls and young women that they have “intrinsic” value and worth outside of any goal attained any man they may love, or any material possession that they may own.
4. Women are hard on each other because we have been taught not to value ourselves. If I don’t value what it means to be a woman, I cannot value other women. This must change.
5. Finally, we must be women who walk as we talk. Too many of us black women have been deeply wounded by women in the church. Women in the pulpit. Women in ministry. We have used our faith as a weapon of judgment and condemnation instead of as a balm for healing and restoration. This too must change for true healing and success to begin.