My grandmother used to tell me, “Birds of a feather, flock together.” How right she was. How right she still is. Your “flock” determines much, if not all, of your success and happiness in life. Who we choose to be around, and allow around us sets the soundtrack of our lives.
Choose wisely and you will fly.
Choose poorly and you will remain grounded, stuck, and your true wingspan will never know its potential.
I am now a woman in my 40s and I often see life through my late Nana’s eyes. The past year of my life has been a tremendous time of testing, blessings, growth, and possibilities. Last year was a transformational year for me. As I reflect on 2012, however, I cannot help but think about the “birds in my flock.” The women who support, challenge, chasten, check, love, encourage, build, and push me to fly higher as the wind beneath my wings. Too often we waste our precious life force, and our energy looking at who walked away, or at who hurt us. We stand fixed in time asking why, wondering what did I do wrong, and we focus on the wrong people, instead of celebrating the right people.
Last year, I penned a series titled “Sisters Heal” I wrote the piece because I had fallen out badly with a once dear sister friend over something ridiculous, and did not understand why we could not talk, apologize, heal and restore. The series was cathartic to me, and to literally millions of women who read it online and joined in our Twitter chat last April. And, although my relationship with that sister was never mended, I learned a lot from the situation. Conflict will either break you or build you. The choice is always ours.
My goal in this new series is to move us forward beyond the why we do this or that. Or why we are so quick to “cut” each other off, “go off,” talk about, damage, and even seek to destroy one another reputationally or turn other women against us when we are angry. Like all of you I have been there. But I am learning that there is a better way. And that truly healed, whole, spirit-filled women surround themselves with likeminded individuals, and they have a code of conduct that is non-negotiable when it comes to how they live, treat, entreat and deal with other women professionally, personally and spiritually.
These women are secure. They like themselves. They are comfortable sharing the spotlight, and even turning the spotlight on others as they step back in a supporting role. This is the kind of woman we should all aspire to be. Not like the angry, violent, broken, pain-filled women we see portrayed weekly on reality TV. I keep telling young women wherever I go that reality TV is simply not real. The women they see are not good role models for living, loving or growing as a woman who wants to win at life.
Stepping Away From Alpha Chick Mode & Developing Soft Skills:
As we open Part I of this series, I wanted to get an expert to weigh in on how we can curtail some of the “Alpha Chick” in us, and bring out the kinder, more empathetic us. I interviewed renowned clinical therapist, licensed evangelist and counselor to Pastors, celebrities, executives and leaders, Dr. Sabrina Jackson. She provided some great context and guidance on how we can make the transformation from “hard” to “healed” women:
What is it about us as Black women that allows us to be so uniquely cruel to each other? We treat each other in ways that we would never treat a man or another woman not of color. Why?
DR. SABRINA: It all gets back to how we feel about self. We have been taught not to trust us, like us, or love us. We are taught to be adversarial, versus being advocates. We can quickly become abusive, mean, and downright evil to other Black women because of our self-loathing. Successful women—healed women—like themselves. And in turn they like and celebrate other women. Too many of us have unsolved, unhealed, broken places that we cover with stuff, status and position. The modeling we have had generationally as Black women is an attack on our worth—we have seen it and watched it for generations both in the church, and in the workplace. We do not trust each other. All relationships must start with trust. We are afraid to get involved in our sisters lives and allow them to be in ours. We navigate the world differently in 2013. We are raising a generation of women that are not connected to people. We don’t talk, we text or email. There is no shame, no accountability and no consciousness. Some sisters pride themselves on not getting “punked.” They use phrases like, “Man up”, or “I beat her down” proudly. This is the crux of what ails us. Again successful healed women don’t live, talk or act this way.
Here are traits we need to teach our young ladies, and develop ourselves as their role models, parents, family, ministers, teachers, big sisters, mentors and sponsors:
1. Healed, whole women have flaws and they mess up just like the rest of us. The difference is they manage their flaws well. They don’t deny or duck them. They know how not to get stuck in mess. They know who they are and they celebrate who they are—they don’t get concerned with how others feel about them. They accept their gifts humbly and walk them out boldly.
2. They practice the 3 D’s: They Discover their passion, Develop it, and then Deliver it.
3. Healed women are coachable. They take wise counsel, recognize their weaknesses and work to correct them quickly. They embrace good people who are sent into their lives. They are not defensive. They are not arrogant. They listen. They want to be, act, love and do better!
4. They have an attitude of gratitude. You cannot walk over people, use them, and discard them when you operate in a spirit of gratefulness. Evil, arrogant, prideful and mean are not traits of spirit-filled, loving people. The problem now is that church looks, acts, and sounds like the world. This has to change.
5. These women live their lives with empathy. It is the number one skill required for resolving conflict. You must see it from the other person’s point of view. That is what true sisterhood is all about. Empathy, practice it.
6. Lastly, these women manage anger well. We can go from 0 to 1000 in a matter of seconds. We don’t know how to de-escalate, step back, process, pray and then respond. We need to learn the tools to get back down to 0 when we are upset so that we can respond correctly.
Next week, in Part II we will get into how we develop these critical “soft-skills” that will help us to operate in our gifting, purpose, and passion. And how from that we can bless, uplift, support and build other women who look like us so that we can all SOAR like the eagles we are, and restore the lost legacy of our women ancestors who had to love, care for and nurture one another through the worst life threw at them.
Sophia A. Nelson is an Essence.com contributor, an award winning author, and inspirational/motivational speaker for Fortune 500 corporations, colleges, churches and national organizations. Her newly re-released, revised Trade Paperback book Black Woman Redefined is available in stores now. You can join Sophia’s power-up daily chats via audio & Twitter under the hashtag #ReadySetRedefine2013