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Many Introverts are "Coming Out" :)

"I am an introvert.  And there's not a damn thing wrong with me." So says Sophia Dembling, author of The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World on the second page of her book that boasts chapter titles like "I Like People, Just Not All People All the Time," "Hell Is a Cocktail Party," and "Science Says We're Not Necessarily Shy."

Huge thanks to Sohpia Dembling for the good work she's doing for Introverts everywhere!

I had the privilege of interviewing her recently for an entire hour where I asked her all things related to friendship and introversion.  In my work around female friendship, you can appreciate that how we're wired will play a huge role in how we go about fostering friendships. (She's just one of a dozen amazing authors I interviewed for "The Friendships You've Always Wanted.") It was a delightful and thought-provoking conversation where she shared her own illustrations about friendships in her life, while also giving voice to the growing number of introverts who interact with her via her blog on Psychology Today, called The Introverts Corner.

Introverts Coming Out Everywhere!

Fortunately, there has been such a growing awareness and education process around this subject.  We've so needed it!  Our culture has all too often idealized extroverts in our world, often leaving introverts feeling like there is something wrong with them.  (My favorite chapter title of Dembling's is "Introverts Are Not Failed Extroverts".)

In defining introversion, it was often seen as the opposite of extroversion--which was always described with these culture-valued words like outgoing, sociable, and fun--leaving introversion with words that sounded like they were missing something. We've too often confused introversion with a lack of friendliness or people-skills, which simply isn't so.

While I've long understood extroverts to be those who are energized by being around people, needing more external stimulation; and introverts as those who get re-energized primarily by decreasing the stimulation, often by needing to withdraw from people, it does seem to be a definition still in progress.  But there is a fast-growing list of characteristics and descriptors going around that seem to be resonating with a lot of people.

Whether it's Susan Cain in her TED talk that went viral, conferences like the World Domination Summit starting to put Hang-Out Hammock Lounge's in places where introverts can go re-charge away from the crowds, Facebook links with familiar titles like "23 Signs You're a Secret Introvert," or books like Dembling's that validate the introvert life-- the world is waking up to the fact that we are all wired very differently. Hallelujah! Popular bloggers, speakers, and well-known experts are being way more open and vulnerable about their own introversion.  All of this is helping way more people to self-identify with this name and own the parts of them that haven't always been well received.

And I do mean a lot. Following my Facebook news feed has been a bit like a coming-out party with all kinds of people posting articles and blogs about introverts and then saying things like "I finally feel understood!"

In fact, I've had that feeling too.  While listening to Dembling talk during our interview  about introverts preferring a small group to a large crowd, not enjoying small talk, and choosing email over the phone; I found myself thinking, "check, check, and check."  But trying to tell someone in my life that I might be an introvert is a little like trying to sell an igloo in the desert-- my friends and family just roll their eyes and laugh.

And to be fair, I'm definitely not a true introvert, as much as I'm probably more of what some people are now calling an "ambivert" with characteristics of each, sitting somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between extroversion and introversion.  Though I definitely don't feel "middle-of-road" as much as I feel like a person who has some extreme extrovert tendencies and some extreme introvert tendencies. Or, as I listened to Dembling talk about the extrovert/introvert scale, I was intrigued when she also mentioned the separate shy/non-shy scale which is entirely different.  Her descriptions left me wondering if maybe I was a somewhat shy extrovert since I hate walking into a room full of people, can feel anxious about attending conferences, and don't ever talk to people in lines or on airplanes. (Whereas my husband is probably a non-shy/introvert--someone who can carry a conversation with anyone, on any topic, with amazing people-skills, but will then need to come home to re-charge.)  Or maybe, as they keep studying, they'll find the category where I belong.  :)

Introverts and Friend-Making

But regardless of what labels we identify with, or which descriptions best capture who we are; what is clear is that we all need to know ourselves well and be responsible for our own energy management.  We can breathe deeply knowing that there is nothing "wrong" with us, that we're wired how we're wired, that we all have some tendencies that make certain tasks easier than others, and that we each have gifts that are valuable to others.

During my interview with her, we talked about which aspects of friend-making might come easier to extroverts and which ones might come easier to introverts, how we can make friends based on our own preferences, and what's important for us to know about each other as make friends with people who are wired differently from us.

For what is abundantly clear from all research is that no matter how you're wired or what behaviors might be most natural to you-- the truth is that we all need meaningful relationships.  So we're in it together... each of us stepping in to friend-making with our own temperaments, our own style, and our own energy.

How about you-- was it easy for you to identify yourself as an extrovert or introvert? Have you always known or has it been a process of learning?  I'd love to hear your own journey!

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To listen to the interview, join us this September as we embark on a whole month focused on friendship growing: "The Friendships You've Always Wanted."

 

 

 

9 Principles for Responding to a Friend in an Affair

This time last year I wrote a blog post that quickly became one of my most searched-for articles online: Help! Should I Tell My Friend that Her Husband is Cheating on Her?  In that post I mused that I should probably write a post to guide us through the angst when we find out it is our friend who has cheated. It has taken me a year to want to sit down and write it. Finding Out That Our Friend Has Cheated

While statistics are all over the board about how many of us actually admit to having extra-marital affairs, it does seem that due to women having more economic and sexual freedom, our numbers are on the rise in the last two decades. It appears that now one in every 5 or 6 of us will end up doing what we all of us swore we never would.  That means if you have 5 friends-- chances are high that this issue will impact you.

This is such a difficult subject to cover adequately due to all the possible complicating issues that could be present.  For example, is she confiding in you or are you finding out another way? Does she seem intent on trying to pull it off or is she confessing that it happened and she's trying to end it?  Do you know her partner and/or her lover?  Is your significant other involved in any way (i.e. as a friend to her partner)? Is she confessing or is she asking you to be an alibi for her and to aid her in the relationship?  Have you been wounded by marital affairs in the past, making it harder for you to come to this one without your own scabs getting pulled off? Are you happy in your own relationship?

Different answers to any of these questions would prompt different insights into the best way for you to respond, but without knowing you or the situation, all I can give are some principles that will hopefully lay a foundation for any choice you end up making.  Having been on both sides of this issue, and journeying closely with several friends over the years who have confided in me the angst of juggling a second relationship, I offer my wisdom with hope and humility.

Nine Principles to Remember:

  1. This is her crisis, not yours.  Yes, it could impact your friendship, your picture of her, your belief in love, and possibly even your own marriage, but, and this is important to remember: getting hit by some of the debris of an accident isn't the same as being in the accident. Keep this about her as much as possible. See my blog post about helping a friend in crisis to better provide a visual of how to act when you're in the outer rings.
  2. Nurture yourself and your relationships. With that said, if you are in a romantic relationship, be mindful that it may be impacted.  It may be as a result of conversations that you have with your significant other about the subject of infidelity, the insecurities it brings up in you, or simply the questions it raises about whether you're happy or not.  Recognize that while your friend is responsible for her life, she is not responsible for yours. Life will throw you a variety of subjects to process, this is your time to do so on this one.  In some ways it's a gift. Be extra gentle on yourself (and your partner) as you work yourself back to a place of alignment and peace through journaling, counseling, meditation, and other self-nurture and self-growth actions.
  3. Don't make it personal.  It is not because she doesn't trust you that she didn't tell you sooner.  It is not because you were in a happy relationship that she felt tempted to go find that, too.  It is not because you weren't there for her... blah, blah, blah.  She made choices and you are not to blame.  Additionally, there are a thousand reasons women don't tell their friends, many of them very valid reasons, so don't get steamed up about when and how you found out.  Just breathe deeply and acknowledge that in the big scheme of everything she's sorting through and trying to juggle and process-- the last thing she wants is to lose a friend and the last thing she needs is to spend energy now processing yet another relationship in her life. The more you can keep reminding yourself to not take this personally, the happier you (and she) will be.
  4. Draw your boundaries. It's okay to say that you're not willing to lie for her, be an alibi for her with her husband, or to talk about it ad nauseam.  It's okay to tell her that due to your religious beliefs, moral code, or personal history, this is a subject that you are very against or incredibly uncomfortable with.  It's okay for you to state what you are able to do and what you cannot do right now; but do so in as sensitive a way as possible, with as much respect as you can, and with the intention that you still want to do what you can.  It doesn't need to be all or nothing.  Perhaps start with something like, "This is such a hard situation for me, though I recognize it's even harder for you.  I want to love you and support you through this in the ways I can, and be honest with you where I can't right now.  In what ways do you most need me right now?" And then, ask her to tell you what would be most meaningful.  From there, you can honestly say yes to what you can and no to what you can't.
  5. You are her friend, not her counselor.  She may be so relieved to finally have you know her secret that she's at great risk of confiding waaay too much to you.  This is her affair, not yours, you don't need to hear all the details. Tell her with all the love you can, "I want to try to navigate this in a way that protects our friendship and serves us both as best as possible... and, I think, that includes you making sure you have the expert support in your corner to process this with."  It's unfair to put you in a place of counselor. And she needs one.
  6. Acknowledge that she is still a good person.  I really do believe that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have at the time. She didn't wake up one day with the intention to hurt anyone or to not live up to her own values.  She made bad choices, but that doesn't make her a bad person.  Be very cautious to protect your thoughts about her, whispering a form of the prayer, "Help me see her the way God sees her." Or, "I see that part of her that is beautiful, good, and pure."
  7. Her feelings are real.  We might not like them, but they're real. Real in that regardless of how we feel about her inappropriate relationship, she is feeling intense feelings of love, hope, and feelings of being valued, admired, and needed.  In other moments she is, undoubtedly, feeling shame, denial, and guilt.  We all know those feelings.  We might hate what is causing her to feel that way or disagree that she should feel them, but far better for us to try to empathize.  We know what it feels like to be torn; we know what it feels like to want to be loved, we know what it feels like to think about breaking up with someone you care about.  We don't have to condone her behavior to say, "It makes complete sense to me that you'd be drawn to that," or "I can't imagine how sad you must feel as you grieve the end of that relationship."  Love doesn't have to agree in order to support.
  8. Be mindful of our judgment.  From the Christian scriptures comes a saying: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." It was what Jesus said to the crowd who wanted to stone a woman for committing adultery.  I invite you to be mindful of the fact that we are all in process and all struggle with actions that are hurtful to ourselves and others.  Yours may not seem as glaring, so be thankful for that!  Then with humility recognize that you, too, have made mistakes, and that you're still struggling with discontent, jealousy, complaining, greed, criticism, or gossip. We are all learning the lessons we need to learn.  She will learn hers.  And she'll surprisingly learn it better when compassion is shown (so she doesn't have to feel defensive) as love is what empowers us to grow.  Shame simply paralyzes people.  We want her to grow so we want to act in as many ways as possible that invite her to courage, compassion, and hope.
  9. Know that this too shall pass.  Yes it will!  I promise.  It may feel like more drama than you can handle right now (and that's okay, try to be present as you can and honest when you can't) but someday she is going to wow you with the rebuilding of her life.  She's going to be laughing again, present again, and hopefully more healthy and mature because of the life lessons she is learning now. And when you find yourself in a crisis, she'll be someone you know you can trust to not judge you, to support you, and to understand.

This is, by no means, a comprehensive list.  I could keep going for days.  And I'm very aware that you could get done reading the list and still not know the best way to respond.  I therefore write these words with a prayer that accompanies them that anyone who reads this looking sincerely for guidance will find it. May those who seek, find.  May those who are unsure, err on the side of love.  May you be given an extra dose of compassion, energy, strength, and love today... your friend needs it.

Friendship Break-Up 2: Saving a Drift, Avoiding a Rift

Friendship break-ups can be so hard. And painful. And sad. And, oh, ever so complicated! In the last post we looked at the two main types of friendship break-ups, with most of the focus being on The Drift--a more slow and unassuming process of two people drifting apart.

A Rift is often a more easily defined reason (than simply chalking it up to not having as much in common) for why we want out of the relationship. It almost always involves us feeling disappointed or hurt by the other-- as though they messed up, aren't healthy, or owe us an apology.

A Drift Can Turn Into a Rift

In a drift it might be because life either changed for them or for you (i.e. you retired, she went through a divorce, you moved away, she changed religions, you got pregnant) and while you may feel some resentment, there is a piece of you that understands the shift was nothing personal. We know they didn't leave the job because of us or get married to spite us. And we usually start off thinking we're still going to stay in touch... a Drift most often happens slowly... over time.

Both Drifts and Rifts have their valid reasons and times... but sometimes if we don't see the Rift coming, or don't understand how easily it can sneak into our relationship uninvited, it can turn into a Rift with hurt feelings and unmet expectations.

What brings the wounding in these situations is often expectations that didn't get met in the midst of the change. You felt sad that she was getting married when you liked being two single gals together, but you also didn't fault her.  However, when we interpret her calling less as loving us less or not making time for us anymore, we may start to feel she is to blame.  We miss her and don't know who to call to go out with so we resent how her life change is affecting our friendship. As our needs escalate, our insecurities get provoked, and our sadness feels more complicated; it becomes all too easy to feel like they're navigating it all wrong.

And they probably are.  As are we.

When you have two people in transition, trying to figure out a new way of being together-- it's almost guaranteed that it can't become something new without disappointing one of us along the way.  It won't just immediately arrive at some new pattern that we both like.

Preventing Drifts from Becoming Rifts

To prevent a Drift from turning into Rift-- there are three things I have found helpful:

  1. Tell her you value her. The very best thing we can do in those moments is to tell the other person that they are important to us. That their friendship matters to us to go through the awkwardness with them. To verbally commit that we intend to get through this change as friends, if possible.  I've said, "I just want you to know I love you and want our friendship to survive this change.  It may be hard at times, but you're worth it to me to figure it out."
  2. Acknowledge that it will change us. Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves and others that there will be a change in our relationship.  We cannot have a baby and show up as though we haven't.  We cannot go through a divorce and still show up as a couple at parties.  We cannot leave our jobs and think that not seeing each every day won't impact how close we feel.  To try to pretend otherwise only seems to hurt feelings.  Instead, say something like, "I know it's going to take us some time to figure out our new normal... but I'm committed to that process." Saying out loud that we know things will change (what we talk about, how often we talk, how we spend our time together, etc.) helps normalize it for everyone.  It also acknowledges that we aren't likely to slip into a perfect pattern automatically.
  3. Be as generous as possible. Both of you are still trying to figure out your own lives, let alone know exactly how to incorporate the other in meaningful ways. How fabulous to say, "Let's just both try to be as generous with each other as possible while we figure this out.  Let's try to always assume the best of each other, even if we don't always do it perfectly. We know we don't want to hurt each other."

Almost every time we hear that someone we love still loves us and wants to make it work-- we're more likely to feel generous, gracious, and hopeful about the other.  Those two statements can come from either person-- the one who is experiencing the life change or the one who is feeling left behind.  Both of us have the opportunity to help give this gift of clarity to the relationship.

It Takes Two to Show Up Differently

It's rarely only the responsibility of one person to be open to the change--even if you think it's her fault. It takes two people willing to let go of how it was and willing to practice what can become. But one can always be the first and help invite the other into this new space.

  • If I leave the job we both used to hate together-- it may take practice to learn how to share with her my new business in a way that doesn't leave her feeling stuck there or pressured by me to leave; and it may take some getting used to when she stops sharing all the company gossip since I no longer work there and I am no longer invited out to company happy-hours.
  • If she starts dating a new guy while I'm still single-- it may take practice for me to get used to him getting all the attention I used to get and it may take some intention on her part to still make time for just us girls.
  • If I have another baby after her kids are all in school-- I will have to acknowledge she may not want a baby around every time we get together and she may have to practice showing the excitement for my life that I deserve even if she feels like she's past that point.

And I've found it so much easier to give that grace to each other if I have already built up a strong circle of other friends.  It means I make less demands of her.  It means I don't need her life to stay the same in order for me to love her.  It means I take responsibility for my own joy and health, rather than hold her to blame for my loneliness.  It means I have support from others when she's consumed.  It means I can love her for who she is, even if we don't have this big thing in common any more.

Every relationship change requires two people willing to hold the relationship with some kind of an open hand-- a willingness to let it become something new. It cannot stay the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defending the Introverts, Defining Mutuality

If I had to put money on the table next to what I thought was a primary barrier to women building new friendships, I'd put it next to a mistaken view of what mutuality means. Sure, lack of time will be listed as a more common excuse, but when a woman decides to be more proactive about fostering healthy friendships around her, the fear of unequal give-and-take can stall many budding friendships before they have a chance to get started.

Our Fear of Unequal Give-and-Take

We use language like "the ball is in her court" and "I don't want to impose" and "I invited her last time so this time I'll wait to see if she reciprocates." We justify our wait-and-see approach by reminding ourselves that we sent the last email or initiated the most recent plans, and we conclude that we're always the ones doing the inviting.   Not this time, we say. This time it's her turn.

While we may not call it a fear of rejection, we are in part acting out of that fear. We don't want to come across as desperate. We don't want to feel like we're putting ourselves out there all the time, unsure if it's wanted.  We've been told we don't need to put up with any behavior that isn't perfectly mutual. We want to feel like they like us too.  We want to feel wanted. We definitely don't want to be the ones who give more than we receive again.  So we protect our egos and wait her out.

In the meantime, our budding relationship never gets momentum so it never really happens.  And we're left complaining that no one out there seems to be interested in a mutual friendship.

Our Misunderstanding of Mutuality

On Friday evening I was sitting in a room with two friends.  Both lean toward introversion when it comes to interacting with people.  (Which means they have amazing people skills but being around people can cost them more energy than it gives them.) I was basking in the glow of how intimate those relationships felt, both of them so able to engage in deep, beautiful, meaningful conversations.  Their questions were thoughtful, their intuition spot on, and their love so genuine.

But if it had been up to either of them to get the three of us together it wasn't likely to have happened. I initiated.

As I had the week before.

And as I had the week prior to that.

The truth is that there are just many, many people out there who have so much to offer a friendship-- but initiating and scheduling may not be their forte.  That doesn't mean they don't love us or want to be with us.  And it certainly doesn't mean they don't have other meaningful ways to give to us. It just means they aren't going to assertively send out the invitation. Or if they do, it won't be as frequently as it might be for some of the rest of us.

This is not limited to introverts.  Take any self-awareness inventory and there are always types of people where scheduling and initiating will not come naturally for them. I've been studying the Enneagram which has nine types of people, and three of the types are withdrawing types, which means they tend to step back or retreat when there is stress (which any new situation can cause.) So that's at least a third of our potential friends who won't be out there trying to schedule time with us.

Even beyond personalities and types, we know that we all have different love languages.  Someone with the love language of quality time might tend to be more aware of reaching out with invitations than someone with the love language of gift giving.

Just add stress and busy-ness to any of our lives (even those of us who are extroverts, schedulers, and assertive types) and we may not reciprocate in the way you want, when you want.  But that also doesn't mean we wouldn't make great friends who will give to you in other ways!

What Does Mutual Really Mean?

As I sat there Friday evening thinking how lucky anyone would be to have these two individuals in their lives, it occurred to me how few people will get that opportunity if they only build a friendship with someone else who reaches out an equal amount.

Mutuality cannot be confined to 50/50 scheduling.  Equality doesn't mean sameness.  Being in a give-and-take relationship doesn't mean we give-and-take in the same ways.

For those of us who live with someone-- we know that having someone else divvy up the household chores doesn't mean we each vacuum half the room and cook half the meal. It means I tend to track our finances and he tends to make sure dishes don't pile up in the sink. Balance doesn't mean we split up every chore, but that we both contribute to the overall picture.

Somehow, in friendship, we have elevated the scheduling and initiating "chore" to becoming the litmus test for an equal friendship.

What we risk if we wait for equal initiations is missing the gift that introverts or non-initiators can bring to our lives.  And we risk feeling rejected if we wrongly attach that meaning to their lack of initiation.  And worst of all, we're still left without the friendships that we crave because we just sat and waited, allowing the momentum to falter.

Give. Give. Give.

I am all for balanced friendships.  I don't want you to feel used.  I want you to be in a relationship that feels mutual.

But if you are a GirlFriend who is good at initiating-- then do it. Generously. Invite her five times in a row.  Be the one who is okay calling to start the conversation. Give where you're best, knowing you will be blessed by how she gives to you in different ways. And know how lucky you are that you have the ability to give in a way that starts friendships!

And if you recognize that you're someone who struggles to initiate-- then at least be sure to tell your friends/potential friends how much you appreciate it when they do. Express your gratitude, lest they ever feel that you're not interested. Tell them what it means to you that they keep calling. Recognize that this gift they give is a necessary ingredient in the building of a friendship.

What we need is a little less judgment of each other and a little more hopeful curiosity to discover and appreciate who the other person is.

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I blogged on the perceived imbalance in give-and-take friendships for a two-part series for the Huffington Post: In Friendship, Do You Give More than You Receive? and Six Ways to Bring Balance to Your Relationships if you're interested in more reading on this subject.

3 Baby-Steps Toward Girl Effect's Dream of Changing the World

I still remember my jaw dropping open a couple of years ago after hearing the New York Times human rights columnist, Nicholas Kristof make a historical comparison, when he was promoting his book "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide" that he co-authored with his wife Sheryl WuDunn.  His haunting words:

"At the peak of the transatlantic slave trade, 80,000 slaves were transported from Africa to the new world. Now, more than 10 times as many women and girls are being forced into brothels or other forms of slavery around the world."

It's so easy to look back in judgment, wondering how our ancestors didn't do more to fight against oppression in various forms.  Yet here we are... still facing similar choices and battles.

Add to that slavery statistic all the other massive issues that are interconnected: girl’s education, AIDS in the developing world, child marriage, child prostitution, domestic violence, population growth, and global poverty, and the complexity is both mind numbing and heart wrenching.

I rarely know what to do that could possibly make a difference.  So when given the opportunity to participate today in  Girl Effect Blogging Campaign day, I not only jump on it, but also extend the invitation to you to participate with your own words. This week hundreds of bloggers will collaborate in bringing awareness to the Girl Effect, the “unique potential of 600 million adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves and the world.”

I'm also walking around this week in a heightened state of awareness after watching Miss Representation as this award-winning documentary highlights the issues girls and women face right here in the U.S. It's a sobering reality that even in our developed and educated country (where women now make up the majority of the workforce and are earning more college degrees than men), we are still communicating in our media and culture that

"a woman’s primary value lay in her youth, beauty and sexuality—and not in her capacity as a leader, making it difficult for women to obtain leadership positions and for girls to reach their full potential."

While the credits rolled, my heart was heavy with the challenge we face in our own country. Add to it the millions of women behind us.  We simply have to be willing to do more for each other, whether you like the word feminism or not.

Three Possible Baby Steps

Some of us may be clearly called to jobs and roles where our daily actions attempt to right the injustices in classrooms, counseling chairs, boardroom tables, and world-wide non- profits. Some of us may be able to help bring awareness to these causes, like Tara Sophia Mohr who started this blogging campaign, or Jennifer Siebel Newsom who wrote and directed the film mentioned above.

And then there will be masses of us who feel the ache but don't see how our actions can make a difference.

But they do.

We can't risk doing nothing just because we can't do everything.

Here are three "small" actions we can take to help turn the tide for our sisters around the world.

1.  GROW: Keep Getting Healthier

It's hard to give energy to causes, dream with others, or live with generosity when there is an energy leak in your own life. If you're still living as though your value is determined by what others think, what size of clothes you wear, or whether you're pretty enough, then there is wound in your own life that still needs healing so you can show up with joy, power, and strength. If you believe there isn't "enough" in your life, you're less likely to want to give to others. If you hold victim mentality by refusing forgiveness to someone then you risk not feeling like you have power to give.

We all have our insecurities.  But that doesn't mean we have to live from them. Do what you need to do to not ignore them or devalue others in your attempt to make yourself forget about them. Meditate, read, talk to a coach/therapist, attend mind-expanding and centering workshops, sit in sacred space, get enough sleep, own your worth apart from what you do or look like, hike a mountain, sing more, read poetry, find your five minutes of daily silence, pray....

In Miss Representation, Katie Couric says that she thinks if women spent 10% less time worrying about our weight and appearance, and instead applied that energy to others, she's pretty sure we could solve all the worlds problems in a matter of months. That's sobering. Where can you cut back 10%?

Do anything that increases your compassion toward yourself and others. Conversely, stop doing anything that decreases your compassion toward yourself and others.

2. GIVE: Donate a financial gift today to start a new ripple....

Sometimes giving a financial gift can be your way of saying to yourself that you trust that there is "enough" in this world for all of us. Hoarding and greed come from fear. Lean into the belief that the vision of what we can do together is greater than our individual fear.

Your gift of $15 can buy schoolbooks for a girl in Panama. A gift of $60 will teach a grown woman in Afghanistan to read and write. Those dollar amounts may not sound life altering, but consider this chain of events when a girl or woman receives education:

When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children. The later women marry they are less likely to be beaten and threatened by their husbands, die in childbirth, or get AIDS. Additionally, every year of education boosts her eventual wages by 10-25 percent. When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families and communities. (all sources on the Girl Effect Fact Sheet)

A cycle of poverty gets broken, in part, with the earning of education.

Each quarter GirlFriendCircles.com compiles all of your gifts of $3-$5 that are given in exchange when you have to cancel your attendance at the last-minute from a ConnectingCircle you committed to attend. This quarter in our Show Up or Save the World campaign, I have matched your $174, so that we gave a combined gift of $348 to Girl Effect.  It doesn't sound life altering.... but it will be to someone.  Add $10 more!

3.  CHEER: Help Spread the Word(s)

On a literal level, spread the word about these resources that help bring awareness and conviction. Tweet or Facebook share this blog today (see icons at the bottom). Decide to write your own posting. Promote these causes through your social media outlets. Tell your friends that you feel convicted.  Host a screening of  Miss Representation in your house on October 20. Put energy out there that shows what way you are leaning.

And on a deeper level, sharing the word might mean encouraging and promoting other women and girls.

  • In every day life that might mean encouraging a friend in her choices (career, love, finances, ambition, children) even if they aren't yours.
  • In politics and business it might mean being open to seeing women where they haven't been and letting them do it in their own armor. Don't make someone choose between being powerful or likeable-- choose to not be intimidated and simply cheer for her.
  • In media it may mean voting for movies, products, and TV shows that reflect strong portrayals of women with our attendance (or lack thereof), purchases and watching habits.
  • As a mother it might mean intentionally raising your daughter to not have your body self-esteem issues, or making sure you don't put out judgment on another mom for making a different choice in how she is raising her kids.
  • As a citizen of the world it might mean publicly cheering for other women, even when we feel jealous.  Cheer for them when they buy your dream house before you do, quit their job when you wish you could, get the promotion you would die to have, have the baby you cannot, find the love you haven't yet found, accomplish the feat you wish you had the courage to take on.  You can trust that them getting something doesn't diminish your value or worth one iota.

The truth is that sometimes our own lives feel stressful enough that we simply don't always feel that our hearts can take on any more feeling.  Compounding that numbness, we can easily feel overwhelmed by the issues posed by Nicholas Kristof, Girl Effect and Jennifer Siebold Newsom. But I beg you to just take a baby step... just lean into the movement.

For as Alice Walker, the author of The Color Purple, is quoted in Miss Representation as writing:

"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any."

You do have power to contribute to the movement. Pretend that life is a rubber band being pulled two directions... and that the direction it eventually snaps will be determined by which side had a little more pull.

Grow in your joy, Give your $10, and Cheer for another woman toward the direction of a better world.

 

p.s.  The Girl Effect Blogging Campaign invites you to post your own blog this week! If you do-- leave a comment here with a link so we can all come and read it!