March President’s Message: Women’s History Month

 “And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”― Anaïs Nin

In this hectic pace of life here’s the place where we breathe.

In deeply through the nose and out slowly. Once more. In deeply, hold it for a count of 1, 2, and 3 and now out slowly.

During Women’s History Month we, as women, breathe deeply reflecting on those who came before us. We take time to find inspiration from the women upon whose shoulders we stand in order to occupy this higher plateau, however flawed it may be.

Women like Anais Nin and Zora Neal Hurston who were authors forging the way and taking the heat of scrutiny ahead of their time. And Rachel Carson, a fellow alumna of mine from Chatham University who was one of the first to break open Pandora’s Box on the effect of pesticides on the environment.

Sheryl Sandberg is famous for telling us to “lean in” and providing a space to have conversations about what that looks like, what it costs us, and highlighting the return on the investment so that we will be inspired to do it for ourselves.

Yet, it remains a serious challenge to actually take her up on it. We are often filled with fear before speaking up, stepping out or risking failure.

However, Sandberg would say, we are 50% of the available brain power on the planet so, dammit, face the fear and lean on in. Let’s boldly go where no man has gone before because it isn’t his place in the universe to fill that need or solve that problem. It is ours.

Solutions to the problems of the world lie within us and even in the face of inequalities in pay and glass ceilings we don’t have the luxury to waste another second. Self-doubts, suspicions, territorialism, these are human and common to us all. Still, we engage in the fight, we take advantage of all that has been given to us by those who have sacrificed so much more than we place on the altar of sacrifice today.

Why, then, do we still sit on the sides of the room as observers or maybe critics? What keeps us from pushing forward and joining in?

So far I’ve been pointing the conversation outward (so nice of me, I know) but right now, I confess what has frequently stopped me dead in my tracks.  “What if I fail!?” Ah, yes. That paralyzing thought has kept me tied to the ‘safe space’ on the sidelines even when, internally, I was compelled to move forward and out into the big wide world.  For me, it was starting a business. I first had to believe that I was free to accomplish nothing or everything before I could risk starting a new business. No matter how qualified my business partners were I needed to know that my value as a woman was not hanging in the balance of my accomplishments.  Without that knowledge my frail self-worth would not have survived the rough seas of entrepreneurial madness. Answering that deep-seated fear was the only way I could lean in to the conversation.  It was not an easy task and it is, still very much a work “In Progress”. It is a journey of faith and self-knowledge and learning to live in a core state of confident-humility.  But for me the day did indeed come when the risk to remain tight in a bud was so much more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

So as you breathe deeply this month and reflect on the women in history and the women in your life whom you admire, do whatever is next for you. Take care of your self-doubt on a journey of faith. Learn to live in confident-humility in this big world where there is room for you to be you and others to be themselves. Take a risk of epic proportion knowing that you can accomplish everything or nothing without jeopardizing your value as a woman, but whatever else you do, lean in.

Then just for balance, breathe one more time.

In deeply through the nose and out slowly. And again. In deeply, hold it for a count of 1, 2, and 3 and now out slowly.