How Strong Is Your Sisterhood?
If you know me, you know that building community is a cornerstone of how I live my legacy. I constantly speak and write about tribe. About community. About sisterhood.
As more women are joining an amazing group-coaching experience CWM is starting in Jan, it got me thinking about sisterhood more.
Sisterhood is crucial: women need other women, period. We always have, and we always will. Having a tribe of women who see you and love you is vital, and the recent brave wave of survivors speaking up about sexual harassment has reinvigorated my love for my sisters and my commitment to fostering sisterhood for all of us.
And, in spite of this news (or maybe because of it), I’m realizing that sisterhood is not always as easy as Twitter would have us believe. Patriarchy makes sisterhood hard. I’ve never met a woman who hasn’t at one point or another sworn off women: Women are back-stabbing, petty, untrustworthy gossipers. The image of the mean girl is enduring because it’s part of our exper
Patriarchal culture has not taught us to embrace and support one another. It has taught us to compete with one another for status and position; it has set women up for a scarcity mindset about what’s available and possible for us—men, jobs, status—are all limited, doled out by those in power (ie the patriarchy), and if you have more, I must have less. This can leave us unwilling to forge deep connections with other women. Many women don’t ever experience the profound joy of true female friendship and connection.
In addition to women who feel bereft of sisterhood, I speak to other women who have too many inauthentic connections, what can be characterized as fake friends. When you become a mother, you can feel thrust into relationships with other women because of your children and not because of a real sense of kinship. It becomes easy, out of convenience or out of sheer desperation for adult companionship, to fall into friendships that don’t feel deep or meaningful.
While I tout sisterhood all day, I’m beginning to really see a crisis of sisterhood.
What is sisterhood?
This description by Regina Thomashauer is spot-on:
“Sisterhood is the safe space where you get to connect with your truth and have it celebrated. Supportive sisterhood allows the real you to shine through. Not the image of you that you think everyone wants to see. Not the you that placates, the you that cooperates, the you that compromises. The real you. My brilliance lives, reflected back to me, in the eyes of my sisters. When I stand for another woman’s greatness, I ground myself securely and even more deeply in my own.”
Sisterhood is where I take my greatest triumphs and my greatest defeats and have them equally embraced. Sisterhood is where I take my shitty work meetings, my promotions, my fears, my confidence, my insecurity, my proudest moments. It is the intimacy that comes from sharing your innermost life with someone and having it seen, validated, applauded. Belonging is a core human need. Sisterhood is a place to belong.
So, how strong is your sisterhood?
If you are feeling like your sisterhood could use a little juice, here are some things for you to think about:
- Seek out sisterhood. I get it—you’ve always gotten along better with guys. But believe me, forging female friendships will be one of the greatest gifts of your life. Chances are, you are an amazing, authentic, ambitious, powerful, deep woman (insert quality you love about yourself here). If you contain these qualities, other women must contain them too. Before you can find, you must seek. So, seek your sisters. Look on Facebook for women you think might be cool and reach out. Strike up a conversation with the woman who works down the hall. You may experience disappointment and heartbreak on the path of sisterhood, but that is the path of human relationships, sisterhood is no exception.
- Show up for sisterhood. Go deeper when it feels right—do not stand for one more inauthentic conversation if you’re doing it out habit. How many women do you see at school drop off only to have surface-level, inauthentic conversations with? “Oh, my god I love your shoes” or “Can you believe how much homework we’ve been having?”. It’s not that these are bad conversations, and in fact many of them come from a deep desire to connect. I’m also certainly not suggesting that you be rude. But don’t put on the veneer of friendliness and interest just because that’s what’s done. Remember, being generous to others who may be hungry for some human connection, however small, is a regular gift we can provide to others and ourselves. And, there’s probably an opportunity for you to be a leader and get curious about the woman in front of you. If the most authentic truth of that moment is how amazing someone’s shoes are, then by all means say it, say it like you mean it and make that sister’s day. But if it’s just filler, to have something to say, to cover up your own despair and insecurity and imperfection, then don’t do that. Show up as your brilliant, beautiful, perfectly imperfect self with women and see how sisterhood can begin to flourish between you.
- Schedule sisterhood. I’ve lived on two continents and many cities over the course of my adult life, and, as a result, my sisterhood is quite spread out. I really have to be intentional about scheduling a time to connect with my sisters individually and as a group. When we were in high school or college, we were just around each other all the time; it didn’t require any extra effort to build a strong connection. But, the reality of our modern lives is quite different. Sisterhood often requires an investment of time (and sometimes money—flying to London ain’t cheap), but the dividends are immeasurable.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with sisterhood—the good, the bad, and the still-in-process. How is your sisterhood? What will you do to deepen and strengthen your bonds with your sisters?