by Dr. Nancy O’Reilly
When I tell my story, I find a connection with other women that is so close I feel like something magical occurs. We connect through our shared truth, and the hardships and traumatic events of life that made us grow and push past the barriers that held us back. Once we dissolve these barriers we stop being victims of our circumstances and become empowered through knowing and engaging our own truths. I’ve always felt that it’s very important for women to reach out and support one another in this process of sharing stories without worrying about how they will be perceived. The more we do this, the bigger our community will become to help us make the greatest positive impact on the world.
2017 is a year of new beginnings. The interviews I’ve conducted for my podcast so far this year seem to be focused on women who have had such beginnings. One of these, Michele Weldon, wrote three books about her journey from shedding an abusive marriage and raising her children as a single mom. Michele admits that while she experienced some very challenging times, it was important to share the story. Especially now she has moved on to something greater. Releasing the hidden truth of being a battered woman liberated her to live the life she deserved.
My Leading Women co-author Bridget Cook-Burch shares her story in her essay, “Transforming the Stories We Tell Ourselves as Women.” Strong women like Bridget are often surprised to find themselves in situations they thought impossible. In a decisive moment, Bridget looked her truth in the eye, took a stand, and shut down the circumstance that made her a victim. Having transformed her own story, she embarked on a successful career in business and as a best-selling author telling other people’s transformational and inspiring stories.
Another amazing woman I interviewed, Nancy Michaels, told of how her life was perfect on the outside while it crumbled on the inside. She suddenly became critically ill in the midst of a failing marriage. She survived it all to become a spokesperson for patient advocacy and tell her story about the mistakes women make trying to make our lives on the outside seem perfect while dismissing the very foundation needed to live a fulfilling life.
Nancy’s story is more common than you might think among women. When I went through my own divorce, people shied away from me for not staying in the marriage. I was shocked at the number of people who didn’t support me through that very difficult time. If they did support me, they would have to admit their own truth and the imperfections in their own lives. When I shared that fact with Michele, she laughed and said, “Yes, it’s like they think they can catch it if they get too close.” But once I found my own truth, and how I needed to transform my own story, I began to soar. When I was ready to share my truth, my very best friends were there to support and help me find my way to truly pursue my passion and purpose.
Women end up being victims because they don’t reach out for help. The purpose of WomenConnect4Good is to provide a venue for women to reach out, tell their stories, read and hear the stories of others, and support other women on all levels. And we are not alone. Stiletto networks are forming all over the country. Through these networks, women leaders hear the good and the bad and that helps us to problem solve and learn how others overcame difficulties we are facing. The issues we deal with in our lives are not unique. These communities of women where we can share our truths are so empowering that the possibilities are endless.
If that sounds too optimistic, look around you at what women are doing. When others try to put them down and make them feel less than they are, women are standing up and following their passion. They are starting their own companies , creating their own futures, and reaching out to other women to help them do the same. Although our numbers lag behind in the executive suites of corporations or seats of government, women are stepping up to change that. Feminine leadership is a natural fit for today’s successful social profit initiatives. When women find their truth and build a solid foundation, they can and do become leaders. If you’re already a leader, reach out to another woman, create a network for sharing stories and support. And if you’re still hiding your truth and unsure of how to find your path, reach out to other women, listen and share your story. It will liberate you in unimaginable ways.