Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Finding your tribe of support


I attended two very inspirational events last week. And although the speakers had extremely different backgrounds, their messages were quite similar and right in line with the Women’s Initiative philosophy.
On Thursday, I attended the ERA luncheon with keynote speaker Arianna Huffington. Arianna talked about the need for women to not only break the glass ceiling and achieve success, but to do it differently. Women, she said, do things with empathy, which is exactly what the world needs now. If the Lehman Brothers had been the Lehman Sisters, things would be a lot different today!
She also talked about the personal obstacles women face, including facing our own worst critic in ourselves. Arianna refers to her inner critic as her ‘obnoxious roommate’. This is the voice that tells you you can’t do it, you’re too old, you’re too fat, you don’t know what you’re doing. The challenge is getting past that inner critic. Arianna’s book On Becoming Fearless addresses this and says that fearlessness is not the absence of fear, but the ability to not let your fears stop you. The key she said is to form our own tribe of people who support us. People who lift us up and tell the obnoxious roommate to shut up.
On Friday morning, I went to the Women’s Initiative North Bay Fundraising Breakfast. We had several guest speakers, including our own charismatic Julie Abrams, and Alison Davis from Belvedere Capital, one of the most influential women in Bay Area business. But the most powerful speaker that morning was Mara.
Mara is a recent graduate of Women’s Initiative. Mara’s background is about as far from Arianna Huffington’s as you could imagine. Her mother was an alcoholic so Mara was left to care for her younger siblings as her mother was either absent or unable to care for them. Her father physically abused her mother. At 17 Mara could no longer take it and ran away from home, despite the guilt she felt at leaving her younger siblings. She soon married her boyfriend and found herself with two babies and in a not much better situation than what she had left. Her husband was verbally abusive, telling Mara that she was useless, that she would never survive on her own, and that her children would starve.
Despite that, Mara did find the strength to leave. Shortly after, she saw an interview on television with a Women’s Initiative graduate. A Latina like herself who had started her own business and become successful. Inspired but scared, Mara called Women’s Initiative and signed up for the business training course. There, she found a warm, caring group of women who never told her that she couldn’t do it, but only gave her words of encouragement and helped her discover her own path to success. She had found her own tribe of supportive women.
Mara’s goal is to start a local publication for Latina women that addresses the issues of domestic violence, self esteem, raising children in the United States and other issues that Latinas face. Mara doesn’t just want to succeed, but she wants to give back and help other women.
I’m confident that Mara will succeed, and that she will do it differently. She will do it with empathy and with a tribe of supporters.

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