I am a lucky woman. For over a decade, my job has required me to travel the world and experience the diverse beauty of its global tribes of people. My mom would probably say I've lived a "colorful" life, and I know she really means she thinks its been a little wild and maybe a little too adventurous at times. There was the time I ended up broke at Oktoberfest dressed in a dirndl not knowing where I would stay that night; the time I went for a nighttime skinny dip in the Mediterranean and broke my toe a very far distance from my clothes and the time I got lost on a South African mountain with a total stranger... all were bordering mildly irresponsible for a young woman traveling alone. But these were the experiences that forced a girl from a sheltered Portland, Oregon suburb out into the world to interact and communicate with humans that were so foreign to me that they may as well have been painted blue and worn the heads of aliens.
I loved traveling the moment I left Oregon. I was launched out of my comfort zone, where I was suddenly working and playing with folks from cultures that were worlds away from my own. Moments of loneliness, desperation and adventurousness on my travels got me lost in countless conversations with complete strangers out on the road. Over time, these connections taught me more about myself and the world around me than I ever would have imagined. However, being a young lady traveling solo, I did try to steer myself towards members of my own gender for conversation more often than not.
These meaningful conversations among women have occurred in various ladies rooms, classrooms, yoga studios in London, salons in Santa Monica, hotel rooms in Greece, makeup chairs in New York, art galleries in Paris and ashrams in the Himalayas. Basically, anywhere and everywhere. I have found it easy to connect with other women on a deep level very quickly when I allow my true and vulnerable self to show itself, unfiltered. Over the years, I've noticed two very common threads that weave their way through just about every conversation between women:
1) Women love to talk about their issues. It seems to be our natural instinct to connect, then spew our issues all over the place. For example, I met my friend for lunch a few days ago and the first thing we did after saying hello was go back and forth and talk about the problems on our minds. Connecting with other women is an instant mood booster, and it has the ability to leave me feeling a sense of empowerment I may not have walked into the conversation with. It's like if I just say it out loud and can get an "oh yeah, I hear ya" from another woman, I instantly feel better. I'm convinced this is just a subconscious thing my sneaky ego needs to be reassured I'm normal.
2) The number one issue women seem to struggle with is the issue of self-worth. This can play out in our lives in SO many different ways. Maybe we blow all of our money on useless possessions because we subconsciously don't feel we deserve to feel financially secure. Maybe we date men who are emotionally unavailable because we need to feel their validation to make us feel okay about ourselves because we don't provide ourselves with an adequate amount of self-love. And maybe we always settle for being second best because we don't feel worthy of winning the gold. Silver will do us just fine. These are just my personal issues I've struggled to overcome, but I learned that a lack of self-worth was the underlying cause of all of them.
It's common to hear about women who put their whole family's well-being ahead of their own only to wind up unable to give the kind of love they had the intention of giving, too burned out because they grew tired or sick from putting themselves last. And then there's the old self-sabotage. I used to be great at this. I'd know a fabulous career opportunity was about to present itself and a fear of not really feeling worthy of success would wash over me and I'd find some way to mess it up. Of course at that time, I wasn't aware of what I was doing and most others in that situation probably aren't, either. In my many years in Manhattan, I've seen people handed money and opportunities beyond their wildest dreams and they blew it because they never prepared their inner self to receive such abundance because they never really thought they deserved it.
A lack of self-worth can show up in small ways too. I have a friend that still smokes cigarettes on occasion, even though she doesn't have an addiction. They make her feel terrible and are harmful to her health. She just does it because it's a way to make her feel badly when she's feeling great. She just can't get used to the feeling of feeling wonderful all the time, so she smokes a little to take herself down a notch. She wouldn't even know what to do with herself if she felt too good. I know it sounds crazy, but people do this all of the time. It's an underlying feeling of not feeling good enough.
I'd like to think I've figured out a solution to this. Either all of us on this planet are worthy, or none of us are worthy. Just by being here, we are worthy. If we can all stand forward in our worthiness and self-love, we can share the beauty of our being with each other when we connect, rather than spending so much time moaning to one another about the painful relationships we are in or our struggles to accept the cellulite we are convinced is appearing rapidly on the back of our legs.
Everyone has issues. When too much energy is focused on these negative issues, our inner beauty can get taken over and we can lose our ability to shine. I've learned that when I accept the things I may not like about myself, I am greater than the sum of my parts. Building intimacy and compassion within myself shows up in my outer life experience more and more often these days. The result is a feeling of happiness, self-acceptance and worthiness that is contagious. It's a process, but trust me, you want to catch this bug.