The Power of Sisterhood

I once spoke at a girls’ empowerment conference, to a group of 300 10- to 13-year-olds. As I was waiting to go on stage, I overheard a group of four 12-year-olds talking about their day. One of them was really on fire after learning about civil engineering, and she was inspired to share her career dreams with the others. I could see her face quickly shift from a state of open excitement and joy to one of embarrassment and withdrawal as the other girls subtly expressed their discomfort at seeing their young friend so clearly own and express her personal power. I remembered that moment when a successful author and dear friend poured out her heart to me recently, sharing through tears how a longtime mentor was suddenly threatened by her success and was now shutting her out, challenging her very right to be seen and heard.

This needs to end now.

Growing up, I don’t specifically recall being around women who modeled true sisterhood for me. But, when I was in my late 20s, I took a communications/leadership course with a woman who ended up being a lifelong mentor for me. She modeled some beautiful ways to be, but, most importantly, she challenged me to stop playing small; she held an oceanic space for me to blossom into the fullest expression of who I am. And, slowly, I learned to do this—not alone, but with many incredible women by my side. Today, as a wife, mother, business owner, mentor, and community activist, moving in the world with the support of my sisters is the only way I know how to be.

What does sisterhood mean to me? It’s a way of being with other women—both young and old—in which I do the following:

  • Hold the highest and best for them and see them as their future selves—especially when they’re going through a rough time
  • Encourage vulnerability and authenticity in our relationship and communication (I’m a “get real or go home” kind of woman!)
  • Practice forgiveness (with myself) and have the humility and courage to initiate tough but necessary conversations when appropriate
  • Truly accept them exactly where they are right now, and mean it when I say, “come as you are”
  • Allow my sisters and myself to show up in our relationship “warts and all,” and fully exhale (unbuttoning the top button of my jeans helps here!)
  • Derive joy and exhilaration from sharing my sisters’ wisdom/gifts with others and delight in seeing them shine big and bright
  • State my needs, and ask them on a regular basis, “How can I support you?” and really mean it
  • Freely share my successes, and don’t feel I need to shrink or dim my presence when I’m with them
  • Enjoy reciprocity, giving and receiving in equal measure and serving my sisters in a way that feeds me rather than drains me
  • Invite in a level of intimacy—with a chosen few—that allows me to share the deepest parts of myself
  • Be willing to lovingly acknowledge what’s not being said or seen—even at the cost of having someone not like me
  • See their innate worthiness and remind them that their ordinary self is enough.

For many, this is a new way of being with other women. It’s a courageous path that requires us to practice extreme self-care and fully show up willing to be both seen and heard.

Not long ago, after a workshop I cotaught, an author/speaker commented to me how brave I was to have invited all these amazing guest teachers to share the spotlight. I looked at her with wonder, not fully understanding what she meant. Then, as her words sank in, I responded, “Hey, we’re all in this together. When I help my sisters shine, we all shine.”

Take a moment to reflect: What does sisterhood mean to you? Who in your life models this for you? Do you have women in your life that provide a soft place to fall and allow you to show up “warts and all”? What would it feel like to interact with other women in a more vulnerable, authentic way? What do you perceive as barriers to experiencing a deeper sisterhood in your own life?

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Renée Peterson Trudeau is an internationally recognized transformational coach, speaker, catalyst, founder and president of Career Strategists, and the author of two award-winning books The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life.

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