“The last thing this city needs is another women’s conference.”
I heard these stinging words during a recent conversation with an influential woman in my community. I spoke with her to share my vision for the Women Igniting Change™ movement, part of which is an event I’ve created to build a community dedicated to unleashing the contribution of women and changing the world.
Her words hit me like a sucker punch.
You see, I believe in the hearts of women lie the solutions to some of the most pressing global challenges of our time: vital medical discoveries; conflict resolution, literacy and education, life-changing innovations, and so many yet-to-be-discovered breakthroughs.
What if every woman on the planet were truly committed to making a difference in her small part of the world? Imagine the momentum of a movement where all women embraced the influence they have in their communities, their organizations, and their world. What if women recognized without a doubt that they are the Spark that will make lasting, positive, trailblazing changes happen?
Sounds amazing, right?
That energy and belief is what I carried with me into that conversation.
Imagine my disappointment when I heard those harsh words. My enthusiasm deflated like a balloon.
But only for a moment.
You see, I bounced back because I’ve been on the receiving end of thoughtless words before. Any woman who has spent time in the trenches of corporate America knows how to take a hearty, discouraging blow and bounce back.
Women know that the only way to make it is to get tough. Because the truth is, not everyone will share your vision. Some people will ignore your courage, your truth, and your spark.
But, instead of shutting down and dousing the flame that fuels my passion, I paused and considered where she was coming from.
I don’t think she meant to be malicious. She simply didn’t realize the impact her words would have on me. If she had shot her arrow at a woman who wasn’t as grounded in her beliefs, her words could have crushed the woman’s spirit and potentially skewered an idea that might have revolutionized an industry, an organization, or the planet.
Words matter. And they can slice through your spirit if you let them.
One of my core beliefs is that women must build each other up and support one another when we’re at our most vulnerable. We’re on the same side and we never know when that one crazy idea out of left field might just be a game changer.
As I was reflecting on our difficult conversation, I began to ask myself, What has been stripped away from her? Does she no longer believe in herself? In others?
Women are constantly barraged with negative messages that can wear down even the toughest among us. In the end, I felt sad that she had allowed those messages to distort her perception; she let the dark side win.
EVERY innovation, creative endeavor, or unheard-of concept begins as a spark of an idea. And when that idea challenges the status quo, the naysayers will rear their heads and tell you every single reason it won’t work.
How do you handle criticism when your fresh idea is just beginning to spread its wings? Do you shut down? Do you give up on yourself and quit?
I refuse to do that. I solidly believe in my movement and in the knowledge that it is unlike anything out there. I KNOW the Women Igniting Change™ movement will change women’s lives.
Do you support women in your life who brazenly share unexpected, bold ideas with you? Or are you among the crowd who’s quick to tell her why her idea is a bad one?
Below are three ways to build up women when they look to you for support:
- Acknowledge Her – Consciously seek out amazing women you can acknowledge. It could be someone in a grocery store, in your office, or in your community group. Counteract the gremlins that she hears in her head. The simplest words of encouragement can be a beacon of light.
- Be an Ally – So many people in my life offer me guidance and advice, and pick me up when I’m going down. I call them my come-in-and-get-me allies. Become the ally another woman needs; you might be the only one she’s got.
- Be a Resource – People who change the world stand on the shoulders of others. No one truly does it alone. Be a resource for women you know. Connect her to people or organizations that can help her; brainstorm ideas; or become her accountability partner so she can stay focused and on track.
Women of the world, we are all in this together. We should encourage every crazy, outside-the-box idea and challenge the status quo. Because sparks of ideas are the catalysts that change the world; they always have been.