No Competition: How I Learned to Feel Affirmed in the Presence of Powerful Women

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by Mecca Brown

Recently I added a phenomenal circle of women to my life through a mentoring program. These women are true bad asses in their own right. They take no prisoners; they are bursting with life, love and passion. And it’s an amazing experience to bask in their presence. However two of them stood out for me. Every time they opened their mouths, I was inspired. I’m serious! I found myself actually sending text messages to myself as they spoke so that I could use their words later as quotes or blog ideas. I found myself slipping into daydreams of what my life would be like if I were them. I found myself saying repeatedly, that I wanted to be like them when I grew up.

Please understand, this was not my first exposure to phenomenal women. All my life, I’ve been surrounded by incredibly intelligent and powerful women. I was raised to believe that powerful and smart women aren’t competition, they are our teachers. They are truth; they are wisdom and guides leading us towards a more meaningful and powerful lives. So meeting these two women, you would think that the experience would have been business as usual right? Instead, I felt diminished. I felt unworthy and unequal to the magnitude of who they were in comparison to not only who I am now but who I want to be. I felt that although I had accomplished many great things in my life, in their presence; I was a school girl trying to speak at the grown up table. When I spoke, my eloquence evaporated, words tumbled out in garbled gibberish. My wisdom held no value; my words offered no benefit to their sermons of excellence that poured from their lips each time they spoke. I began to hide.

While speaking with my own coach I mentioned these thoughts in passing and she challenged me to fully explore my feelings in this area. As I began to ponder my feelings of inadequacy I found that the root of my problem was ego. Instead of appreciating the importance of this experience, my ego decided that the experience was a competition, that they were my challengers, and most importantly, they had already won. You see, for so long, I had been one of the smartest people at the table of my inner circles. For so long, I had been “the” woman of power. For so long, I had existed without another woman greater than me in my presence who pushed me to strive to be better and do better in my work, that I had forgotten the other side. I forgot the feeling of being in the presence of phenomenal women. And subsequently, I had also forgotten to check my ego at the door and learn from someone who is where I wanted to be.

This experience reminded me of a quote that says you should always have people in your circle who are smarter than you. If you are the smartest person in the room or crowd, then you need to move forward and add new friends/people to your circle; lest you cease to grow. Well I had forgotten to follow these words of wisdom and I therefore, was unprepared for class.

Powerful women are our village leaders, our wisdom, our storytellers and our community builders. Our perception elevates powerful women as giants in the community and industry. They seem larger than life. Standing in the sunlight, they cast great shadows, providing shade around those of us brave enough to seek safe haven for learning. We are covered. There is knowledge, truth, acceptance and comfort in their shadows. We needn’t compete against them because their journey is not ours. They are not in our race. They are in their own. So this shadow they cast keeps us cool and provides space for us to observe their actions, choices and experiences so that we can formulate clearer plans of our own. We are safe in the shadow once we understand its purpose; to provider knowledge, experience, and a foundation for the wisdom they share. Their shadow was never meant to dim our own light; but rather, to empower it. And when we are ready, we can take the well informed, educated steps outside their shadows and begin casting shadows of our own. And we can smile and provide safety to the women behind us seeking shelter in our shadow as we seek the next shadow in our life’s journey.

Today as I build and encourage women to live stronger, braver, savvier, sassier lives, I also pay it forward. I pay homage to the women before me whose shadows I have enjoyed throughout my life. And I look forward to the shadows in my future with a clearer understanding of what they are and what those shadows will be for the future me.

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