I’ve been talking with my son about loneliness, following your truth, and finding good friends in life. He just turned 13, and as you may remember, adolescence can bring massive growth spurts; not only did he grow one inch taller in two months, but the social hierarchy in middle school still has that Hunger Games-like quality to it.
I noticed a lot of overlap between what he’s going through now at school, and what my clients go through. When we driven, creative womxn decide it’s time to step up into being leaders, we go through a lot of the same stuff we go through as teenagers:
- Self-consciousness or self-doubt
- Imposter Syndrome
- Big emotions
- Big dreams
- Growing pains… both emotionally, and physically!
And it all reminded me that our relationships and social connections are crucial to meaningful, successful lives. No matter what age you are, we feel connected to and accepted by other people we have the courage to get through tough times.
When we feel disconnected, something astounding happens: the pain centers in the brain and body become activated and we feel pain.
It’s a powerful signal that we are at risk when we are alone. And it’s a strong evolutionary truth that as leaders we need to be aware of: when we know that we belong, we feel safe and valued.
So this piece is all about finding belonging…
I’ve been thinking a lot about the kinds of communities we need to feel well and supported, and achieve our own goals, both professionally and personally.
I read a lot and have seen this “creative community” idea from many different successful artists, creatives, and entrepreneurs.
In her hilarious and illuminating book on thriving as a working actor, Jenna Fischer preaches “be a joiner!”
I couldn’t agree more…
In her first years struggling to get acting gigs in Hollywood, before she became famous as “Pam” on The Office, Jenna worked day jobs and tried to get auditions while her roommate took a different route: he joined a theater company and volunteered for behind-the-scenes work in “the biz.”
While Jenna watched a lot of movies alone at home, her roommate was always busy, building community, learning how the business worked, making connections, and creating side projects with other actors.
After getting lonely and feeling isolated, Jenna realized she needed to join in, volunteered at a theater, and began making community and connections.
She credits her new friends and community with supporting her and keeping her going on the long, tough road to success.
In my own career, friends and connections I’ve made through coaching programs, conferences, retreats, and classes have given me the strength and inspiration to keep going during hard times when I didn’t believe in myself or when I was trying something new and risky.
“You think you’re alone and thought this up yourself, you know, and you’re not; you’re part of an interactive web of twentieth-century thought.
That is, to me, incredibly lovely because…it’s just less lonely.”
~ Laurie Anderson
On Trying To Be The Solo SuperWoman
Being a creative entrepreneur (AKA Creatrix Leader) can be a meaningful, healing, spiritual, and deeply satisfying way to make a living and a life. At its best, we do it in the company of others, with a balance of alone time.
There are a few instances of creative leaders who do it all in solitude, create great work, and have the inner fortitude to manage the mental and emotional challenges…
…though, I don’t know any personally.
Out of all of the long-time, successful creative entrepreneurs I know, I see a common trait amongst us:
- We continue to seek out community, get support, and ask for help.
- We set aside time to go away together and brainstorm strategies.
- We make space for creating our ideas into reality.
- We put money, time, and resources towards this work.
- We commit our full selves to the process, again, and again, and again.
Creative Leaders (AKA Creatrix Leaders, AKA Creative Entrepreneurs) DO require community:
- We need the stimulating conversations about topics most of our family and friends just don’t “get.” The questions, experiences, and heartfelt support of peer Creatrixes are like nourishment and fuel.
- As we grow and see new levels of achievement materialize, we realize we need new teachers, mentors, and guides.
- Professional writers work with editors, co-writers, or join critique or coaching groups where they come together to share and read their work. They also get accountability and meet with like-minded (and similar-souled) people who understand what they’re trying to do.
- Our coaching or critique groups help us improve our work, and help us see things that could be made better or richer.
- They also help us practice our boundaries and independence as we notice aspects of our work that we prefer to preserve.
My own community of support is made up of writers, coaches, artists, entrepreneurs, actors, filmmakers, and more.
I’ve just joined a small group of womxn who will be getting together virtually for at least the first few months of 2020. I’m excited to have the space set aside to focus on my business plans, offer attention to the other womxn, and be present for new ideas that may arise.
I cannot imagine where I’d be without the stimulating conversations, questions, challenges, and heartfelt support of these fellow creators and risk-takers.
Brilliant event facilitator Priya Parker, author of The Art of Gathering, credits her creative community with keeping her inspired, focused, and finding her authentic voice:
“We figure out not only who we are, but who we could be, through our gatherings…birds of a feather flock together, but we have a choice of who we want our birds to be.”
You don’t need to be a painter, novelist, or poet to have a creative community.
Womxn in my past mentorship groups have included:
- A trauma-informed PhD candidate launching a new website and retreat series
- A dietician making the pivot from hospital work to private practice
- A sales director with a deep desire for a spiritual, fun, feminine community
- A copywriter working on a novel, card deck, and creating independent coaching programs
- A surgeon working on her website and planning a book launch while she built an authentic social media following
- An established coach creating a new kind of coaching and retreats
- A business consultant ready to launch her online presence while nurturing her local contact and network
- A financial coach with a 7-figure resale business who finally got back into painting and launched her speaking series
- A top sales woman in a tech company who aimed for and achieved a massive promotion, and is now planning to hike the Himalayas with friends…
… the list goes on and on.
These womxn realized that working with a coach and a small community would help them leap over their previous limiting beliefs.
Because when you get to know people, and let them know you, you can’t hide behind your excuses anymore.
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”
~ Helen Keller
Even when you have the skills, plan, and commit to showing up to the creative work every day, it can take time. Success doesn’t happen overnight.
The community you find in mentorship groups are there to lend support and feedback, listen to you, hold you when you’re feeling down, and cheer you on as you bust through limiting beliefs.
The womxn you meet will be so inspirational, they’ll help you get through the struggle and doubt. And, by the way, you’ll inspire them to get their hard times, too!
And Yet, It Can Feel Scary To Join IN
There are perceived challenges to joining any group. Even as grown adults we get that nervous feeling walking up to a group of strangers, like we’re back in middle school again, asking if we can join your table for lunch!
We face additional fears:
- It’s scary to be seen. When we allow people to truly know us, as we share our goals, vision, and challenges, we fear that they won’t like us. We experience:
- Perfectionism, and try to present a false image of what’s really happening under the hood
- Mean Girl Triggers, worrying we’ll be gossiped about and cast out like we were in our younger years
- Social Anxiety, a whole host of physical sensations and worries that make it hard to relax and be present with others
- Worry about picking the wrong group. That’s why it’s important to meet with or talk with the organizer of the group, to ask some questions, and get a real sense of what their style is. Consider it a two-way interview where you’re both getting a sense of each other. An experienced mentor will curate the group a balance of personalities, and ensure the group’s mission is a fit for the individuals.
- Concern about the time commitment. We’re all busy. The secret of these groups is that the few hours you’ll give to the group will help you get so clear and focused you’ll spend less time on stuff that doesn’t matter, and have more time to use for what does. In my experience, mentorship groups will expand your capacity for your work, as you’ll feel more energized, inspired, and you’ll waste less energy to loneliness and worry.
The best way I’ve found to handle these fears is to talk with people in a group, or work with a coach or trusted advisor, ask questions, feel into the possibilities, and leap toward the desires I’ve had for growth and connection.
On Balancing Our Introvert With Our Desire To Connect
In Priscilla Long’s handbook for creators, Minding The Muse, she describes the stages of a creative’s work, which I think parallels a successful Creatrix’s path:
- Making Stage: Experimenting, putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), building, etc. Usually solitary, though I do in-person co-creation in retreats with individual and groups.
- Refining Stage: when you bring in an editor, share your work or ideas with a group, add, subtract, prune; when you invite your peers to take a look in put in their two-cents.
- Purveying Stage: enter a competition, launch your program, publish your website or podcast, send your book proposal to agents or publishers, etc. This is when having your peer-group behind you is especially helpful. With trusted friends at your back, you’re finally brave enough to take this step, which you may have been putting off for years.
I’ve always found this path to be a dance between alone time, group-connection-time, and “going public” time. The first few times you do this dance, it feels weird and uncoordinated. That’s ok – you’ll get better!
In the end, creating your work, with your unique voice and vision, isn’t just about making money, (though my passion is that we Creatrix Womxn get paid well), in the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will be touched and served by your work, and enriching your own life as well.
Some questions to consider as you find your coach or community:
- Do you have adequate community? Are your people stimulating your work, your courage, your vision?
- Do you put yourself out there? Have you started to look for a community if you feel the need for more?
- Do you contribute? Have you engaged with other driven creatives and showed up for them in real time, which generates energy for you and the collective?
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