This past weekend, the Delta Omega Chapter (Case Western Reserve University) of Phi Mu Fraternity held their Empowered Women’s Brunch. This is the second year in a row that they’ve held this event to celebrate their graduating seniors and the women who have supported them through their collegiate careers. This year, they asked me to be their keynote speaker for the event – little ole me! It was such an honor.
I had a few requests for copies of my speech, so I decided to let it live here. Enjoy!
I am so honored to be here with you today. I am a past staff member of the Office of Greek Life here at Case. I worked here for 3.5 years with the IFC and Panhellenic executive boards. Since leaving CWRU, I have been working for Delta Gamma’s Executive Offices as the associate director for training. In that role, I develop curriculum designed to help Delta Gamma’s in all sorts of roles as they navigate their position responsibilities. I also, as of recently, oversee the chapter consultant program.
And perhaps most important to me, I am a sister of Phi Mu Fraternity. Last summer, I was appointed as the National Honor Policy Coordinator for Phi Mu. This is a volunteer position that is tasked with “upholding the prestige of Phi Mu Fraternity.” I lead a group of 6 other women and together, we oversee the Honor Process for Phi Mu America. If you’re thinking “wow. What a task” or “hard pass on that for me, thanks,” I get it. Overseeing accountability for an organization as large as ours is in fact quite the task. I will share a little bit more about how I got to this role later.
Purposefully, all of the roles I’ve chosen for myself, either volunteer or otherwise, have been centered around mentoring college-aged women. When I think about why this is, the strongest argument I have is that I was once a college-aged woman. I am a fervent believer in education and that this time in life carries with it a lot of weight. There is a lot of exploration, a lot of heartache, a lot of triumph and so much room for growth. I count myself one of the lucky ones because I’ve spent over a decade now sitting across from you, hearing your stories and helping both of us to discover who it is we actually want to be. I’ve learned so much from the women I’ve encountered.
In the spirit of women’s empowerment, the theme of today’s brunch, I have spent some time reflecting on what I’ll call – our collective pitfalls. Today, I’m going to share with you four pitfalls that women find themselves in so that we, all of us, can begin to navigate away from them. These are the empowering things that I wish I would have known then.
1. We truly believe we are not enough.
We are just going to dive right in here.
When I was in graduate school, my supervisor introduced me to Dr. Brene Brown. She is a social worker and professor and the university of Houston, and honestly her work changed my life that year. I am sure many of you are familiar with her. She researches shame and vulnerability and reading everything she’s ever written has shifted my view of relationships and truly, myself. Worthiness is one of the cornerstones of her work. She preaches that all we’ve ever been and all we’ll ever be is 100% enough.
We do not need to be anything more, have anything more, prove anything at all. Just you. Whoever you are, however you look, whatever you’re able to give…it is ENOUGH. We spend so much time in a culture of scarcity that we are conditioned to believe that we are not enough as we are. There is always something better we should be or desire. There is always a better grade, a better person for the job, and better way to get things done. We doubt our ability, we use comparison and far too often, we conclude that we, that you, are not enough. We don’t have enough to say, we don’t have enough knowledge, enough money, enough experience, enough whatever it is for you…we constantly tell ourselves we are not enough. Society reinforces this message, but it begins inside each of us.
What if you believed that wasn’t true? What if you truly internalized that you.are.enough. Exactly where you are. You are enough for all things and at all times. I believe this about you.
Believing that you are enough does not always mean that the answers you are seeking will always be “yes.” It doesn’t mean that you’ll get the internship you want, it doesn’t mean that your partner won’t let you down, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to work hard. It certainly is not an excuse for laziness. But, what it does mean is that by internalizing that you are whole and worthy, you are getting out of your own way. You will not be the reason that you didn’t try. By believing that all you are is all you need, you are eliminating the very first thing that gets in our way – our doubt in ourselves.
2. We compare and tear each other down.
When I worked in the Greek Life Office here at Case Western, I earned a certificate in women’s leadership through a program that is sponsored by the Center for Women. There was one thing in particular that I learned through that year that will never leave me. I learned that, as women, we have a responsibility to each other. We have a responsibility to hold each other up, to pull each other up and to open doors for each other when we can. Men still have the advantage. They make more money than we do on the whole, they carry privilege we will never know. They also are not all wired to call out inconsistencies or to squash the inequities. We, friends…we have to do that for each other. We need to recognize when others are wading through doubt. We need to listen to their stories, encourage them to quiet the stories of “not enough” they’re telling themselves, and move mountains when we can to help. You are part of an organization that aims to make this it’s mission. You have a platform, a safety net and a support system worldwide that will bolster your confidence, I hope it already has. Use this space to learn. Use this space to make mistakes. Use this space to try new things and use it mostly to cheer each other on.
We fall short here constantly because we have a knack for finding each others shortcomings. I am certain, that although you have a chapter full of truly incredible women, the best of the best, there are times when you are talking about each other in ways that do not build, but instead tear down.
What you have found here is something I hope you’ll protect. I hope you’ll protect each other with your words and with your thoughts, and that you will bolster each sister you encounter so that she can be her very best. None of us have figured life out. Not a single one of us. But what Phi Mu is designed to do is to meet you where you are, help you explore what could be, and then to give you opportunities to fine tune your character. We will fall short, but the last thing we need is to be part of the reason that the sister next to you stumbles.
The Delta Gamma’s talk a lot about this concept – they use the phrase “be her champion even in her absence.” That perfectly sums it up. Be each others champion.
3. We stay quiet and we play small.
This past summer, I was appointed as the National Honor Policy Coordinator for Phi Mu Fraternity. As I mentioned before, I lead a group of 6 other women and together, we oversee the Honor Process and all accountability measures for Phi Mu America. When I received the phone call from my friend and HQ staff member that I had been selected, we exchanged hellos and then she said “You are our next Honor Policy Coordinator.” I kid you not, the very first thing out of my mouth was “oh no…I was afraid you were going to say that.”
The fear and doubt I experienced at the beginning of this role felt familiar and different all at the same time. For starters, although nothing in my past proved this to me, I doubted that I would ever get to this level of leadership. I always felt that the women in these roles were much wiser, much more together and much more intelligent than me. I looked at them with such admiration and yes, believed that I wasn’t enough to be one of them. I truly believed that I was not enough – I was not old enough, I did not have enough knowledge, I was not experienced enough, I was too small to sit at such a large table…the list goes on.
I am grateful to have friends and sisters that believed in me even when I was telling myself those lies. Those women communicated clearly to me that actually, I had more than enough of all of those things. That this table was not too big for me and that I fit perfectly in the seat. And that, actually, I was the one that needed to sit at the head of the table.
My mom, who is here with me today, often said this phrase to me growing up “do as I say and not as I do” and I think that covers this point perfectly. Although I just told you a story about how I quieted myself and how I played small in fear of stepping into big shoes, please instead understand that I wish for you the opposite. Do not stay quiet. Do not play small. Sometimes, I know that the uniqueness of our own voices frightens us, and that is what was plaguing me last summer. We worry that our perspectives, or our ideas are not good enough because they differ from history. They feel too loud because they are not in line with status quo. Sister, your voice is your most powerful attribute. Do not be scared to be different. Do not be scared to form your own opinion. Do not be scared to speak up. We need you.
4. We let fear win.
In Michelle Obama’s new book Becoming, there is a quote on page 43 – truly at the beginning of her story – that felt like a punch in the gut and a hug at the very same time. She says this:
“Failure is a feeling before it becomes an actual result. It’s vulnerability that breeds with self-doubt and then is escalated, often deliberately, by fear.”
Let me read it again.
“Failure is a feeling before it becomes an actual result. It’s vulnerability that breeds with self-doubt and then is escalated, often deliberately, by fear.”
A few weeks ago, I presented a session at Delta Gamma’s Officer Institute about fear. I presented to a room full of college women and we had an amazing conversation about the loudness of fear. We began with this video from Lean In – let’s watch it together now.
The conversation that followed was so inspiring that when I was thinking about what you share with you today, it continually rose to the top of my mind. Throughout the workshop, I had them talk to each other about what fear felt like, what it sounded like and what it looked like. We first need to recognize it if we’re going to overcome it. At the end, they did some reflection on what they were going to do in the face of fear, like the women in the video. They answered the question: what will you accomplish even though you might be afraid? Here are a few pictures of what they told each other, and I’ll summarize for you…they said:
- I would take care of myself before taking care of others
- Speak up more for myself and the organizations I represent
- I’m going to look for things I do well rather than always looking at my failures
- Go for the internship I really want and not what I just think I can achieve
- Ask someone out
- Go to vet school and tell all the men off that said I am too pretty for that
- I WILL stand my ground and hold my opinion, views and decisions with the persuasion of others
- I will stop allowing toxic friendships in my life and stop making people a priority who don’t make me one
As you’re reading and listening to these, I imagine you have thoughts like I did: “you can do it, sister,” “of course you’ll do that – you are so powerful,” — so ready to cheer these women on. My question is this – if we can be so encouraging to others, why do we let fear win in ourselves? Why do we back down when we get fearful?
At the end of the session, we had them share aloud and then one of the women asked if she could share something with the group. She stood up and shared with them that every morning, she repeats a mantra to herself while looking in the mirror. She said that it has been proven that the way you speak to yourself frames the way others see you, the way you carry yourself and even what you accomplish. She then asked everyone to repeat her mantra after her and to adopt one of their own. She defied her own fear in that moment and pulled in others at the same time. I was impressed and everyone was inspired.
So, in her honor and to celebrate our collective strength, will you do this with me today? I want to end today by giving you a mantra that you should say to yourself each and every morning. Stand up. Strike a power pose. Repeat after me.
- Good morning, beautiful
- It is going to be a great day
- Because I am strong
- I am powerful
- And I have others cheering me on
- Today is my day
- Because I am enough.
What better way to follow a 2018 recap than with some thoughts on 2019. I meant to write this in January but, here we are.
For the first time maybe ever in my life, I feel really clear about what I want for this year. I can point to a few things that have helped me gain this clarity and that is what I am sharing today. It is a good sign that we are a few months in to the year and I still feel connected to these tools.
Freaking PowerSheets. I have been wanting to jump on this train for a couple of years but I always forget about them until they’re all sold out. How typical. This year my little fingers hit “purchase” in the very minute that they went on sale. Major win.
If you aren’t familiar, PowerSheets are sold by a company called Cultivate What Matters and it is a proven method of goal setting, refinement and making progress. Their whole sctick is “progress, not perfection” and that has always spoken to me. PowerSheets arrive in the mail in a beautiful, cheery bright yellow box and begin with 45 pages of self-discovery before even letting you doodle your goals for the year. There were moments that felt like true therapy; processing the past year, what “identity boxes” I place myself in and need to break away from, and sorting through the fears that hold me back. Whew. It took me AWHILE.
So now these pages hold my goals for the year (I have 6!) and spaces for me to monitor even minuscule progress. I pull them out every Monday morning to remind myself of my goals and to check-in on the sub-goals of each month. So far, it has felt like a lot to keep up with, honestly…but I suppose that is part of the point. It takes accountability to keep up with growth and to continually reaffirm the promises we make to ourselves. I’m not sure how it happened, but these sheets don’t cause me any guilt when progress isn’t as quick as I’d hoped. They just serve as a reminder of the things I know are important to me this year and the pace at which I complete (or don’t complete) my goals is truly irrelevant.
On our drive to Charlotte on Christmas Day, we listed to the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.
A+. Highly recommend.
In a nutshell, here is what has stayed with me. In all things, focus on less, but better. Less, but better. This might mean less meetings, it definitely means less stuff and for me, it also means setting boundaries that allow me to say “no” so I can say “yes” to better, more fulfilling commitments.
This is definitely no longer original due to the popularity of the Tidying Up Netflix Series, but it is no less inspiring to me. Awhile ago, I read Marie Kondo’s book about tidying and, while it was interesting to me, it spurred close to no action at all. Womp. The series, however, created major urgency for me. There is something about seeing the change, listening to the stories and hearing all the dramatics that made it a necessity that I begin decluttering our home. Immediately. I started with my clothes, as she says to do. It was a dream of a Friday night.
I cannot lie – it makes a sizable difference. Having less things is always good, but it was the folding and organizing that really made me feel the change. I ended up with an extra drawer – an entire extra, empty drawer! Such a departure from shoving and stuffing and pushing the drawers shut.
Following my clothes, I tackled a couple of our catch-all drawers. You know the ones I mean. It truly makes such a difference. I know where things are. I am more inclined to throw things away that are not necessary so as not to reclutter. And I don’t cringe every time I glance toward the cabinets. Dramatic but true, it helps me breathe easier.
I have a long way to go, but I am proud to say that for the most part, I’ve kept up with the folding of the clothes and the organizing of only the things that spark joy! Tidying is a theme in my PowerSheets goals.
Word of the Year.
My word of 2019 is nourish.
A few months ago, I went to a yoga class where the instructor utilized a short poem to set intention for the hour. Something about it has clung to me ever since. This is my mantra for the year – nourish myself continually in the form of kindness and in sustained ways, nourish the lives of my tribe and our home.
Go ahead, read it again. And slow down this time. It’s good, isn’t it?
Although this post comes a bit late in the year for “new years goals,” the Cultivate team preaches that there is no magic in January 1. Every day is a good one for progress.
Be softer with you.
Every year, I mentally start my end-of-the-year reflection by saying “wow, this was a big year.” So, I don’t really want to say that here but…truly, it was.
At the end of 2017, E and I both started new jobs which brought us to a new city (although old to us both). Those two things are actually enough challenge for an entire year, so I’ll let that be the frame for this post. Starting a new job and moving to a new city and living in a new home create a lot of chaos in routine and headspace. Those things serve a plate full of really tight knots to be untied…some of which still remain.
Here is a little recap of the lessons I learned and things I particularly loved in 2018.
I started my year with one of my favorite new traditions – creating vision boards with my besties. We did it the old school way – with scissors and magazines and poster boards. Not only did I love the actual process of it all, but I really cherished getting to understand their goals for their year. We met for dinner following this day to talk more in-depth about the things we hoped for and what was important to us at that time. 2019 Vision Boards are being created tomorrow – I’m looking forward to learning about how I can support them in their year to come. We’ve got some big things on the horizon!
Word of the Year.
Previous to creating our vision boards, I had identified my word for the year – contentment. I’m a big fan of having a picture of how you want to grow, but being able to center it around one word. It is easy to remember just one thing.
Contentment was a challenge for me. I have a tendency to always wish for more. Yearn for better. Understand that I have not yet reached my potential, and worry so much that I won’t. Recognizing the anxiety this stirs in my heart, adopting contentment was my way of encouraging myself to rest in what is, and not what could be. It was my way of giving myself permission to relax, to be calm, to allow life to settle. It was also a reminder to practice gratitude.
Focusing on contentment served me well this year. It allowed the dust of the move to settle, allowed me to really sink into my new job with an attitude of “let’s stay for awhile” rather than “okay, what’s next,” and at one point in the year, gave me the powerful reflection that I truly have everything I’ve ever wanted…that about knocked me off my feet.
Man, oh man, do I feel like we tried it all in 2018. I made a decision when we moved to no longer be a member of a gym. Our apartment is truly about 50 steps from the gym on-site, and I felt that it was a solid way to save some money. I think I was pretty successful, actually.
I started the year following a program shared with me by a friend that involved light cardio and strength training. I created a routine that even involved the same friendly faces in the gym each morning, and did an okay job of keeping up.
Mid-year, we took a swing at the keto diet. Elliot joined the gym at work and signed-on with a personal trainer. He killed the game. I did not have as much success, but I did take a few lessons away from going keto. First, it gives you tremendous control over what you are eating, and I really, really valued that. I knew what I “should” eat and what I “shouldn’t”, and that definition worked really well for me mentally. This control and understanding eliminated the constant guilt I feel about food, even when we would bend and indulge in pizza and wine. I experienced no guilt and I still can’t get over it because it felt so wonderful and foreign. I’m taking that feeling into 2019 – I need to learn to get there without a diet. I also learned more about what my body likes and what it doesn’t. My body needs carbs to operate optimally. About half way through our collective journey, I reintroduced healthy carbs and now I know that is the best for me.
In July, I started the OC4 Challenge. This was a 90 day fitness challenge and you all, I LOVED it. I estimate that it took me about 120 days to finish this 90 day challenge, but I finished. What I confirmed from this is that I stay committed when I have a workout plan to follow. Without that structure, I flail, waiver and slaaaaack. This program gave me a workout to follow each day, and gave me the flexibility to make it work with my life. Highly recommend. I also proved to myself that I could continue workouts, even while traveling. I visited many hotel gyms, got up early after late nights, and kept this promise to myself. MAJOR CLAPS OVER HERE. I am proud of that.
Toward the end of the year, I discovered Be Well By Kelly and her book, Body Love. Almost every day since October, I have had a smoothie for breakfast. I don’t have many conclusions quite yet, but her approach to the science of food is intriguing to me and I plan to continue to learn more in 2019.
I planted my feet in a whole lot of places this year: Virginia (University of Richmond), Iowa (Iowa State University), Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, IRELAND (conclusion: go.), Texas, New Jersey (Rutgers), Pennsylvania (Lehigh), Washington, D.C., Indiana (Ball State), North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee. I might be missing a few. Whew. Equal amounts work and play, it was a great year for experiencing new places. My biggest takeaway from these adventures, ironically, is that I like to be home. This is new for me. I am so grateful for opportunities that allow me to see the world, and I’m equally grateful that home is such a comfortable place to be.
Margins of time.
Believe it or not, all of these new things created tremendous margins of time in my life. Unused time in the morning, hours of unused time in the evening. Most days, these hours do indeed become filled, but I’ve filled them with things I love – cooking, community, volunteering. The way that I use these margins of time is on my list for review in 2019, but I learned this year that I value margin. I need margin to achieve my best.
One way I manufactured time margins is that in 2018, I started getting up at 5:15 each morning. Let me rephrase: my alarm goes off at 5:15am each morning. Although I did not keep record, I estimate that a majority of mornings, I did get up and head straight to the gym. My workouts are over by 6:15am, I have until 8:00am to get to work and I live 4 minutes from the office. I’ve come to really value that time in the morning to write, read, review the day with E over coffee, make our lunches, make (and have time to sit and drink) a smoothie and at 7, turn on the Today show. Working 8-4 has been another highlight related to time in my year. I LOVE having a productive morning, and having time in the afternoon to do all the things, or none of the things.
I’ve blogged about some of the other powerful lessons I learned in 2018. Some of the most notable to me were about smashing comparison, navigating finances, and trusting that I’m worthy of sitting at big tables. I took on new leadership roles, admitted that challenges felt too large and decided to jump in anyways. I learned a whole lot about marriage, became even more grateful for it and was delighted to celebrate the marriages of many that I love. The vision of becoming a mom came true for the pretty lady on the right up there – what a tremendous joy to welcome her sweet baby boy! It was a year filled to the brim with growth, stretching and trying to walk calmly through both sunshine and rain.
It was one for the books.
Thanks for being part of it.
Into 2019 we go,
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday on social media. I love reading about what and who my friends love and being surrounded by gratitude for a whole 24 hours. I know that the Thanksgiving we celebrate, all light-hearted and cheerfully, is not exactly the same sentiment that the day actually marks, but somehow history has transpired to give us a day to acknowledge gratitude annually, and I am here for it.
A spirit of gratitude is one of the things that initially drew me to E. On our first date, in fact, it was a topic of conversation. He was the very first person I’d ever been on a date with who talked about the “practice of gratitude.” I was intrigued. It was even a whole season before Thanksgiving.
What does that mean? What does it look like to practice gratitude?
To me, it means allowing the good to cut through the tough, the imperfect and the painful. It means looking at the very thing that is causing pain, and instead of wishing it away, being grateful for however it is serving you while you work out the kinks. It means holding space for the frustrating and digging beneath it for the miraculous. It means coming home from a beat-up day at work and still saying “I have a job, we have what we need, and I am grateful.” It means believing that everything you have was once everything you wanted.
Can’t you just feel it? Can’t you feel how it cuts through the pain and allows the sun to shine just a bit? It isn’t a remedy, but man is it a soother. It lifts your eyes from the floor, encourages hope and offers perspective.
Gratitude isn’t our default though…and that is why E called it a practice that July.
Imagine if next Thanksgiving marked a year of practicing gratitude. That in every day, we thought about what and who we are grateful for and, even better, we told people that they are on our list on other days of the year. I have to believe that changing our thoughts might just change our circumstances, because the mind is powerful and we have the ability and gift to make our worlds brighter, by something as simple as gratefulness. This doesn’t mean resigning to the fact that this is as good as it gets, and some days gratitude is really difficult, but it frees a space in your mind and heart for happiness alongside each step.
Grateful to and for you!
I really like to cook. Cooking takes me to my happy place. Give me a clean kitchen to dirty, the time to try a new recipe and a husband to feed, and I will be the happiest. I prefer cooking over baking though and this is important for you to know as you read on. I prefer cooking to baking because I don’t like things to be exact. I’m one of those “add a bit of this, add a bit of that” type of cooks and the preciseness of baking just really gets me down. You’ll notice as I start to share recipes that my measurements are not exact and my timing is general…you’ll just have to go with it.
Welcome to recipe #1! A vegetable frittata. I made this last weekend for a friend who just had a baby. They’re super easy to make, super delicious, and really easy to reheat. Easy but feels kinda fancy – my fave.
You will need:
- 2ish tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 a yellow onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- about 5-8 petite red potatoes, diced (just enough for your liking)
- a handful (technical term) of spinach
- Note: you can literally use any veggies you love and/or have in the fridge
- 8 eggs
- handful of any kind of cheese you want – I used colby jack shredded cheese here
- Garlic powder
- Salt and pepper
What to do:
- Preheat your oven to 400°
- You need a pan that you can use on the stove and in the oven. I used a cast iron skillet. Put that on the stove and heat to a medium temperature. Add a tablespoonish of olive oil.
- Dice up all those veggies. Throw the potatoes in the pan. Give them about a 5 min head start
- Add the bell pepper and onion to the pan and let them cook until softened. This could take about 15 minutes and you will likely need to add another tablespoon of olive oil to keep the veggies from sticking to the pan. Extra olive oil will also coat the pan to prevent the eggs from sticking!
- Season the veggies as they cook with paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper and stir frequently!
- When those seem about done (they should be soft but not mushy), crack 8 eggs into a bowl and whisk
- Add cheese to the egg mixture and mix
- Toss in the spinach to the veggies and let wilt for about 2 minutes
- Pour in the egg mixture evenly into the pan
- Let the pan sit for about 30 seconds – watch for the edges to firm up and then transfer to the oven
- It should need to cook for about 8 minutes – the top should be firm but not dry when it is done
- Take it out, sprinkle some cheese on top and serve or let cool to store
Yum – enjoy!