Last Saturday I attended a program called TEDxSandHillRdWomen in Menlo Park, California. You may already be familiar with the TED talks series. This was one of 130 events of its kind around the world on the same day, gathering women together to hear “ideas worth sharing.” I had an intuition about attending, and synchronicity brought me the opportunity to take the place of a friend’s friend who could not attend at the last minute.
All kinds of insecurities ran through my mind in the hours and days approaching the event. I was not a speaker, “only” an attendee. Yet all of the connotations in my mind about “Sand Hill Road” – the home of venture capitalists and attorneys for all of Silicon Valley, the allure of which had once drawn me into the role of venture capitalist, and eventually drew me to live in this zip code when I first chose to move to California – now haunted me. I wondered what I would wear. I no longer even own any high heeled shoes or suits, and I didn’t feel like dressing up to “be like” what my mind believed a “Sand Hill Rd woman” should look like. I watched my mind mull over this question, knowing from my higher awareness that it didn’t matter at all what I wore, but also curiously observing as my thoughts popped up anyway.
A few days before, a friend heard me describe this and said, “The question you should be asking is, what do YOU want out of this?”
I immediately replied, “I want to be comfortable as myself. I want to show up as myself.”
She smiled and her eyes sparkled as she nodded. “And I’m looking at you right now. I see you, right in front of me now. Are you comfortable?”
We were sitting cross-legged on the hardwood floor of my home, getting ready to sing and make music together. I had met with this woman every two weeks for the last two years. I was totally comfortable.
And now, nearly a week after attending the amazing TEDx event, I can say that I felt totally comfortable there as well. I was surprised in the most delightful of ways at everything – the diversity of women there, the inspiring speakers offering so many different perspectives, the serendipitous interactions I experienced throughout every moment of the day – and most of all, I was delighted to experience myself as me, fully inhabiting my body and my mind and my spirit exactly where I am today.
I felt the sense of “home” that one feels when we are surrounded by people who make us feel that we are not alone, that we are seen and accepted for exactly who we are, that we share more in common – our fears, our grief, our insecurities, our hopes, our ambitions, our courage – than we are different or separate from one another.
I felt this in every cell of my body. And I wore no makeup. I wore comfortable shoes. I wore jeans. I wore beautiful colors and fabrics in which I physically felt at ease. I was confident in a way that is different from the ways I have “dressed up” to “perform” for others in the past. And I was seen by so many women for who I am. I was able to see into the hearts and the lives of these women and feel the confidence that I am absolutely not alone in my human journey, in my deep desire to speak about the values I hold in my heart, the issues in this world that I know are important, and how we must all transform – no matter where we are today – in order to sustain and support life on this earth.
From the women onstage I learned that I am not alone in my challenges, my thinking, or my passion to make a difference based on what I have experienced in my life. I also learned that as women, we have a tendency to criticize each other when we see another women step up into her own power. That we as women also tend to shut down and hide when we feel there is the slightest possibility of dissent or resistance (or even silence) in response to our ideas. That we as women must learn how to support one another as we each take the risk of bringing our ideas into the world.
It is no longer a question of building résumés, or putting women into positions of leadership and decision-making where men currently dominate, or getting equal access. It is a question of supporting life itself on this planet. This is vital not only to women, but to everyone who inhabits the earth. It is a question of bringing the truth in women’s hearts – what we know so deeply to be true – into our way of life, creating communities that are based on our real values. Not the ones we have imitated in order to be accepted. Not the ones we have gradually adopted in order to fit in. Not the ones we have been trained by advertising and media to believe. Not the ones we have reluctantly accepted as “just the way it is”.
In summary, I heard the voices of extraordinary women – a serial entrepreneur who has built billion-dollar businesses, a venture capitalist, a founder of an environmental alliance, a global fundraiser/author/activist, a redheaded Chinese-speaking songwriting banjo player….the list goes on, and these titles do little to describe the power of the heart and mind that each of them conveyed in their own totally unique way. How they have each followed their own path and have taken action on their intuition’s whispers in service of a more heartfelt world, a greater depth of connection, with life.
My point in all of this is to share my passion that the future of our earth depends on women and girls adding our voices to the conversation of life. We women are in a position to bring balance to the conversation, to influence everyone – men and women – in our families, communities, and workplaces, by expressing ourselves more authentically, more truthfully, by honoring who we truly are, in every moment.
What that means – to be “authentic” and to be “truthful” – is the heart of each woman’s own journey. To discover this by way of living. To ask. To know that she is not alone.