We imagine those families, cultures and tribes, where women surround and support one another as though it were unfathomable to consider anything else. Yet we embody the exhaustion of ‘doing it all’ to our very core, to the point where it can often immobilise us. We put unexplainable pressure on our partners to be all that is missing and we mask it as teamwork. “We’ve got each other and that’s enough.” But it’s not, it will never be enough. The very make-up of us means that we need and thrive in the company of women, for compassion, for solidarity, for activism for social change, we are always stronger together. However, the loneliness we feel when we lack the village unleashes a depth of confusion. We crave having our mothers, aunts, sisters and elders by our side whilst simultaneously rejecting the very notion of being surrounded by them. We build up walls of resilience, insisting that ‘we’ve got this,’ and somehow, we convince ourselves this is how it is for us and therefore we should just get on with it.
Get on with it.
Harbouring down a safe and nurturing family home, supporting our partners amidst an incredibly challenging economic climate, where earning a living comes at the cost of your soul. Raising the next generation respectfully and peacefully despite feeling like you are judged daily for doing so. The sacrifice, the sleepless nights, the dreams that you are scared to let go of but you know are long gone anyway. That ‘it’ is everything we are living and breathing and if we’re willing to expose our deepest vulnerability, we will accept that we need that village.
Vulnerability is not weakness, in fact it is where empathy and compassion are born and when these things are brought together we have a huge opportunity to authentically belong.
We have to be willing to take off the mask, to push through the fears and have the courage to ask for what we need. More often than not, when someone reaches out to us, we are grateful and willing to extend our hand to them, we see their openness, we appreciate it but we are afraid to let them see it in us. The struggle as described by Brene Brown in her book ‘Daring Greatly’ is this, “I want to experience your vulnerability but I don’t want to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is courage in you and inadequacy in me. I’m drawn to your vulnerability but repelled by mine.”
So why is it that we can value vulnerability in others but not in ourselves?
The truth is, that in order to connect with that village we need to be willing to let our guards down. If we allow ourselves to be open with those around us then we can build trusting relationships, relationships that have depth and that can bear the weight of what we need, whether that be emotional or practical support. We have a choice whether we connect or not, whether we trust or not and whether we actively engage or we actively disengage. But what we must remember, is that in order to build, lean on and access our village we need to be vulnerable. If we want to model genuine, reciprocal, supportive relationships to our children we need to see the truth of what that looks like in our own lives. Brown also goes on to say, “Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgement to receiving help, we unknowingly attach judgement to giving help.”
A couple of weeks back I sat with a group of sisters during our weekly Halaqah (Islamic circle/gathering) and as we reflected on friendship from a spiritual perspective our attention was drawn to this concept of the village. We have known each other and met regularly for the last five years and despite having a wonderful closeness, there still appears to be a sense of risk, fear and perhaps shame attached to exposing our vulnerabilities. One question was asked in that meeting and it was the simplest yet most profound question of all; What is it that you need? We went one by one around the circle and pushed through the discomfort we shared, wholeheartedly and honestly. It was powerful, it was courageous and it was liberating. What struck me in walking away from this conversation was that my village had been there all along but I hadn’t invested in the relationships enough to afford them my vulnerability.
Let’s understand that we aren’t meant to do this alone and women do need other women.
We may feel that the village is miles from home and we don’t have the energy or the time to make the journey there. But let me tell you that your village is closer than you think and brick upon brick we are stronger. So gather that village, be prepared to present your imperfect self and through your deepest vulnerability know that you absolutely do belong.