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September 21, 2019

This is for all of my Beautiful Sisters.

Several weeks ago, I had the privilege of immersing myself in a lavish retreat full of beauty and self-love rituals with 11 wonderful women.

It was an alchemical experience and one that will remain with me for the rest of my life. We honored ourselves as temples to the divine feminine, we laughed and danced and sang and celebrated being women, together.

Perhaps even more importantly, we honored one another. We created a space of community where, as women, we lifted each other up. We celebrated our gifts, helped each other see our beauty, connected deeply, and showered each other with unconditional love. We validated each other’s inner wisdom as we practiced honoring our own. 

I’m not sure about your own life experience, but I grew up in Orange County and was deeply ingrained in a culture of competition and even outright hostility among women. A culture of gossip, envy, and “mean girls.” A culture where our main value to the world was the way our bodies looked in comparison to one another. A culture that still extends around this country and the world.

From a young age, I watched as we put each other down, judged each other, and judged ourselves and it created a profound sadness within me. I didn’t feel connected to other women, and this never felt right. It was a sadness that I’ve carried forward into womanhood, as I met with similar disappointments in my adult female relationships. 

For me, this retreat was one of the first times I’ve felt deeply nurtured, safe, and supported by my sisters. It also opened something within me and helped me to see that this type of connection is something many of us are lacking, as women, from our self-care bank. 

I’ve come to understand why self-love is not something we achieve in total isolation. In truth, meaningful and authentic connection, and true support, can be more vital to our well-being than all the bubble baths and pedicures on earth (not that those things aren’t wonderful, in their own right). 

Why? Because when we have been raised in a culture with a legacy of validation around the self-sacrificing woman (the martyr), and a legacy of defamation of the woman who is empowered (the bitch or the whore), we often need each other to remember how important it is to care for and love ourselves. To feel our true worth and validity. 

We need each other’s support, as women, to go against the grain and choose our well-being and needs over those of others. To feel safe in our bodies and selves, no matter what archetypes we may identify with or embody. To remember that we are dynamic, multi-dimensional beings who are important to the world just in our very existence. To feel truly free to be whatever type of women we are, and reject whatever messages told us that was wrong. 

From my own journey to self-love, I can say with certainty that the most powerful tool I’ve found is community support. Most of it came from other women and helped me to reclaim my power as a woman. To honor my body as a vessel of creation. To witness how powerful my voice and intuition are through the mirror of other women’s loving-kindness.

Many of us are living in small family units, stuck behind screens, desperately refreshing the page to see if we can connect. Unfortunately, many of us also feel more disconnected than ever. What is it we are really searching for as we scroll down our feeds?

When was the last time you experienced authentic connection with another woman? Can you envision how good it felt, to be seen, heard, honored, and supported? Or how good it might feel? For me, these are precious moments that are, fortunately, becoming less and less rare.

And it all started with me. It started with reaching out to another sister, one who I’d had a falling out with. It started with an olive branch, with a sincere apology for my part in our division and disconnection. It led to being a part of this life-changing retreat and invitation to take a different direction. A direction where I choose to be a leader of women being kind to each other and supporting one another.

So, if, like me, you find yourself doing everything right in your self-care routine but still not feeling the self-love, perhaps it’s time to reach out. Perhaps it’s time to make an authentic human connection and have face-to-face interaction with someone who you trust has your best interests at heart. Or perhaps it’s time to seek new, healthy connections that are more in alignment with your inner self and your needs.

From my own experience of coming together with my sisters, new and old, I can still feel the profound shifts within me. I witnessed them in the other women as well: a shift to feeling safe and loved within and without. The impacts are transcendent, and I am forever a believer that self-love cannot be achieved in isolation, but requires heart-to-heart connection. 

Isn’t it about time we stop fighting each other and help lift each other up? In my opinion, women supporting other women could change the whole world. At the very least, it can give us a sense of community in our lives that can help us step into our own well-being and vitality. Change begins with you, and no act of love toward another woman is too small. 

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author: Janelle Marie Brown

Image: author's own

Editor: Julie Balsiger