Learnings from the One Woman Conference

Earlier this month I attended the One Woman Conference. If I had to sum the experience up in one word? Transformational.

With 300+ women in the room, the event felt tribal. These amazing, beautiful women – all there for different reasons. We will likely all have taken different things from the conference, but what I think we all came away with was the message that ‘we’re women, we’re different, and that’s okay!’

I’m really interested in psychology and personal development; I’ve learned a lot about myself and others. Through Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) I’ve made some big improvements to the way my life feels day-to-day. But I know I want to continue to invest in my development so I can remove barriers and develop the skills I need to achieve my potential.

The One Woman Conference was very emotional for some women, for whom this might have been their first experience of these kinds of powerful techniques. Check out the Storify below:

 

I want to share with you five key things I took away from the conference:

We are NOT superwomen

Jo Martin’s inimitable presentation style really shone through as she demonstrated how we become ‘superwoman’ and what it does to us. Putting on other people’s glasses, one on top of the other as she collected ways of seeing the world as she grew up, she effectively demonstrated how we end up with some very damaging attitudes. Damaging for us, and for our relationships.

Many of us have received these messages as we’ve grown up: ‘we must work hard, push through even when we’re tired or sick’; ‘if you want something doing properly, do it yourself’; ‘nothing good comes easy’… etc! On goes the cape and the pants…

What it leads to is us running around like headless chickens, ignoring the needs of our bodies and ultimately, burning out as our bodies eventually tell us enough is enough!

We don’t have the same hardware as men

If you plug a 120v American hairdryer into a British 240v socket, what happens? IT BLOWS UP! Yet British and American hairdryers work great when you plug them into the right sockets.

This led to quite a powerful ‘ah-ha’ moment for many of us in the room. It’s not that we don’t know that as women we’re different… I mean, look at us! Physically we’re different and we also have subtle differences in our brains too. In the UK we’re living in a country that highly values masculine traits and so some of us have been trying to be like men, especially in our work. Geert Hofsteade’s work is very interesting and you can read more about the UK’s culture on his website.

This isn’t a debate about who’s ‘best’ at anything, by the way. Men and women bring their own value to the table and work so well together. What they were saying is ‘let the men be the men and stop trying to also be a man!’

We were introduced by Susie Heath to male energy (Yang) and female energy (Yin). How they are different, and how they feel in the body, using some stirring music and a set of words spoken to us over the music. The Yin and Yang should balance; sometimes you need to use more male-type energy to get stuff done. However, if we spend too much time in that energy, then we’ll burn out. We need to balance it with Yin female energy. Susie’s latest book is ‘Dance Your Way to the Top‘.

We are cyclical

As women we’re often called out in our lives when we act in ways that don’t seem to be ‘us’. Sometimes this is the effect of hormones. Sometimes it’s the season we’re in. Often it’s because we’re pushing ourselves to our limits, are stressed or ill.

Jo explained how she tracks and harnesses the energy of different times of her cycle. When she’s feeling low on energy and wants to curl up in a ball, she allows herself to retreat and rest. She knows that a few days later she’ll have a whole load of energy to blast through work. Obviously the practicality of this has to be considered; there are days you can’t retreat and rest and you do have to push through, but then she advises to ensure you make some time for rest.

She also spoke about time blocking, which she called ‘batching for energy matching’. This is where you gather similar tasks together and do them as a block. The reason this works is that it takes 15-20 minutes for you to shift your mindset into different types of work, so you can feel like you’re not at your best. So her advice was to focus on one type of work for half the day, and then do something else for the other half. Learning your own daily and monthly rhythms of energy also helps, so you can schedule e.g. creative, nurturing or demanding tasks when you can best complete them.

We have many archetypes that we can harness

Women are many things, aren’t we? There was a whole list! From the empowering: caregiver, teacher, actress, etc. And then there’s the disempowering ones: bitch, victim, martyr.

While it may seem an odd concept at first, what we learned is that you can ‘call up’ different ‘power types’ when you need them. One of many™ calls these the Soft Power Types. The ones we learned about were mother, lover, sorceress, warrioress and queen. We also heard that many of us get stuck at times in one of the unhelpful power types: bitch, victim and martyr.

We naturally have these different types of energies within us. Susie Heath helped us to feel them in our bodies. Some of them are under-expressed and we find them difficult to connect with. Others we spend most of our time in (mother, anyone?)

If this all sounds a bit weird… well, yes, it was a bit! Many parts of the conference were and it would certainly not be everyone’s cup of tea! But I’m learning through experience that you have to be open-minded and try something different if you want a different result from what you’ve been living so far.

My favourite was queen. I really felt something shift in me when we were doing that one. Most people in the room seemed to grow by a few centimetres and be holding their heads up high after that one!

 

We achieve so much more by reaching out

Time and time again through the stories shared – including by five very inspiring ladies who had been doing the Lead The Change programme – we heard about the importance of a strong support network.

We’re social creatures. We work well when we share our ideas and provide support to others with theirs. When we’re planning our goals, so often we see them as being a solo undertaking; something we must do ourselves for it to be our achievement. It doesn’t have to be like this, though. You don’t get medals in this life for struggling on your own.

So whatever you’re working on, whether it’s to be a great mum, achieve in your job, a personal project – or maybe all of these, see what happens when you reach out.

If I’m struggling in winter, I can feel very alone. I think we can all identify with this, can’t we? “My family live two and four hours away. I don’t want to burden my friends as they have their own stuff to deal with. My colleagues aren’t the appropriate people to support me. I shouldn’t need anyone else’s support.” These are all the things I think at times.

Yet it is only me limiting the support available here if I think these things. I have a fantastic support network and I work to maintain it by keeping in touch and providing support with anything I can. I have close friends who I can talk to about anything and who accept me completely. I only have to pick up the phone to my family. I have great colleagues who I can speak with if I choose to. And in terms of achieving the goals I’ve set myself, as well as all the personal support, I’ve got some pretty great professional contacts I’ve made through the years!

Final thoughts…

There was so much that resonated with me while at the One Woman Conference, and in the days since. It got me thinking about the experience of SAD and Winter Blues. It strengthened my belief that if we allowed ourselves to just ‘be’ and feel how we feel more often, instead of beating ourselves up and pushing ourselves through, we’d feel so much better.

If you struggle with doing this, I recommend Paul Gilbert’s compassion work. I’ve mentioned it a few times in various posts because I believe it’s been one of the most helpful things I’ve done. There are still times when I get frustrated with myself though, so it’s a work in progress!

Our masculine ‘Yang’ energy is as essential to us as the feminine ‘Yin’ for both genders; we need to harness it in the right way and balance it better to maintain our physical and mental health. Winter is a time when we are all naturally programmed to hibernate more – and so we should let ourselves when we need to and can.

Happy hibernating! 🙂

– Neens –

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