Women's empowerment

How to stop comparison from stealing your happiness.

Lovely, it’s so common to look at other women and ask ourselves why we don’t have their clothes, their job, their social life or their looks.

But why waste time wishing for what is not your own?

You are enough. There is something marvelous growing in your heart. Guard it, cherish it, and help it come to life through you.

Be faithful to all the goodness and beauty that lies inside of you.

Concentrate only on what you have control over - this is your sphere of influence.

When you drift outside of that, you lose your power.

When you're tempted to grasp for what someone else has, come back to focus. Center yourself in this moment. Today, you will be gentle with yourself. 

Remember to #bloomlovely.

P.S. Did you like this meditation? Please share it with a friend! You can also follow along in your own Bloom, Lovely journal.

Beauty is all around you. Can you see it?

Lovely, sometimes it seems like too much work to achieve beauty.

Buying all the right products, the trendy hair cut, the best-fitting outfit.

Beauty is not an achievement. It already exists within your heart, ready to be celebrated.

Today, let yourself delight and be grateful when you see beauty in the world.

Do not be afraid. It is there as a gift for your appreciation.

Remember to #bloomlovely.

P.S. Share inspiration from today and tag @bloomlovelyco for a chance to be featured. You can also follow along in your own Bloom, Lovely journal.

What to do when you just don't feel beautiful.

Lovely, you are disappointed at what you see in the mirror.

Somehow, your heart has believed the lie that you are not beautiful. But what if you could believe that you are beautiful, exactly as you are? How would that feel? Just for today, you will remind yourself that you are.

Wake up the hope in your heart that has been asleep for too long.

If you believed you were enough just as you are, you would be unstoppable.

Let this awareness rest in your heart and transform your life. Do you believe it?

Remember to #bloomlovely.

P.S. Share inspiration from today and tag @bloomlovelyco for a chance to be featured. You can also follow along in your own Bloom, Lovely journal.

How to stop people pleasing once and for all.

Lovely, you want to put your best foot forward.

You want to put on a brave face and smile when you feel sad inside. Sometimes you wear a mask that you feel is better to hide yourself from letting people see the real you. It's safer that way, you think to yourself.

If people knew the real you, maybe they wouldn't like you or accept you anymore.

You feel like a fraud.

Remember, the media has told you a story about who you should be and what you should look like. That story is the one you tell yourself. And the story you tell yourself becomes who you are.

What if - just once - you could be the real you?

Today, give yourself permission to remove the mask and be authentic. 

Remember to #bloomlovely.

P.S. Share inspiration from today and tag @bloomlovelyco for a chance to be featured. You can also follow along in your own Bloom, Lovely journal.

Team of 4 women breaks 3 world records by successfully rowing the Pacific Ocean

It reads like a blockbuster movie title –“257 days at sea” — but this was the reality for four courageous women, who rowed the Pacific Ocean without support. Nicknamed “The Coxless Crew”, Natalia Cohen, 40, Laura Penhaul, 32, Emma Mitchell, 30 and Meg Dyos, 25, completed an epic 8,446-mile journey on Monday. Members of a six-person team, that also included Isabel Burnham, 30, who rowed from SF to Hawaii, and 26-year-old Lizanne van Vuuren. They broke three world records to become the first team of four, the first all female team, and the fastest team to row the Pacific Ocean. And they did it in a 29-­foot bright-pink rowboat named “Doris.”

On April 20, 2015, the volunteer team departed from San Francisco and arrived on January 25, 2016 into he Marlin Marina in airns, Australia after rowing 24 hours per day, seven days per week in two-­hour shifts, for over nine months. Their only stops were in Honolulu, Hawaii and in Apia, Samoa to restock the boat with supplies and assorted freeze­-dried foods.

The crew were motivated by a desire to raise awareness and £250,000 to support two chosen charities, reast Cancer Care and alking With the Wounded. In their words, “everyone has their own pacific to cross. This project is all about creating an awareness for women facing their own challenges. We’re doing it for everybody. This isn’t something we are just doing for ourselves. We’re hoping to… inspire [others].”

As with any goal, preparation was required. The team trained for years and enlisted a support committee, including sport psychologist, Keith Goddard, who equipped the women with mental tools to face the challenges ahead. e trip “was a mindset journey more than anything,” Cohen told Women in the World, whose favorite mantra came from a necklace she wore, which said “ am in charge of how I feel today and today I choose happiness.”

Despite their preparation, she confessed that some legs became mentally grueling and difficult to endure, such as when they battled winds of “30 knots” and “40-foot waves.”

Mitchell described long, dark stormy nights, where it was impossible to see treacherous oncoming waves. These were challenging moments, especially combined with the struggle of “staying awake, because we never got more than one-and-a-half hours of sleep at a time.”

While stuck in the Doldrums, Mitchell said, “the currents were against us. We were pretty much going backwards a lot of the time. We were having to row every session as hard as we could and we still weren’t making any ground… That is when I struggled the most.”

In such low moments, the team united and fueled each other by shared conviction and humor. For Mitchell, “at no point was there any question that I was going to stop… Until we had achieved what we had set out to do, it was never going to be over.”

Added Cohen: “We are such an unbelievably strong team of women. That was key to the success of this trip. We kept each other going. There was continual laughter. I have never laughed so much in my life. We kept each other motivated.”

The crew were motivated by a desire to raise awareness and £250,000 to support two chosen charities, reast Cancer Care and alking With the Wounded. (Losing Sight of Shore)

When they were not battling life­-threatening weather, the team witnessed humpback whales, schools of fish, and herds of sharks that followed the boat for weeks. What they termed their “odyssey” afforded peaceful, spiritual experiences, as well. “You can’t help but be in a meditative state when you’re out there on the ocean. She’s absolutely mesmerizing, as you watch the undulating waves rising and falling, the clouds passing overhead, or the birds soaring in the sky. Everything that happens out there is meditative,” Cohen said.

Asked to share insights that would help someone looking to tackle an insurmountable goal, Cohen said, “you have the power to choose to do anything you want to do. With a little bit of self-­belief and trust in yourself, anything is possible.” For more on this story, Emmy ­award-winning documentary filmmaker Sarah Moshman (he Empowerment Project) followed their journey via footage shot by the women themselves and will release the film, Losing Sight of Shore, later in 2016.

The women continue the fundraising efforts from their homes in the United Kingdom. Readers can contribute by visiting www.coxlesscrew.com.

Ashley Crouch writes and speaks on women, beauty and leadership issues and lives in Manhattan. Find her on Twitter.

 

This article first appeared in Women in the World / New York Times by yours truly.

Jeannie Gaffigan is a Role Model for Modern Women

The Jim Gaffigan Show debuted on July 15, proving that the public is interested in the daily mishaps of a father of five who hates hot pockets and loves bacon. Despite Jim’s steady rise to popularity in recent years, fans knew little about his wife except that she was a “Shiite Catholic” who could “get pregnant looking at babies.” Until now. The New York Times featured the elusive Jeannie and millions discovered what a quiet powerhouse she is. She wrote, edited, produced, and helped create the Jim Gaffigan Show, down to the “crumbs on the table”—while taking care of their five children in a two-bedroom Manhattan walk-up. As she told the Times, “I didn’t understand that it was going to be 80-plus hours per week for three months, and my kids were going to have to come to the set, and my house was going to have to be like Downton Abbey.” Jeannie’s close involvement with her husband’s popularity stems from her deep background in the arts.

After marriage, Jeannie relinquished her life in theater and became fearlessly dedicated to furthering her husband’s career. She was the writer behind many of his most famous hits: “She channeled her comedic sensibilities into Jim’s voice, helping cultivate his brand as a father, a die-hard food enthusiast, and an all-around genial guy. While Jeannie worked in the background, Jim became the king of the clean comics,” the Times noted. Although she allowed her own career to take a backseat (read: “gave it all up”) for her husband, Jeannie offers modern women a lesson about what it means to have it all.

“Behind every good man is a good woman,” the saying goes. While some might find this flattering, to many modern women, this is an irksome idea, a relic from a past where women lacked opportunities equal to men. Why should the woman be behindthe man? Modern women out-distance men in many areas, graduating from college athigher ratesout-earning men in most jobs, and getting married at a record-high age of 27. Most of my friends in New York City are single and ambitious. We secretly huddle in booths and confess that we are afraid of commitment. We thrive on being independent, pursuing our careers, traveling the world, writing a book or two; after all, we are encouraged to Lean In. Conversely, women who desire to stay at home and raise a family face shame for “taking up space” in elite Ivy League universities or getting an MBA or medical degree. In pursuit of equality, our culture seems to encourage women to pursue complete autonomy instead of acknowledging the value of men and women pooling their resources.

It’s understandable. High-achieving individuals want to make a difference. As Professor Clayton Christensen explained in his 2010 Harvard Business School commencement address:

“When people who have a high need for achievement . . . have an extra half hour of time or an extra ounce of energy, they’ll unconsciously allocate it to activities that yield the most tangible accomplishments. And our careers provide the most concrete evidence that we’re moving forward. You ship a product, finish a design, complete a presentation, close a sale, teach a class, publish a paper, get paid, get promoted. In contrast, investing time and energy in your relationship with your spouse and children typically doesn’t offer that same immediate sense of achievement.”

Every individual wants to feel like they are living a fulfilling life; 90% of millennials want to use their skills for good and over 50% are willing to take a pay cut to enter employment they really care about. No one wants to be insignificant, but the confusion about needing to choose between work or family lies in a misunderstanding of power vs. influence.

Many people think that to have influence, they have to be the public face of something. But often, the face is merely the talking head for the committees, speechwriters, advisors, and hosts of people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to advance the message. As Jeannie Gaffigan said, “I’ve been able to have complete creative fulfillment in this relationship without being the front person.”

If we had a better understanding of the value of all types of roles—including the less-public ones—we would put less pressure on ourselves to conform to society’s expectations. Women would feel the freedom to maximize their unique potential in whatever unique situations in which they find themselves. As Stephen Covey counseled, we should operate within our own “circle of influence” to be the most effective.

This is precisely why Jeannie Gaffigan is a role model and a breath of fresh air for modern women. When asked why she gave up her career, she says, “I’ve also been able to have five kids. . . . [I]f I had said, ‘I need to go my own way,’ I would have taken the resources away and split the resources, instead of pooling the resources. . . . I care more about Jim’s career, his material, more than anyone else in the world except him. We’re on the same team, and we’re going for the same thing.” As Jeannie Gaffigan illustrates, influence can be found anywhere, even at home with the kids.

This article first appears on Acculturated by yours truly. 

Kate Middleton and The Motherhood Disadvantage

If the media hysteria surrounding Beyoncé’s potential pregnancy and Kate Middleton’s “spare to the heir” is any indication, baby fever is booming when it comes to the Hollywood and social elite; within hours of the announcement from Clarence House, #RoyalBaby was a worldwide trending topic on Twitter. And if you type “Beyoncé” into Google, the top automated result is “Beyoncé pregnant again?”

I join the ranks of millions of young women who can’t wait to see Kate’s maternity wear or Jay-Z (potentially) embracing the growing Beyoncé, but all the joy and celebration surrounding these pregnancies struck me as contrary to what I’ve commonly witnessed in large metropolitan American and European cities. For the average or underprivileged woman, rather than face joy and fanfare at pregnancy and childbirth, they often instead meet skepticism. Consider the case of a woman who is in poverty or faces other stresses which might make motherhood a trial—a tiny apartment, college loans, long hours at work. The same people who rejoiced at the birth of Prince George will furrow their brows and tensely ask, “How are you going to do it?”

Have children become an accessory, the sum of achievement, and a nice thing to have…but only for women who meet certain qualifications?

A large majority of the women in the United States desire and/or choose to be mothers. According to a 2013 Gallup poll, Americans want an average of 2.6 children, significantly more than the current American birth rate of 1.9 children per household. Among their reasons for not having more, 65% report concern about the cost. Yet a study done by the Institute of American Values shows that among women who do choose to become mothers, they find motherhood deeply rewarding. In fact, 97% of mothers report being very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their choice. So why would the average American woman celebrate Beyoncé’s or Kate Middleton’s baby, but not choose to have her own?

The average woman faces a social stigma for embracing motherhood. Of women who choose to be mothers, The Motherhood Study reported that fewer than half—only 48% of women—report  feeling appreciated and externally validated most of the time. Sadly, one in five women on average feels less valued by society since becoming mothers. This “women’s intuition” about a social bias is now confirmed by the numbers.

According to a recent article in The New York TimesThe Motherhood Penalty vs The Fatherhood Bonus, “one of the worst career moves a woman can make is to have children.” Unmarried women on average make .96 cents for every man’s 1.00 while married women with children will earn just .76 cents, widening the gap. Low-income mothers pay the biggest price according to a new study out by University of Massachusetts sociologist Michelle Budig, who researched the gender pay gap for 15 years. Budig reports that the norm is for average working women to experience a 4% pay decrease as a result of their choice to have children. For the average woman, choosing to leave the workforce on maternity leave may face a severe career penalty. How’s that for an incentive?

According to Stanford University Sociologist, Dr. Shelley Correll, at the onset of any new job, mothers will be offered on average $11,000 less than their male counterparts. If they get an offer at all. Women who indicate on their résumé that they are mothers are half as likely to be called in to interview. The clear message to women is: don’t mention that you are a member of the PTA.

With the current bias, the average American woman has permission to celebrate the children of other, “more qualified” women such as celebrities and royalty, but should think twice about the choice to have her own.

With Western culture facing a slew of economic consequences resulting from lower birth rates, and a widening gap between social classes, the privilege of childbirth should not just be an acceptable choice or bonus for the elite. Instead, mothers should receive corporate and monetary compensatory equality and social support when they need it most, instead of their social and corporate communities “throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” as it were. Let’s hope the birth of Prince George’s sibling motivates more American women to follow suit—without having to take a pay cut.

This article appeared first at Acculturated by yours truly.