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Finding strength in softness



I’ve been talking about softness quite a lot lately.  It’s interesting that such an innocuous concept can bring up so many strong reactions.  Here are a few:

If I soften, I’ll collapse.  Nothing will get done. 

To be soft is sort of like rolling over, like being the weaker in a pair of fighting animals.  It shows you’ve given up.

My softness means my lack of caring.  It means I slack off and don’t pay attention to details.

This shows me that many of us drank the KoolAid in our tribe of overachievers, and we believe that being successful requires us to armor up, get out there and git’er done.  We go about the business of being human with rigidity and hardness, in how we treat ourselves and how we conduct business – whether the business of raising kids or managing projects or directing companies.

But the irony is that as women, softness is part of our DNA.  It’s our essence.  So turning away from it throws us into an unnatural state, divorced from a potent source of power and without a solid foundation.

If I soften, I’ll collapse.   Oh honey, how wrong you are.  The opposite is true.  Trust me on this one.

One of my clients has been trying to slow down, as her baby will be born soon.  She’s running two businesses while also in the midst of buying a house.  She maintains a mighty to-do list, and is accountable to many people.  Her stress level fluctuates, but as you can imagine, it’s regularly pretty high.

Her heartfelt wish is to slow down, but when we explore softening as a means by which to get there she panics.  Her life is a tightly-run ship, and she’s fantastic at completing tasks with her captain’s hat on.  She’s an army of one.

Softening, for her, means receiving help.  It means opening to collaboration.  It means connecting human to human, even if it makes the timeline for getting the task done a little longer.

It would look like letting praise actually land, saying Yes to offers of assistance, or allowing herself spontaneous downtime to put her feet up and simply not-do.

It means relinquishing a measure of control, in order to find peace.

And as she experiments with softening, she finds that while it feels hard to implement and pretty uncomfortable (she’s rusty!), the impact is obvious.  She’s getting through her to-do list just as she always has.  AND she’s finding herself, in the pauses between the items on the list, at peace.  Rather than settling for a less-than experience, she’s both effective and satisfied.

Imagine that.

My client’s scenario may feel familiar to you, even if the circumstances are different.  What do you suppose keeps you from trusting the inner invitation to soften in your life?

Maybe it’s the fear that you’re only as good as the checkmarks on your to-do list.  That so long as you have another task ahead, you’re on the right track.

Maybe it’s the fear that deep down, you don’t merit that compliment, that kindhearted offer, that outstretched hand.

Maybe it’s the belief that success is measured in hours worked, dollars in the bank or letters after your name.  And you’re committed to blindly ensuring that success, at all cost.

I want you to consider an alternative.  Consider that your softened, open, heartful experience of living life is the necessary prerequisite for accomplishing anything and everything you set in your sights.  Chew on the idea that celebrating your softness is the direct route to the corner office, the healthy family, the successful campaign.  Softness enables you to show up and knock their socks off, again and again – not because of what you say but because of who you are.  A woman in her power.


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