I once heard a native prophecy that forever changed the way I think about myself as a woman, a mother, a boss, and a leader.
The prophecy is called the Bird of Humanity, and it states that for all time, the bird of humanity has been flying lopsided, with the masculine wing fully extended and the feminine wing only partially extended. As a result, the masculine wing flaps violently to stay afloat, yet the bird has flown in circles for centuries. But now we are living in the Sophia century, the century when the feminine wing fully extends itself, the masculine wing can relax, and the bird of humanity can finally soar.
For me, it’s not about men vs. women, but rather represents the masculine and feminine within all of us. For centuries, both men and women have suppressed the feminine side of ourselves, for fear of being perceived as weak for showing signs of empathy, compassion, and vulnerability.
In truth, I used to believe that the only way to get ahead in business (and in life) was to think and act more like a man. Show confidence. Build credibility. Project assertiveness. This turned into me being the one with all the answers, the one responsible for everything, and soon the only one I could trust. I was accomplishing a lot, checking off major milestones in life and career, and managing my task list like a pro!
However, I started to notice that my team around me kept changing. And our growth had stagnated. My board thought I had high employee turnover, and 360-degree feedback came back that I wasn’t approachable enough for people to give me feedback. In fact, I think my team was even scared of me. That was not the leader I thought I was, nor wanted to be.
It took years of leadership coaching and multiple complete turnovers in staffing for me to finally receive the message. And it all came to a full “aha moment” when my team and I participated in a masterclass on Core Wound Healing together. It was there that I realized one of my deep core wounds, which developed before I was five years old, was the reason I couldn’t trust others. And it was holding us back from real growth as individuals and as a company.
I realized that unless I confronted my core wounds with compassion and empathy, I’d continue to fly in circles.
That’s when I decided to go back to my younger self and reconnect with my inner child. The one who thought her parent's divorce at age 1 was her fault. The one who felt the need to take care of herself because mom had to work while raising three kids. The one who committed to being “a good girl” so that mommy wouldn’t have to worry about her behavior at school. I gave her a big hug. And I told her not to worry, that she is loved, and to enjoy these precious innocent moments as a child.
It’s taken me almost forty years to discover what self-love really means. And I believe that in order for more empathy, compassion, and understanding to be expressed in the world, we first must express it to ourselves. We have to heal ourselves before we can heal others.
I thought the sheer act of becoming a mother would automatically bring out the feminine from within. And in some ways it has. It’s certainly forced me to accept imperfections, and I believe it’s helped me be more patient. But every so often, I feel that my five-year-old son has more emotional intelligence than I do.
One thing is for sure. I now appreciate that life is a journey, and the lived experiences we have had make us who we are. Our light and our shadows are equally important to understanding ourselves and others.
As a leader, I’ve witnessed how my personal journey has improved the culture of my company, even in a short timeframe. And while I’m still on this path of healing and growth, I'm learning to lead with openness and vulnerability, and I’m giving myself and my team grace along the way.
And it’s already improved the work we’re leading in the world. As the founder of Inclusivv, we bring people together for courageous conversations. We help leaders create psychologically safe spaces, where people feel safe sharing openly and vulnerably with one another. With so much time, money and energy being spent on developing the mind, we help organizations focus on the heart, developing empathy, connection, and understanding.
Maybe, just maybe, by honoring both the head and the heart, the masculine and the feminine within, we and humanity can finally soar.
Jenn Graham is the founder and CEO of Inclusivv (formerly known as Civic Dinners), a platform that brings people together for conversations that matter. Through structured conversations, Inclusivv helps organizations create a more inclusive culture where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued.
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If you want to know more about Inclusivv, visit www.inclusivv.co.