#BlackLivesMatter

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9

I don’t want to be silent, but I lack the words to express exactly how I feel. I have never woken and been in fear to go about my life due to the color of my skin. I have never thought twice before going for a jog, decorating for a party, or asking someone to put a leash on their dog in a public park. I don’t receive questioning looks as I walk through my neighborhood. I’m not watched step for step every time I enter a store. And I now realize this is not a luxury every individual throughout my country shares.

Over the past week, I have been doing my due diligence to listen to the outcry of my friends and neighbors. An outcry for justice. An outcry for peace. An outcry for equality. And throughout this time, I’ve come to four definitive conclusions:

Continue reading “#BlackLivesMatter”

Finding Your Voice As A Woman, A Discussion

I’ve talked about Women Among Women in previous posts, and here I am at it again.

This group. Ugh.

This group is A-mazing.

Our March meeting was on the topic of Woman’s Voice.  It may have been my favorite discussion to date, and our conversations continued past the night of the event and into the group’s Facebook page. There were various subtopics we discussed under “Voice” that had me pondering for days following. Specifically, the fact that finding your voice does not always involve a transformation or life-altering experience. (So unlike books such as Eat, Play, Love want us to believe.) Instead, some of the epiphanies my peers experienced came over a coffee break with a friend or on a random Thursday afternoon surrounded by their male coworkers or while listening to music while on their daily run. You can’t predict when you’ll have that A-HA! moment, but you can embrace it when it happens.

In the hope of not losing these thoughts moving forward, I would like to share some of the broader topics I gleamed from the discussion about how a woman can find her voice and how she can use it. The following are pieces of that dialogue, in no particular order, as well as some of my own opinions on the topics. I would love to hear from you also — once you consider the journey to discovering your voice and/or the difficulties you’ve faced when using your voice, please leave a comment to further this discussion.


Sometimes, not saying anything is the best answer. You see, silence can never be misquoted.

The power in silence.

When it comes to your voice, sometimes there is power in silence. Voicing your opinion or replying to another person’s opinion may not be necessary, and the stronger response may very well simply be saying nothing at all.

If someone doesn’t like your presentation at work or your review on Facebook or your suggestion at the recent PTA meeting, think before responding. Will rising to battle better the outcome or further the greater good? Will a response cause a heated debate and ill-will between the parties involved? Does the opposing opinion affect your work, your reputation, or your life in long-term negativity? The best response from you may be nothing at all.

Instead of being the change needed for every situation, your actual purpose may be as a wheel in the clock — pushing an agenda a bit further ahead but not causing a kink. Sometimes your role is to focus on doing your job and doing it well. It is human nature to not please every other person in the world; we all have different personalities, beliefs, ideals, etc. after all. You could complete a project to perfection and someone can still find something they dislike. As one of my coworkers says, “You could be the juiciest strawberry in Michigan, and find someone who doesn’t like strawberries.” That’s life.

I try to give everyone I interact with the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he/she is having a bad day and is responding out of exhaustion or frustration. Or perhaps he/she has a strong rooted emotion against something you do and you simply do not know his/her background to understand the reaction. I prefer to think the best in others. Instead of focusing on why someone reacted in a certain way, I attempt to focus on myself and my reactions. I’m human so I sometimes fail, but the majority of the time I am able to take a step back, assess the situation, and find some insight into the other party’s response. You can only control yourself and how you react, so why put too much effort into worrying about someone else’s agenda?

To really get to know yourself, try doing a mental review of the situation in question, especially if you have been challenged or felt uncomfortable. Ask yourself, “Am I responding in accordance with my personal values? Will responding bring a better result, and ultimately happiness into my life?” Spend some time with the answer and see how it makes you feel. You might find that silence is your best friend in more circumstances than you thought before.


People have a sixth sense, and they can sniff it out if you aren’t being true to who you are. – Christa Quarles

Avoidance gets you nowhere.

I think a big culprit of a woman finding her voice is when she discovers a passion. It is much easier to speak out or up about subjects that you have investment in and knowledge about.

I like to call myself an “extroverted introvert” because I find a lot of enjoyment in being surrounded by people while remaining in my own corner of comfort to observe. Having that space also allows me to meditate with my thoughts during discussions and learn more about how I tick. Over the years of self-discovery, I have realized that my voice is stronger where my passions flourish. It was a slow epiphany that grew as I gained experience, power, and became a leader in my specific areas of expertise. It was not until a stepped into a place of leadership that I felt forced to step forward and say, “This matters, and I’m going to do something about it.”

If you experience something that goes against your beliefs or personal values, then you have to be bold enough to recognize that avoidance of the subject gets you no where. And in turn gets the world no where also. Consider moments in history where women went against the norm of society and dove head-first into uncomfortable conversations: Queen Elizabeth I and her “video et taceo” governing approach, Lucy Stone’s influential Woman’s Journal, the USA Gymnastics national team coming together against Larry Nassar. The world has not been changed by closed mouths.

One of my peers at Women Among Women shared my thoughts on why passions push you forward to finding and using your voice:

Peer L: I think a great starting point for those looking to find their voice or to gain confidence is to get involved with something you’re passionate about, like a volunteer organization. It allows you to connect with others with similar interests and who inspire you to be an advocate for yourself and/or something that you believe in. It’s easy to have a voice about something you’re passionate about and you’ll gain the confidence to let your voice be heard in other areas of life, including the times where it may be more difficult or come with greater risks.

In the same respect, another peer commented on how using your voice may seem like a hindrance to finding success. Especially for those who own a business and are expected to practice perfect customer service. Avoidance and remaining silent may seem like a better route in such circumstances. Unfortunately, the cliche that the customer is always right is actually wrong. The customer always should be heard and understood, but it is okay to walk away from his/her business if their opinion directly collides with your beliefs and values. There will always be different and better business opportunities, and exercising your voice will make for good practice in growing yourself into a more poised and respected leader.

This thought also encompasses the idea of speaking up in difficult situations, like when a coworker takes credit for your work. This example was discussed heavily by my female peers who have experienced working in male-dominated environments. Women tend to sit silently as credit for projects is taken by their more out-spoken male counterparts. Why is this still happening, ladies? As Christa Quarles, the CEO of OpenTable, said, “There have been stories for centuries of the self-made man, but today the self-made person is not a truth. Nobody succeeds alone. We are all part of a much greater fabric. So it is okay to look to others for help, but by the same token, don’t let anyone steal your power and make your story theirs.” Finding our voices where women have been quiet for so long seemed to be a sore spot in our discussion and a topic that needed more consideration.


If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be. – Maya Angelou

Stereotypes add up.

Speaking of more consideration on male-dominated work environments, is this not a large area of discomfort women face when it comes to our voices? The attendees of Women Among Women shared numerous stories from their own lives where it seemed “feminine stereotypes” were thrown in their faces when they attempted to make their voices heard in the work place. It seems as if stereotypes add up when it comes to speaking up.

One of the most common stereotypes women face professionally is being labeled “bossy” when in roles of leadership. Or, depending on your leadership approach, you could be described as nosy, uncaring, strict, over-enthusiastic, etc. Why are women given negative labels as leaders while their male counterparts are given respect? Though this question was asked multiple times throughout the night, no definitive answer was discovered.

I don’t have a good answer either, as I’ve never dealt with this situation. Personally, I have never been given a negative label as a leader, nor have heard coworkers speak of other females in management in such terms. I have been blessed to work under numerous women who I viewed as mentors in my industries and who I greatly respected.

The experience I do have is in using my voice in my careers. I am not comfortable publicly speaking, but I have learned to raise my opinion during professional meetings. One day I realized that being shy and retreating was the easy thing to do — and I never wanted to be the person who took the easy way out. I quickly found that I didn’t have to be the loudest or deepest voice at the table to share my opinion and have it taken seriously. And so my voice grew over the course of my managerial roles.

Perhaps it is the shifting of our culture (the time of #MeToo and other women empowering movements), but it seems as if the tides are beginning to change in the professional world. Women are taking roles in leadership more often and respect is on the rise. We are forcing ourselves to speak up, despite our nerves, and contribute to the conversation in what once was an intimidating environment. Our voices are ready and we need to continue to let them be heard. Let’s keep on pushing forward, ladies — the world is changing at our sound.


Move in silence. Only speak when it’s time to say, “Checkmate.”

Finding your voice in conflict.

I wrestled with one concept in particular following the WAW meeting: how to find your voice within a conflicting situation when there is a real and imminent danger. Another of my peers struggled with the same thought, and she reached out to the group via Facebook to continue the discussion the day after the event:

Peer A: For many, finding our voice feels natural. We grab the bull by the horns and make ourselves be heard – professionally, personally, in crowds. But there are those who it doesn’t come natural to. And some have very real consequences/backlash that can come with speaking up. Not everyone has a support system or backup plan that would allow them to leave a job, or a relationship, etc. How do we still make those women feel empowered? I don’t ever want anyone to think that just because they haven’t found a way to “find their voice” in a situation means they’re not strong.

I am one of those people who does not have a naturally loud voice. I am a strong INFJ meaning I will do everything in my power to keep the peace. Yet I am also a very passionate person who holds her values and morals to a high esteem. Sometimes I find it difficult to balance these two characteristics because I might need to ruffle a feather or two in order for my opinion to be known.

I have a personal experience where I kept my voice quiet for a long time. Very similar to what Peer A says above, I walked out of a career with no backup plan and a lot of student debt/living costs/bills. After staying silent for two long years, I finally had had enough though. I placed my keys on my former employer’s desk and walked out without looking back. As someone who rarely raises her voice, that move in itself spoke legions.

Unfortunately, I think many times finding your voice can result in sinking a ship. When you embrace your values and identify your passions, you become a force with which to be reckoned. Remaining silent does have its values in some situations, but when it comes to a situation where you NEED to use your voice, silence is a form of validation. Validation for mistreatment, poor morals, or improper behavior. It is when you begin to feel nervous about speaking up that things are starting to shift — you’re feeling nervous because you know what you have to say needs to be heard. And if you don’t choose to say the words, they will fester inside of you like a poison.

Finding your voice can be healing.

Yes, you may sink a ship — you may lose your job, you may lose a friend or a romantic partner. You could even lose a family member. However, how good of a situation are you in if you’re feeling those nerves already? You’re going against your innate core in order to appease someone else. My two-year long silence resulted in black outs while driving, visits to a neurologist, and taking a prescription to battle the inflammation in my brain causing immobilizing migraines. The stress of my silence caused me physical pain and placed me in very real and imminent danger.

But then, in my own way, I found my voice and got out of the situation. No back up. Loads of debt. There were quite a few tears… but I picked myself up and moved forward. My reputation and character carried me into a healthier and better fitting job position — acting as the wine club manager and event planner of a local winery. If you can find your voice, then you’re already strong. You have a passionate spirit that will carry you into the next adventure. Yeah, maybe you get knocked down for a second, but that just means you will bounce back with more force. Roll with the punches and be true to yourself.

Peer A: Yes, to all of these things. There’s not a word in here that doesn’t resonate or that I don’t fully support! But I still think that there are grey areas. Leaving a job with no savings if you have a family to support isn’t an option. Leaving a job if you have rent to make and have no other means of financial support isn’t an option. 

As far as why those women feel like they have no support, there’s probably a myriad of reasons. From a personal standpoint, I know that there are a lot of women whose support I know has been offered to me in the past, but honestly their lives are busy, and it’s easy to feel like an inconvenience. I know that I’ve been judged by women who say they’ll offer support no matter what. And I know that saying that you’ll offer support and actually doing it are two very different things. There’s a plethora of explanations, I’m sure. 

So, I guess what I’m referring to are the in-between hours/days/months/years. What other ways can you find your voice beyond quitting your job, leaving your relationship, cutting ties with family etc. Within extremes is always a middle – being the loudest doesn’t mean you’re being heard. Although, I suppose finding your voice and being heard are also two very different things as well.

I couldn’t agree more with Peer A that every area of life has grey areas. When you’re on the outside, it is so easy to say to someone struggling, “Just do something and make a change.” There are situations — especially when you have dependents — where speaking up is not an option, especially when the result may be termination and/or abandonment.

Though I’m no expert, if I were in a situation like Peer A mentioned (a “middle extreme” if you will) I would make my voice known to an intimate group of peers and/or friends. Simply speaking about things can cause peace — I am all for a good rant with my closest girlfriends over wine. It does the heart good. Perhaps this is not what society views as strength but “sucking it up” and continuing forward with your work/relationship might be the only option. You may not be speaking to your assaulter, but you are being heard by people who care. I have found relief in that knowledge.

Also, speaking with friends or a special network might be worthwhile, and not only for your mental health’s sake. You might make a connection with someone who understands what you’re going through and who can help you find a better solution than just “sticking it out.” I think that goes back to what was said above: silence can be a value. You have to choose your fights — not every battle is worth it.


I am not a difficult woman at all. I am simply a strong woman and know my worth. -Angelina Jolie

Remember your worth.

Angelina Jolie is my favorite actress. She’s beautiful and poised and a fantastic artist. But why I adore her has more to do with her attitude than her art; she holds herself with an enviable confidence and strength. Plus she uses her high-profile status to promote her passions and she holds true to her personal values. That is the mark of a worthy celebrity in my book.

Many voices are left unheard due to the low self-esteems of their owners. Women who have experienced loss or guilt or failure throughout their lives and who have not yet learned that those past or present lows can result in future highs. I have been there as well. I wish I had known sooner how valuable I am and respected my worth. If I had, I may not have gone through some of my rougher patches where I allowed others to use and abuse me. Remember, ladies, that you are valuable. 

If it were not for my past failings, I would not have learned my value though. Nowadays, when I fail, I look that failure squarely in the eye and ask, “What did I just learn from you?” In some circumstances I learn that the failure is a closed door to which I do not own the key. Thus I move on. Other situations need more investment and work. Putting more time into something causes maturity and grows you into a better version of yourself. I’ve learned to not let any rejection ruffle my feathers. One “no” here may simply mean taking a detour and finding another path. Persistence is the key to those doors.

I have always been fascinated with stories of famous women who initially failed. Women like J. K. Rowling — my go-to answer when someone asks me to name one person, living or deceased, I’d want to have a coffee date. Rowling’s mailbox was filled with rejection letters when she sent her original Harry Potter manuscript to publishers. It took rejection from twelve different publishers before Bloomsbury Publishing sat down to read her manuscript. Yet she persisted in sending the manuscript after each rejection letter. If she had given up, my childhood would have been very lonely.

Another woman who failed in her past was the founder and CEO of Lippe Taylor, Maureen Lippe. Lippe couldn’t pass a typing test and failed her interview of working her dream job at Vogue. She went home from the failed test and signed up for classes at a secretarial school. Six months later, she returned to Vogue able to type and take dictation, and she landed the job. After learning the art of marketing she went on to found Lippe Taylor, who has worked with well-known brands like Nestle, Gerber, and Ikea. One of my favorite quotes from Lippe is, “Failure should teach you survival skills, not resignation.” The worst thing you can do when you face failure or rejection is internalize and let your feelings impact your self-worth. Live and learn — and quit taking things personal.


A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult. – Melinda Gates

The difficulty in being heard.

Why do we go through the difficult journey of searching for our voices? What is their importance? Using your voice is the surest way to build connections, find solutions, and live your truth. Your voice helps the world understand what you believe, hear what you think, and appreciate who you are in the deepest and rawest form. Thus it is important to use your sincere voice and not a pseudo rendition.

Women, like men, were not created to be quiet and sit in the background. We were designed with thoughts, values, and feelings that contribute to the greater good. Ignoring your voice leads to frustration and a fear of expression. Those who keep silent miss their goals and live in regret.

As we’ve discussed in various ways above, sometimes having a voice can cause momentary pain and hardship. The beauty in finding your voice is not in the easy moments of life though, it is in the difficult. Hard and happy are not exclusive — Life can be both.

At our WAW meeting and on the Facebook group, conversation on the difficulty of having your voice heard was discussed. Especially in those moments of conflict when voicing your opinion may have negative fallback. Peer A had a great suggestion as to how to be heard within difficult situations:

Peer A: I started thinking of ways that could still provide [those in conflicting situations] a voice: volunteering with young girls and showing them how to have a voice. One way is by walking away from conversations that make you uncomfortable – it’s not always necessary to put someone in their place. Sometimes it’s enough to just remove yourself from the situation.

This reminded me of a concept I was taught in college: “No.” is a complete sentence. It does not require justification or explanation. Saying “No” is a difficult thing to do, but necessary in a number of situations. I have been actively practicing saying “No” more in my life, and though it is only one word, I can see the difference in my voice when I firmly state it. My voice assists me in achieving my ever-changing goals and finding perspectives that belong to me and me alone. Challenges are instrumental to growth, so relish in the difficulty of discovering your voice and using it in your every day life.


Our days are happier when we give people a bit of our heart rather than a piece of our mind.

Pass your voice on to the woman behind you.

In the end, the importance of finding your voice is to pave the road for other women. There is a greater promise for the next generation when we find and share our voice in order to be heard. With all that has been said in this discussion, being true to yourself is Obstacle #1. The next obstacle is being a source of support for others who are going through similar experiences. Why do some women feel like they have no back up or support? Reach out and help one another! We have all been through hardships — we all have baggage — and we can help one another in some form. You never know the difference a kind word or a gentle nudge of encouragement may help someone lacking confidence in her own voice.

Peer L: As mentioned, knowing how and when to let our voices be heard and knowing when to stay silent are both equally important and powerful. For me, observing other women who seem to have mastered the staying silent vs. speaking up thing is inspiring and empowering in itself. Maybe it is simply being a role model for other women around us. While we must individually decide what is important to us and what we stand for, we need to help others find this out too. We need to be there for one another and sometimes that also means being the voice for one another.

I think having a voice is such a great gift to give to someone else. So once you discover yours, share it with the next lady in line. We’re all in this together, right?


With all these thoughts and opinions, I continue striving to find my individual voice. I am thankful for my little piece of the blogosphere where I can practice using my voice more readily than I do speaking — written word is more my cup’o’tea. My passions and beliefs push me into characteristically uncomfortable positions daily, but I have found success in many facets of my life by remembering my value. Sometimes I tread water during my journey, but other times the water stills and I can find refreshment in my personal experiences. There’s rejuvenation in expressing myself and using my voice when the time calls for it. I know the worth of my voice and I will grow and strengthen it until I die.

I’ll leave the discussion with this thought: seeing a woman being able to own what she’s been through, stand up, be honest, put her heart out there and be connected to people — that is amazing and empowering.

Please feel free to continue this discussion in the comment area below. I would love to hear your input and learn from your own experiences.

With you and for you, my friends,

What’s Your “Word” For 2019?

Do you set New Year’s resolutions? I have not been a big fan of resolutions in the past simply because they seem to have a poor stigma surrounding them. Resolutions seem to have become the butt of jokes, a frustration for gym rats, and stress-inducers for those who set them. For awhile I aimed to set goals rather than resolutions. My thought process behind this decision was completely based on definitions. Resolutions are decisions to do or not do things, whereas goals are focused ambitions to achieve a desired result.

Over the last few years, I made goals for myself at the beginning of each year. These goals provided direction, and also allowed me to plan and prepare to take realistic actions for my desired outcomes. Sometimes I realigned my goals throughout the year to better serve my changing lifestyle. Other times I quit on my goals or rolled them over to the next year. There were even a few goals I proudly achieved.

For 2019, I neither set resolutions or goals. Instead, I’ve chosen a single word to bring me guidance throughout the year. It took me some time to narrow down what my one word should be though…

I was talking with a few of my girlfriends this past week on their New Year’s resolutions. Instead of resolving to change or setting goals, each of them had instead chosen a single word to use as guidance for the upcoming year. One had chosen “present” to remind her to be happy with her current place in life and to keep her grounded when thoughts of her past or future may surface. The other chose “content”. She has struggled with finding contentment in her life, either rushing or attempting to persuade circumstances to fit what she feels is best. This ultimately adds more stress to her life, so she has aimed to focus on finding the silver-linings in the here-and-now.

I had heard the idea of One Word before. There’s actually a book called My One Word by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen which goes in depth on how to choose your word. (I’ve never read the book, but have known a few people who have.) The authors state that choosing your Word is a year-changing process. This process “provides clarity by taking all your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single focus. Just one word that centers on your character and creates a vision for your future.”

Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also begins her years choosing a single word to bring her guidance. In a LinkedIn post on January 1st, Gates explained that this tradition “encapsulates her aspirations for the year ahead.” She focused 2016 around the word “gentle” which helped her fight perfectionism, and 2017’s “spacious” prompted her to make room for the things in life that truly matter. She is doubling on the word “grace” for 2019 as it served her well in 2018.

I love the concept that one Word can set a theme for the year and be a constant reminder to focus on creating positive change in your life.

Looking back, I can roll each year into one word. In 2017 my year was focused on “release.” I released responsibilities, people, and stress from my environment in order to thrive (and in a few circumstances simply survive.) In 2018, “gratitude” was the resounding theme. I was grateful for a new career path and a loving husband and a first home. I was grateful for Life shining bright and for the releases of 2017 to finally make sense.

As I walk into 2019 I have been finding difficulty in narrowing the next twelve months into a single word though. The reason I didn’t make any goals was because I hadn’t considered what they may be — in all honesty, I am very content with my life as it is today and am not sure what more I could aim to achieve.

I considered “contentment” along the lines of my friend. Remaining content can sometimes be a challenge for a long period of time and perhaps that could be more 2019 focus.

I also thought I could narrow my theme to one of the goals I set back on my birthday. However, the whole point of One Word is to encompass a number of aspirations for my future.

I thought some more.

And some more.

I considered “wine”… to which my friends shook their heads and laughed.

So I thought ever harder.

And I realized that as I tried to figure out my intentions for 2019, my Word was right in front of me:

Intention.

Though I am living in a very happy, content bubble at the moment, I acknowledge that much of my life is lived in habit. Each part of my life (whether it be activities, things, people, etc.) has a sort of control over me and I see now I need to take the reigns. Intentionally.

I want to speak intentionally. I want to make intentional decisions. I want to intentionally put my life into action.

Gone are the days where I make significant number of choices simply because. Moving forward, I yearn to live with intention — living with more purpose on purpose. I don’t want to continue getting caught up in the outside noise of Life. You know, the busyness of everyday habits or the control of social media and other’s perceptions. Areas that may quickly spiral out of control if left unhindered and unchecked.

Instead, I want to take every step in my life as a well-thought, well-planned, and well-executed decision. To move my happiness and contentment of Life into the greater plane of joy.

I am aiming towards sustainable joy.

Thus I choose to live with intention.

Have you considered a Word of the Year for yourself? If so, what did you choose for 2019 and why? And if this little blurb made you think about a Word, what are you thinking to focus on in the new year? 

Until next time, friends,

Defining My Tribe

A local winery owner I know launched a women’s group back in February called Women Among Women. I’ve attended a few of the monthly meet-ups and have loved participating every single time. The group is more than simply networking, and focuses on topics decided upon by the attendees. Sometimes there may be a guest speaker, but more often the attendees have an open discussion on the specific topic of the evening. Topics have included goal setting, switching careers, and getting over life’s missteps gracefully. The women who attend are students, entrepreneurs, managers, mothers, spouses, volunteers, and so much more. It is a warm and inviting environment where each woman can connect with one another, share their personal experiences, and learn.

I met an awesome hustler a few months ago through this group. This woman began a podcast last year which has become a weekly delight for me to listen to on Wednesdays while I go about my work. The podcast, Hustlin’ In Heels, gets “real about struggles and celebrations of being a modern-day badass babe.” Basically, it’s a podcast Uncorking Peonies can get behind (and I definitely encourage anyone reading to give it a listen!)

Last week’s installment was all about building your tribe. The co-hosts talked about how they define a tribe, who they invite into their tribe, and what being in a tribe means. Their discussion got me thinking about how my tribe is continuously growing and evolving, and how I got to be in the various tribes I now find myself. Thus, I figured I’d focus my “annual Thanksgiving post” on my blessing of friendship and tribe.

To me, tribe is a universal word that is always attempting to be defined on a personal level. In the most basic sense, a tribe is built on similar social and economic ties and within a common culture. Yet a tribe can be so much more. It can be an intimately exclusive group simply built around care and love. Your tribe members have earned your trust, they hold you accountable in your endeavors, and they struggle through Life by your side. I love my husband and I love my parents, but they are not who I consider my tribe — they are family, which is a whole other elevated element of my Life. Instead, my tribe are those girls who are my ride-and-dies.

As a child, I can imagine I tied my identity to my family, similar to any other kid. I am an only child with a small extended family, but most of my memories as a youngster are centered around family holidays, vacations, or outings with my parents. It was not until my preteen years when I began to shift away from my familial tribe and looked to be invited into a friend tribe.

Unfortunately, I am an innate worrier. This means I suffered through my adolescent and teenage years — some of the most difficult years as a girl — in a constant state of worry. Did I fumble my way through that conversation? Am I cool enough to be her friend? That girl is hotter/smarter/cooler than me, so why would she want to hang out with me? I was in my head all the time and had very low self-esteem. With fear of what others thought and loathing of myself, I stepped into several friendships where I struggled to find my groove. There were multiple times I tried to force a relationship to no avail. Be it that personalities collided, trust was lacking, or my own inhibitions got in the way, by the time I reached my senior year in college, I lacked a core tribe.

Typical to human behavior, I played the victim card when friendships failed. “She hurt my feelings. She did me wrong. I was always the only one invested.” were my usual phrases when brushing off the pain of another failed relationship. When I realized I lacked a tribe, though, I began to reassess the past. Yes, those friend-fails may have been due to misunderstandings and crushed feelings, but I was not free from blame. I have difficulty trusting others due to my lack of self-esteem. I’m forever considering alternative motives and asking questions on someone’s intents. My personality is to give my all to a goal (in this reference, a functional friendship,) and sometimes I forget a friend’s personality might not match mine. Or worse, I forget a friend’s life does not center solely on our friendship.

In short, my past friendship fails have been 50/50 when it comes to who is to blame. And due to my own failings and lack of relationships, I found myself alone upon graduating. Right before graduation I had ended my romantic relationship which was truly my one and only core friendship at the time. So I found myself heartbroken, scared of an unknown career path, floundering in student debt, and alone. I lacked that intimate female camaraderie which I had struggled to find for years.

The day came though where I had to place my fears and self-esteem behind me, and throw myself in the hands of the only girls I found near me: my roommates. These two girls had only been my roommates for three months, and we had met on Facebook. I worked an hour away each weekend, studied a lot, and spent most of my free time with my ex, so minutes with these girls were few and far between. Our friendship was very elementary at the time.

Yet when my earth shook, they were there. They listened while my heart broke, held me while I sobbed, and took me for so many cups of FroYo I couldn’t even keep count. And through all the vulnerable moments, I began to heal. Their love made me feel safe and they helped me navigate the following months with grace and dignity. They were my first Tribe, and the perfect founding block on how I learned how to grow my future tribes.

Over the past several years, building my Tribe has become a wonderful hobby. Similar to what Angie says on Hustlin’ in Heels, I find more joy with the people I surround myself with because I trust them. That means going outside my comfort zone to meet new women, listening to their stories, and moving through life with them. Tribe is more than simple friendship; it is the group you do Life with and who does Life with you. Life is amazing and rewarding, but it comes with challenges. I’m not afraid anymore to admit I need help sometimes. As I meet new women and form relationships with them, I place my trust in them — something which I once shuddered at the thought.

The Tribes I have built are my support system. Some may be personal friendships and others professional, but I know they all have my back. I have come to realize that having a tribe is not only something I wanted for so many years, but Tribe is something I needed.

In the all-knowing words of Beyonce Knowles, “I love my husband, but it is nothing like a conversation with a woman that understands you.” There is just something special about allowing yourself to be vulnerable and transparent and raw with a fellow female. Women understand women — we’re all from Venus after all.

Over the past few years, I have worked to cultivate connections with like-minded individuals in various parts of my life. These women help turn my visions into reality and help me achieve ideas too big for me to accomplish on my own. This might be by urging me to have fun and go out, listening and providing advice during a difficult time, or telling me what I don’t want to hear when I’m being stubborn. To me, Tribe consists of those women who will not only listen to me, but will constantly push me to be better.

As I move through my life I know I am no longer alone when it comes to friendship. I have women behind me to uplift me, support me, encourage me, and check in with me periodically. And the reason they do this is not out of obligation or familial ties. No, these women do so because they choose to love me and have my best interests at heart. Their love and care is unconditional, which ultimately makes them family — my Tribes are my sisters. They are with me during my successes, but they also forgive all my failures. They tell me I’m a rock star, even when I’m not. My Tribes allow me to be human — wins, fails, and all the accompanying tears.

Your tribe can’t be there just to pat you on the back when you’re already feeling great. Your tribe has to be able to provide you with that extra energy needed when times are rough. They have to provide tough love sometimes, or a hand off the ground. My Tribes have helped me personally, professionally, and in so many other ways. They are my best friends, my closest confidants, and my hope is to give the love, compassion, and care back to them, as well as spread it to others.

Every woman needs a tribe.

Shout out to mine.

Personality Shift

I was talking with friends and a statement was made that one’s personality tends to change every six months. I’m not sure where the studies can be found that show this to be true, but I was curious if certain differences in learned traits and habits might ultimately shift someone’s personality. And so I did some investigating of my own accord to find out.

For me, I look at my old self — not even two years ago — and can see quite a difference in my behavior and ideals. I’m more outgoing, more independent, stronger, and more confident in myself. Where I once questioned what I wanted to do with my life, I now know at least a direction and that is to create a better community around me. I want fulfillment in life by helping others. I know my place on earth is to show others God’s grace and to be an instrument for Him. I find myself striving to be a better person every day by practicing patience, caring, and becoming a listener to those around me.

In October 2014 I wrote a post entitled Quick Personality Identifier. Here I wrote about my results from an online Myers-Briggs Test. (If you don’t know what this test is, I recommend checking it out now! Take a free assessment and really get a fuller understanding of what is going on in your head…)

At that time I was an INFJ personality type. INFJs tend to see helping others as their purpose in life, but while people with this personality type can be found engaging rescue efforts and doing charity work, their real passion is to get to the heart of the issue so that people need not be rescued at all. INFJs are not idle dreamers, but people capable of taking concrete steps to realize their goals and make a lasting positive impact.

Today, I retook the test. Interestingly enough, I am no longer an INFJ — and I chose three different tests to get accurate results. Instead, I have shifted into an ENFJ. Not a huge change once you get down to the nitty-gritty of the personality types, but a change nonetheless. My shift from I (Introvert) to E (Extrovert) justifies the differences I’ve noted in my personality. Rather than being more preoccupied with my own thoughts and feelings, I’m now primarily concerned with my physical and social environment. This is something I am quite proud of and view this shift as a widening of my world.

Reading through my personality profile, I feel like I understand myself so much better! My strengths, my weaknesses, my interactions with those around me… everything is touched upon in this profile and it’s almost like looking into my own mind.

As I said in my Quick Personality Identifier post, the test is based on four preferences for personality types:

  • Where, primarily, do you prefer to direct your energy? E or I (Extroversion or Introversion)
  • How do you prefer to process information? S or N (Sensing or Intuition)
  • How do you prefer to make decisions? T or F (Thinking or Feeling)
  • How do you prefer to organize your life? J or P (Judgment or Perception)

Joining the ranks of Oprah, Jennifer Lawrence, and Daenerys Targaryen (my girl!), being an ENFJ means I am a natural-born leader, full of passion, and quite charismatic. With a confidence that begets influence, ENFJs take a great deal of pride and joy in guiding others to work together to improve themselves and their community.

Everything you do right now ripples outward and affects everyone. Your posture can shine your heart or transmit anxiety. Your breath can radiate love or muddy the room in depression. Your glance can awaken joy. Your words can inspire freedom. Your every act can open hearts and minds. – David Deida

ENFJs make up only about 2% of the population, and they are always the people reaching out to inspire those around them to achieve and to do good in the world. ENFJs radiate authenticity, concern and altruism. They are unafraid to stand up and speak when they feel something needs to be said. ENFJs fine it natural and easy to communicate with others and they often can reach every mind, be it through logic or raw emotion.

The interest ENFJs have in others is genuine, almost to a fault — when they believe in someone they can become too involved in the other person’s problems and place too much trust in them. Most of the time, this trust is a lucky thing because it tends to inspire the other person to become better themselves. On the opposite, sometimes an ENFJs optimism can push others further than they’re willing to go and ultimately push them out of the ENFJ’s life.

Another snare ENFJs are vulnerable to is the capacity for reflecting on and analyzing their own feelings but sometimes getting caught up in another person’s plight and then seeing that problem in themselves. The ENFJ then attempts to fix something in him/herself that isn’t wrong. When this happens, the ENFJ’s ability to see past the dilemma and offer advice is limited and therefore they are of no help at all. Self-reflection and meditation are important practices for ENFJs during these moments so they can distinguish between what they truly feel and what is a separate issue needing a new perspective.

Overall, an ENFJs strengths are being tolerant of others’ opinions, reliable, charismatic, altruistic, and admired for their strong personalities and positive visions. Their weaknesses are being overly idealistic to the point of naivete, acting too selflessly, reacting too sensitively, and defining their self-esteem on whether they are able to live up to to ideals and goals. Failure in any respect causes their self-confidence to plummet. This also means that they can struggle with tough decision, usually becoming paralytic at imagining all the consequences of their actions.

When it comes to romantic relationships, ENFJs feel most comfortable when they are in a relationship. They take dating seriously, selecting partners with an eye towards the long haul rather than the more casual approach. There’s really no greater joy for ENFJs than to help along the goals of someone they care about, and a committed relationship is the perfect opportunity to do just that!

Being Intuitive (N) helps ENFJs keep up with the rapidly shifting moods common early in a relationship, but they still rely on conversations to help keep conflict. It is not uncommon to have an ENFJ ask their partner how things are going and if there is anything else they can do to make their partner happy. The risk to this is being overbearing or needy — sometimes the only thing wrong is being asked what’s wrong too often.

ENFJs don’t need much to be happy. Just knowing their partner is happy is enough, especially if it is expressed in visible affection or verbal affirmation. Making their partner’s dreams come true is often the chiefest concern in a relationship, but this can sometimes cause an ENFJ to neglect their own needs. It’s important, then, to remember to express those needs on occasion.

ENFJs invest their emotions wholly in their relationships, and are sometimes so eager to please that it undermines the relationship — leading to resentment and even failure of the relationship. When this happens, ENFJs experience strong senses of guilt and betrayal. If potential partners appreciate the ENFJ, though, then they will make an effort to look after the needs of their ENFJ partner even when he/she is not concerned for their own well-being. In the end, ENFJ personality types believe that the only true happiness is mutual happiness, and that is the stuff successful relationships are made of.

When it comes to friendships, ENFJs are anything but passice. With some people may accept the circumstantial highs and lows of friendships, ENFJs will put active effort into maintaining connections while viewing them as substantial and important. An ENFJ will never allow a friendship to slip away due to laziness or inattention.

People with the ENFJ personality type take genuine pleasure in getting to know other people. All perspectives, no matter how vastly different than their own, are intriguing to ENFJs. They connect best with individuals who share their principles and ideals, but have no trouble talking with people of all modes of thought. ENFJs truly open up with their closest friends, though they keep their many other connections in a realm of lighthearted but genuine support and encouragement.

Other truly value their ENFJ friends, appreciating the warmth, kindness, and sincere optimism they bring to their friendships. ENFJs strive to be the best friends possible, and this is apparent when they work to find out more than just the superficial interests of their friends, but also their strengths, passions, hopes, and dreams. Nothing makes ENFJs happier than to see the people they care about do well, and they are more than happy to take their own time and energy to help make it happen.

Unfortunately, some people simply do not have the energy to keep up with an ENFJs desire to lend a helping hand. And when their efforts aren’t reciprocated, ENFJs can become offended. This typically happens with those people more interested in living “in the moment” rather than the future, as well with those who are content with who they are and are uninterested in the sort of self-improvement and goal-setting that ENFJs hold so dear.

When circumstances like these arise, ENFJ personalities can be critical. While always tactful, an ENFJ’s advice to push forward may further annoy their friend. Instead of taking such approaches with friends like this, it is better for an ENFJ to relax into an uncharacteristic “live and let live” attitude.

Usually, though, ENFJs find that their excitement and optimism produces many satisfying relationships with people who appreciate and share their vision and authenticity. The joy ENFJs take in moving things forward means that there is always a sense of purpose behind their friendships, creating bonds that are not easily shaken.

Now when it comes to finding a career, ENFJs cast their eyes towards anything that lets them do what they love most: helping other people! Altruistic careers give ENFJ personality types a chance to help others learn, grow, and become more independent. This attitude, alongside their social skills, emotional intelligence, and tendency to be “that person who knows everybody”, can be adapted to quite a range of careers. Anything that helps a community or organization to operate more smoothly such as HR administrators, event coordinators, politicians, social workers, or teaching and counseling would be good avenues for ENFJs.

I find this career advice interesting — and exciting! In 2014, when I was an INFJ, my career profile went like this: INFJs struggle to begin a career early on in life because they see ten wildly different paths moving forward, each with its own intrinsic rewards, alluring but also heartbreaking because each means abandoning so much else.

It’s more than accurate that I was lost when I thought of a career only two years ago. I had so many interests that I couldn’t focus on the future and where I would be. I hated being asked in interviews, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” because I honestly had no idea! Now, though, I can honestly say I see myself in a position that is not on the corporate career path and focused on status or material gain. Instead, I want to be working to better my community, most likely in a nonprofit sector setting for a cause I am passionate about.

All in all, I am proud to say I am an ENFJ. Though it seems like I need to make a conscious effort to develop my weaker traits and continue to add to my skill set, the idealism and vision ENFJs exhibit allows them to overcome Life’s challenging obstacles. Whether I am attempting to find (or keep) a romantic partner, stay calm under pressure, or make a difficult decision, an ENFJ’s goal is always to brighten the lives of those around them.

Ultimately though, ENFJs are genuine, caring people who talk the talk and walk the walk, and nothing makes them happier than leading the charge, uniting and motivating their team with infectious enthusiasm. There really isn’t another way I’d prefer to conduct myself in this Life…

*Sources: This information comes from 16Personalities.com in reference to the Myers-Briggs Personality Test.

If you would like to take your own personality test, I recommend doing so on 16Personalities website. Click here to try it yourself! When you’re done, please come back and let me know what personality type you are and how strongly you agree with your outcome!