I’m blessed my job allows me great opportunities like attending last week’s Leading Women event. (Thanks Christian City and Fayette Chamber for making it possible!) These events put women together in an atmosphere designed to inspire, encourage, challenge and lift each other up.
Right out of the gate, we had a moment of reflection. We were asked, “If you could make a special toast to any woman in your life, who would it be and why?”
Almost everyone thought of their mother. That relationship is so important. The overwhelming thought shared over and over was our mothers always believed in us and encouraged us to do anything we wanted. That belief pushed many of us to dream big and make bold choices. It gave us courage to face obstacles, brush off failure, and carry on.
I kept thinking about other women in my life who have been encouragers and sounding boards long after the conference closed. I can’t begin to list all of my teachers who have helped shape me and my career. My fifth grade English teacher, Barbara Ann Guyhto, should get a lot of credit for igniting my passion for creative writing. Then there was my Probe teacher who encouraged us to submit our creative work in contests and I got my first $15 paycheck from a story called “The Case of the Missing Sneakers.” I had so many influences before I even hit high school.
Throw in spiritual leaders, family, friends, college professors, career colleagues, and numerous other women I have had the privilege of learning from along the way, and the list of influencers, guides, and challengers I’ve encountered could fill up a notebook. Each one, unique in their own way, and helped me craft a part of me.
I had the privilege to work with college women for over 14 years. It was my turn to give back. To dish out some of the encouragement I’d stored up and help someone else see they were enough to accomplish whatever their story held. It was my time to wipe tears and gently push someone to try one more time. We celebrated wins together and plotted out ways to defeat obstacles. The really cool thing is that I learned from them too. They kept me up on the latest social apps and dances (thankfully no videos exist!) They kept me energized. They shared insights and we had great conversations about life topics that matter. I learned to listen.
The thought I ended on was the importance of the circle. To soak up and embrace encouragement and advice when it is offered, but never forget we are filled up so we can share with someone else when they need it. We must be able to move past the need to compete with each other and instead celebrate the successes together. We must build each other up and not tear each other down. We are really better together than alone.
I’m going to end this post with a challenge for you. Think about the women who have impacted your life. What did they share? How did they encourage? What was their message? Make a list. Now think about your friends, the young women in your Sunday School class, the new co-workers, or the young mom you sit next to at your kids ball practice. How can you keep that circle alive. What can you share? How can you be that encourager for them?
If you feel like it, leave me a comment about the women who inspire, motivate and encourage you. Want some tips on how to be a great mentor or mentee? Check out this blog post.