This post is based on an Instagram Live discussion with my friend and fellow therapist, Jesie Steffes, LPC. Join me for Riverbend Therapy Chats each Monday afternoon on Instagram Live (@riverbendtherapy) as I discuss mental health topics and answer your questions with my colleagues.
Over the last few weeks, I have been sharing a lot about the new Women’s Empowerment Group I’m starting at the end of August with my friend and fellow therapist, Jesie Steffes, LPC. Every week on my River Bend Therapy Chats on Instagram Live, we’ve been exploring different topics that we’ll be covering in the group. As we have, I’ve been thinking more broadly about the group, I’ve realized that it might be better to describe it as a women’s empowerment community.
Why? Because having a community of strong, empowered women in my life has been crucial for my own empowerment. We are all ultimately responsible for our own self-empowerment and healing, but being part of a supportive and loving community is essential to doing that work. On that note, in this week’s Therapy Chat, Jesie and I explored what it means to create community, and how being part of communities has helped us each grow.
To start with, how do we define community? It is not the same thing as friendship, although your friends can be (and likely are!) a part of your community. Finding your community simply means finding supportive relationships based on mutual respect with people who will champion you, and who you can champion.
To create community you do not need to always agree with people or have the same opinions or beliefs—in fact, it can be good to build community with people who challenge you in healthy ways. Being part of a community simply means finding people to walk with you through the seasons of your life.
You can be—and likely are—part of many different communities, and the communities you’re part of can all fulfill different needs in your life. Maybe for you this looks like:
→ A spiritual or faith community that helps you connect with your divinity
→ An intellectual or professional community that furthers your goals
→ A sport, hobby, or interest group that engages your inner child
→ A circle of your closest, dearest friends who hold you
→ A group of acquaintances you go to happy hour with to blow off steam
So how do we create community? And why is it a necessary ingredient for empowerment?
1. Be a Gardener
Being part of a community is like gardening: You can’t harvest anything if you don’t put in effort. Being in community with others means giving of yourself authentically in a way that doesn’t cause self-abandonment, while also being open to receive what others give you. You’re walking with them however they need; championing their dreams, goals and vision for their life even if it differs from yours; cultivating trust and vulnerability, and allowing them to do the same for you. Empowerment ripples out, and holding space for other women to feel safe and empowered will further your own healing and self-discovery.
2. Go Deep and Broad
It’s all too easy to define yourself by one part of your identity and forget to cultivate a community that supports all parts of you. But it’s important to do so because you’ll need different support at different times. Sometimes, you’ll need to turn to your closest friends to hold you steady in your river of heartache; other times, you’ll need to go out with acquaintances to just inject some levity into your day; you’ll get one type of support from a spiritual community and another from a professional or intellectual group. If you create community in all realms of your life, you’ll find specific support when you need it, and growth when you are ready for it.
3. Make Space for Change and Grief
Your needs for community will shift throughout your life: If you’re single, you might find fellowship with other people who are too; if you have young children, you’ll likely feel support by connecting with other parents. Needing different communities in different seasons of your life brings transition and change, which can be painful, whether you’re leaving a community or someone you value is leaving yours. But healthy relationships allow for growth and change, and to get to that growth you must first allow yourself to grieve what you are losing. Doing so honors the space that community held in your life, and also prepares your heart to figure out what type of community you want to cultivate next.
Our Women’s Empowerment Group, starting August 25th, will be a community in which everyone has permission to grow and change in her own unique way. We will be there to champion and celebrate each other, as we all discover who our empowered selves are. It will be a community in which we can hold each other and be held as we say what’s in the depths of our souls.
The group will meet every Tuesday evening from 6:00-7:30 p.m. MT for 10 weeks, starting August 25th. Our plan is to meet in-person, with good social distancing and safety precautions in place, but could be held virtually if need be. The group is open to anyone who identifies as a woman—you do not need to be a client of mine or Jesie’s. If you have questions about the group, please see these previous posts or reach out to me via email, Facebook, or Instagram. I am here for any question you have!
We want to create an intimate atmosphere, so space is limited; if you are interested in joining us please let me know as soon as possible. And if you know someone who might benefit from the group, please share this post or the page on my website with her and let her know that her heart and soul is worthy of space to be held.
How will you create or deepen your community today?
Riverbend Therapy Chat: Creating Community with Brooke Small and Jesie Steffes