What I'm Realizing

One night last fall, once everyone in my household had gone to bed (or were otherwise passed out on an item of furniture), I opened up Facebook. After reading one #MeToo story after another from the women in my life, recounting how men had disrespected them, objectified their bodies, and sapped their power, I felt heavier and heavier.

While I was massively sad and angry for what had been taken from my friends, it wasn't just that. I was haunted by realizing the enormity of what the world had lost, too: how many women's authentic gifts had been left unopened, or never offered in the first place, because it simply wasn’t safe to go there?

So I decided to pose a different question: "When have you felt most whole, safe, and powerful?"

I took a deep breath and got the ball rolling:

  • Singing. Especially sacred music.

  • Dancing. But only when I feel 100% sure no one’s going to try to take anything from me, in the spiritual sense or otherwise.

  • Rallying hundreds (or thousands) of people and dozens of organizations to act on our values.

  • Putting myself out there because I know it will give other (probably younger) women the space to do so.

  • Sharing my truth, in my way, at my pace.

  • Letting my light shine. Empowering other women to let their light shine. And hoping it’s not misunderstood or misconstrued.

Saying this “out loud” was a bit scary and left me feeling vulnerable… but then other women’s responses starting pouring in:

  • Riding my bike

  • On my yoga mat

  • Definitely at the Women's March, the last mile of every super long run like marathon and half marathons, the hours after giving birth.

  • Leading/singing t’filot (prayer services) on Yom Kippur with supportive and engaged communities.

  • In nature, usually by the ocean. Dancing, especially when live drumming is involved. In intentional community spaces. Women spaces. Holding space for ritual. Being held in ritual.

  • In environments where everyone cares about what we're all trying to do enough that we both push each other and also want everyone there to succeed at the work

  • Working with awesome professionals. I have definitely felt most powerful in professional settings, when I am helping people and collaborating with smart effective folks. The fact that careers can be so empowering is part of why it's so devastating to read about women (or anyone) being terrorized and degraded while they're trying to do their craft.

  • TEACHING / learning when my door is closed, especially with like-minded women and men — most of whom are teachers or are prospective teachers (not when I open the door and intersect with the organization).

  • I can't explain all the conditions necessary for this to take place, but from working in an environment that was sexist and then moving into a work environment that wasn't (at least not systemically), the change was palpable. In the latter, I never sat in a meeting and wondered if what I said was discounted because of my gender. I was empowered to speak up and even more so, when people criticized my ideas or my performance, I was able to genuinely reflect and improve instead of writing off the criticism as sexist. It felt like a place I could breathe and stretch.

  • I feel the most at ease when I am focused on what I want and why I want it. Focusing forward on developing and creating my life through my intention is powerful. I appreciate opportunities to express who I am and to have fun together with others. I enjoy being seen as a person first…. I enjoy being able to contribute to a relationship and feel invited as an equal participant with a unique point of view.

When this Facebook thread eventually tapered off, as most do, something kept going inside me. It started to sprout teeny tender roots, and pretty soon leaves were poking out of the ground, asking me what’s next. I had to find a way to bring this voracious little plant out into the light of day and let it grow.

I wanted to find out: what could look like and feel like, what are the results — not only for each individual woman but for our communities, our country, and our world — when women actualize their full ingenuity, creativity, and leadership?

That’s why today, I’m launching Realize Change.

The mission of Realize is to unleash the power of women to create a more just world.

As women, we often encounter stumbling blocks on our way to discovering our true passions, developing our wildest ideas, and unleashing our most authentic leadership. When women check a portion of their potential at the door, how badly is society missing out? What could it look like for every woman to embrace and pursue the change-making that calls her?

Through individual and group coaching, Realize creates a space for women and gender non-binary individuals to figure out what they want to do with their lives and make it happen.

If you're looking to discover the next chapter in your career, step into your own power and leadership, find better work-life balance while making an impact, transition toward a meaning-filled retirement, or innovate for positive social change, I would love to connect with you.

And please get in touch if your organization, company, alumnae network, or community is interested in hosting a workshop on finding one’s calling and leading an intentional, impactful life.

What’s percolating in you that you keep telling yourself — or hearing from others — is not a big deal? Have you assumed it’s just a pipe dream, a hobby for someone with more time and money? What vision or idea have you held close because it’s too “out there,” too impractical, too silly, or too controversial?

What’s growing in you that needs to see the light of day, and soon? What lights you up, makes you feel alive? As Brené Brown points out in her book The Gifts of Imperfection, when we withhold our gifts inside ourselves, they become toxic. As humans, we’ve got a fundamental need to use and share our talents in the world.

When you see what’s going on in the news, in the country, in your community, in the world — what pisses you off? What is happening that you can’t stand, that you refuse to condone? What just has to change? And what are you going to do about it? (Full disclosure: my partner Scott and his colleagues at LearnServe International ask these questions of their high school student participants, who then design and pitch their own social ventures.)

How can you bring those two parts of yourself together — on the one hand, what makes you come alive, and on the other, what pisses you off — to stir up a potent cocktail that moves and shakes?

What if you could answer both questions in the way you live your life? What would it look like to be living your purpose, making the impact that is authentically yours to make — and feel nourished, energized, and fulfilled as you do it?

The world needs you in your full power. Tides are rising, borders are closing, liberties are being stripped away. Each day brings with it a new and shocking barrage on basic human dignity. I don’t say this to scare or depress you. I say this because the time is now — and we were made for just such a time.

So... Are you ready to realize the change you wish to see in your own life, and in the world around you?


Sarah Beller