Almost five years ago I was invited to join a group of women who shared some unique things in common. We were all black women, who grew up on the Eastside of Detroit, with multiple adverse childhood experiences. We all persevered and took the initiative to become business owners in service to others as coaches, consultants, and mental health professionals. What started off as a mastermind group and a strategy to hold ourselves accountable for our professional growth turned into a powerful healing space and sister circle. We’ve consistently supported one another through the lowest lows, like the loss of loved ones, and celebrated each other during the highest highs, like that time when one of us got that call from Oprah.
This week as I study the book, “Sisterhood Heals: The Transformative Power of Healing in Community” by Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, I can understand more deeply why our weekly meetings mean so much to me. As much as there is a push for and pride in being strong and independent, we are so much better off when we grow and heal together.
Here are some strategies to support you as you form a new circle of support, or as you strengthen your existing healing community.
Secure Vulnerability. In her book, Sisterhood Heals: The Transformative Power of Healing in Community, Dr. Joy imparts wisdom about our relationship to attachment, or our connection to others. How our needs were met, or not met by our caregivers when we were babies may determine whether we have secure or insecure attachment. If we feel secure, we have low attachment anxiety and avoidance which means that we feel comfortable relying on others and confident in our ability to maintain relationships. If we feel insecure, our attachment avoidance and anxiety are high which results in things like challenges with maintaining close relationships, worry about abandonment, and discomfort with intimacy.
Admittedly, it often takes me quite a while to warm up to and trust new people. This time, I decided to do something different. In my current sister circle, I’ve allowed myself to be open and vulnerable which has made the experience so much richer and rewarding.
Group Agreements. Whenever I facilitate trainings or retreats, I set aside time at the beginning for my audience to collaboratively create agreements for how they want to participate in the experience together. This is to ensure that their learning, physical, and emotional needs are met and mutually supported. A common challenge I’ve seen in groups occurs when the airtime is not shared equitably. Addressing this may look like setting a group agreement around ‘sharing the mic.’
Some self-awareness and reflection are also helpful here. How are we setting boundaries or honoring the boundaries of others when it comes to giving or sharing our opinions or advice? In her book, Sisterhood Heals: The Transformative Power of Healing In Community, Dr. Joy proposes what I plan to carry forward as a powerful group agreement in sister circles. “Ask permission before sharing a tip you believe will be helpful… Start by asking if she’d like advice or if there’s another way you can support her.”
Authentic Connection. Like my clients, everyone in my mastermind sister circle group is a leader in some way. After conducting 100 interviews for a new project that I’m working on to support these leaders, I discovered that there is a shared sentiment that leadership can be lonely. Even though leaders are always surrounded by others, it often feels like they can’t show up as their whole selves. Everyone comes to them for help and support, but there are few if any who they can turn to for the same. As I prepared to write this message, I reached out to my group and asked them to send me a message about what makes our group work, what it does for them, and what makes them stay so consistently committed after all of these years. I got this response, “True friendship that wipes tears, helps us overcome fears, cheers the loudest and motivates the hardest. I haven’t been able to find that anywhere else.”
This week I challenge you to tap into the power of healing in community. If you’ve been trying to do it all alone, this is your permission to stop. It’s ok to ask for help and it’s better to heal and grow together.
I am safe and secure in my vulnerability.
I am setting boundaries and honoring the boundaries of others to support our mutual healing in community.
I am embracing authentic connections where I can show up as my whole self.