Out Of Africa – Part 2 – Lioness Power

A Look Back At Girl Power For Good’s Evolution
Originally published July 11, 2013

Last post I talked about my impressions of Africa, and this post is how those impressions have played out back in the “real” world. I alluded to the power I felt in Africa; that power was embodied for me by the lioness.

Lioness power is important to me, because it’s feminine and nurturing when it needs to be and fierce when it needs to be. It’s all about ebb and flow, and the pride is only as strong as the bond between the individual lionesses…they hold it all together.

I’ve built a whole program around the Lioness Power, or Girl Power, that I will be taking into high schools called, “Field Guide to the Wilds of High School.” I have a complementary program for parents about how to support your kids in the transition from middle school to high school. High school can be a scary place, but lioness power can make it less dangerous. My high school program is built around making Girl World a friendlier place; if girls pull together to support each other, like the lionesses do, then it makes the whole pride stronger and more resilient. If girls can build each other up instead of tearing each other down, we can set up a mutual respect that will allow boys to be gentlemen again. If girls don’t respect each other, how can they expect the boys to treat them any better?

Lioness power can support girls in saying, “No!” when “Yes” would result in a diminishing of that power; because saying “Yes” to something that goes against your inner lioness is a slap in the face to beauty and strength.

I was so intent on the importance of my program that I forgot to think about my audience. I sent a very impassioned e-mail to one school with my handout attached for the parent program. I was already hired to give the student talk, but I wanted to add a parent program.  My lack of explanation led to a canceling of my program altogether, and the ensuing downward spiral was illuminating. My first reaction was anger, “How can they not see how important this program is?” then sadness at being rejected, “I might as well give up, because I’m not good enough to get my point across.” Neither of these reactions are about genuine caring or love; they’re both about EGO.

Ego doesn’t serve me well, because the flip side of the coin is shame. Ego is built upon a need for approval, or, in the extreme, a need to be worshipped. That’s not being wholehearted (this is a term that Brene Brown uses in her amazing book, Daring Greatly that everyone should read), and it won’t help anyone, including me.

When your family of origin doesn’t give you support without strings as a child, you develop an addiction to approval. In my family, my safety depended upon my parents being distracted from their own drama by me being adorable and funny. When you’re raised in an environment like that, you become extraordinarily sensitive to disapproval, because approval = safety. When my program was canceled, I went into an approval panic, “I might as well give up now before things get any worse.” When I’m in a shame spiral, I now know to stop and go meditate. When I stopped all the chatter in my head, Africa started whispering to me, “Breathe, Terri! Remember, you too have lioness power. Do you think the lioness gives up if she doesn’t catch the first impala? Does she think, ‘I suck! I might as well give up and let my pride starve?’ Nope. She rests for a while and tries a different tack.” That’s when it struck me; this is Square 3* again. Africa was all about Square 2 with its dreamy landscape and its uber-creative power, and now I’m in the throes of Square 3. Square 3 doesn’t bother the lioness, because she doesn’t make failure mean anything about her.

My ability and desire to help girls and their parents is not about my ego’s definition of success and failure; it’s about love.

So, that’s what my Square 3 looks like…follow the love. I have amended my handout to be a little less edgy, and I’ve changed my tactics to include an in-person explanation of the program rather than relying upon words on paper to deliver my message to the next school. I will try again, and again, and again.  If I can’t speak locally, I will widen my net; the message of the lioness power is too important to be left unsaid. There are too many girls and parents to help. I’ve been on the cusp of Freshman year, both as a student and a parent, and I know how scary the “wilds” of high school can be. I have tools that can make it go much smoother, and all I need is a venue to share them. Then I will take the data I gather from the classes and develop it into a series of books to help groups of parents and students that I can’t reach in person.

Yes, Square 3 is hard, but as long as I can hear the whisper of Africa in my ear telling me which way to go, I will make it through. And what a beautiful place Square 4 will be when lioness power allows girls to see their own limitless possibilities.

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