Where Do You Find Community?
Karen Erlichman, MSS, LCSW
Over the years, I have had numerous conversations with friends, colleagues and family members who are earnestly "looking for community." When I have inquired more specifically about this - their desire, their search - people often find it challenging to describe exactly what they are seeking. Some of the responses have been:
"I want a place where all of who I am is truly welcomed."
"I want my partner to feel at home there too."
"I don’t want to be guilt-tripped about how I’m not doing enough."
"I don't want to have to choose allegiances in order to belong."
My experience and training as a therapist reminds me that we bring all of our disillusionment, wounding and idealism to the search for community: times when we felt alienated, judged, or disappointed; memories or fantasies of a community in which we just fit effortlessly.
As I consider where and how one might locate such a seemingly elusive, perhaps idyllic, place or gathering of people, I can't help but think about the current political backdrop for this question: economic and political challenges around the globe, street activism and demonstrations from Wall Street to Cairo and beyond, climate change and catastrophe, an upcoming election year, to name but a few issues on the hearts and minds of so many people.
On-line postings, blogs, tweets, and other social media have been described as "on-line communities", and while they are not an equal substitute for face-to-face conversations, they do provide unique venues for conversation, information sharing and event organizing, particularly for younger generations of activists and community leaders.
What a rich and potent time to engage others in conversations about community, figure out what's in your heart, build bridges across difference, and learn to listen and speak with what Parker Palmer identifies in his latest book as two "habits of the heart American citizens need in response to twenty-first century conditions, chutzpah and humility".
How do we value each individual's voice as well as cultivate our collective, diverse voice of unity around issues that matter most? When we are brave and humble enough to engage in dialogue from the heart that moves us beyond polarities of right and wrong. In doing so, we foster genuine connection, relationship and hope.
There is a poem by activist Starhawk, aptly entitled "Community", that resonates powerfully with naming some of the essential qualities for which people seem to be longing: a circle of hands, strength to join our strength, to be welcomed, seen and heard, encouraged to be our fullest, most humble and chutzpadik selves, supported during times of struggle, offered friendship, healing and freedom-these are some of the vital characteristics and fruits of community.
How do you find community?
What communities have you been a part of, and what has mattered most to you about that?
The Confidence Trap: Courting Power vs. Creating Equality
Gail Whipple, MTP ACC
I just read a fantastic article called "The Confidence Gap" by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. In their first sentence I recognize what has been my unconscious strategy for decades … For years, we women have kept our heads down and played by the rules. We've been certain that with enough hard work, our natural talents would be recognized and rewarded
Kay and Shipman spend the rest of the article proving their point that "confidence matters as much as competence" and while women are competent, they aren't making the leap in business due to The Confidence Gap. I agree -if we are to accept, as the blues song says, "This is a man's world". Since the dawn of humankind, power structures have been built on men living out the hero's journey, to prove they are singular and strong - a leader at best and at least worth their keep. I'm thinking our currency of "confidence" is really this survival strategy to go big or go home.
This heroic ideal was born in the Paleolithic Era. At puberty, boys took part in coming-of-age rituals crafted to kill childhood and transform them into the strong hunters the tribe needed. That hero pattern survives to this day because it's worked, and it's powerful. That's why we value it and its showy attributes such as confidence. Indeed, confidence is something everyone who wants even a modicum of power should develop.
However, if we're talking out loud about what women have and don't have to "make it" in this world, we're evolving beyond old paradigms. So let's be aware of old confidence's shadow. The authors report on an experiment by Brenda Major that studies "the problem of self-perception". She found that the men consistently overestimated their abilities and subsequent performance, and that the women routinely underestimated both. (The actual performances did not differ in quality.)
The authentic purpose of confidence is not to make men puff up with false bravado. Confidence and other heroic attributes exist as a vehicle to serve others. No matter how far the classic hero might journey, he came home to the tribe, which was the center of his universe; valued by all for being home, a place of growth, love, family, and art.
This place of home and community was, and still is, where everybody-but-warriors work. Where non-hunters grew strong learning to connect with others, to innovate, birth new ideas, share sustenance and create what is artful and evolutionary. This is the creative dig deep to the heroic reach high. This introspective, creative arena is just as central as confidence to what life is really all about. At the heart of it all, isn't this what modern companies aspire to be? A place where people can work together to make and sustain the future? Without this core of industrious, creative people there is nothing - no profits, no heroes of Wall Street, no kings of commerce. But because these creative attributes are still subservient in value to the power we place in individualism, we don't prize them.
The time is right for our collective and conscious thinking to go beyond suggesting ways we should emulate ThePowersThatBe. Instead, let's help ThePowersThatBe evolve to value the larger segment of the creation that supports their dominion. Then instead of reasoning that half the world needs to build more confidence, we could build the entire world's wholeness.
Dilemmas of Being in Business: Good Choice,
Rosie Kuhn, Ph.D.
Madeleine, recently hired as a financial manager for an international corporation, is overwhelmed because she is learning the ropes of her current position, while understaffed, and in the midst of hiring. Madeleine is committed to fulfilling her duties to her boss and ensuring her colleagues and direct reports are being served effectively by her leadership. Being in such a dilemma challenges managers and executives alike. Is there a possible win-win situation here or is Madeleine facing a win-lose or your basic no one wins this time around? Sometimes that happens, you know. She’s in a pickle.
Madeleine is facing a circumstance that challenges her sense of being responsible, reliable and in integrity as a company officer. She’s struggling with her identity as a person that managers and her team can count on. It’s not that she can’t do the work; it’s not that she’s ineffective; it’s that, in this moment her circumstances are providing challenges in which she thinks she needs to get it all done and all right; however this is impossible, given her current situation. There’s no right or wrong, good or bad, in a situation like this one that Madeleine is facing. However, the human aspect of each of us that fears for our job, our reputation, our respect and trust, is coughing out strategies, trying to put out fires as quickly as possible so as not to be found out as incompetent and replaceable.
We all face moments in our work and personal life when there is a no-win situation. Here is my point: we can’t get it right all the time. When we can’t get it right, how do we be with this dilemma, especially when so much seems to be at stake? Madeleine’s dilemma will stop the clock one way or another. So assessing, not from panic, not from fear, not from inadequacies, but from what choice, in this moment will be most effective, is the key.
Choosing to choose from grounded clarity and a level of maturity that reflects confidence in oneself; willingly relinquishing the fear of the consequences – that is what good managers and leaders do. You make your best calculated guess at what’s best to do, then let go. If you’ve done your best – what more could you expect of yourself?
Choosing from integrity and professional wisdom is the best any of us can do. Why barrage ourselves with self-deprecating self-doubt and criticism. Allow the chips to fall and be with the you that has done the best. Acknowledge the challenge and be with the experience that comes with failing to be perfect, liked and appreciated.
The most effective leaders and managers in any business setting choose without fear of the consequences. It takes courage to take a stand for your competence, your choice-making and who you are behind the role you play at work.
Madeleine is actually in a perfect situation. She is facing certain failure, as she will face many times in her career. In doing so, she will realize a deeper, stronger, more resourceful self; one that will no longer be controlled or influenced by fear.