The development of female leadership capacity is a big theme in our times, both in our individual journeys and in the collective human consciousness. In business, nonprofit and social areas, our present is much richer in models of female leadership than our past. It is a huge huge win both men and women should give ourselves a big tap on the shoulder for.
As that trend continues, however, we need to bring our attention to subtler aspects of what women bring with them as they step up and take lead. For example, some time ago I spoke about the feminine way of creation, and what happens if we drop some of the masculine ideas of how business should look like and allow for more of our feminine side to come into the way we approach it. In this article, I’d like to touch on another subtle aspect – the subconscious patterns that we as women bring with ourselves into leadership, following the energetics of the first female leader we ever encountered – our own mothers. For men, this sharing might help understand the women in your lives, as well as the way you might be relating to female leaders. I will stick to speaking from my own experience as a woman for now and would love to hear from men how this maps onto your journeys.
The inner mother
No matter our gender or degree of physical separation from the mother, we carry her within us for our entire lives. Just as we can easily see her face when we close our eyes, so she is consciously or unconsciously influencing our behaviour in all kinds of ways. This is so especially when it comes to caring for, protecting, nourishing, loving ourselves and others. It is important to highlight our image of her is not who she is, as she is a human being with many facets who expresses only parts of them to us as we grow up. That is why we speak of the inner mother – the imprint that we carry of her in our own consciousness. That imprint (or archetype) is influenced by the way she showed up for us as children, but also by the way we perceived her that might have nothing to do with who she actually is or what she intended.
That inner mother archetype manifests in our relationship with ourselves, as well as in our personal and professional lives, from the very mundane to crucial turning points and relationships. For example, the way this exploration came up for me most recently was when I was buying bread and avocados prior to a sit with psychedelic mushrooms. My intention was to focus on my growth as a leader, as someone on a quest of creation and contribution to something bigger than herself. But before that… Better make sure I am prepared for what’s coming. Buzz around. Get things done. Buy healthy things. Be organised. Go out in the sunshine. Find a nice safe space to do this. Oh shoot, that one doesn’t work. Stay safe, find another one. Take good care of myself. As the mushrooms started kicking in, I was stunned to find who it was that was doing all that – it was my mother, manifesting from within me as I’d seen her be and do around me growing up. Protecting. Caring. Nurturing. Getting things ready and done. Wow! OK, breathe and let’s see what that has to do with my intention.
The evolution of the relationship with the mother
On one hand, in general terms, the integration of the mother follows the evolution of the relationship with our mothers. The process starts with our conception (in the womb in which everything we know is the mother), going through steps of increasing separation and eventually finishing in a return back to the womb of the Earth, the original mother of all of humanity. At each stage of that process, we integrate more of the mother essence, allowing us to function from a higher level of autonomy, separating us from the mother further until the cycle is complete. As we are ready to come out into the world, we need to have our chord connecting us to the mother cut. As we are ready to start eating, we stop sucking from her breast. At each stage, we need to separate from her some more in order to grow, yet remain connected in other ways. Stages will look different for different people, and might be jumbled up, but the general pattern can be conceptualised by the figure below.
On the other hand, when it comes to consciousness, the integration of the mother means becoming aware of the mother within us and the ways she is driving our behaviour. It can come early on in our general process (eg. before having a child of our own) or later. Or never, as it is not a must! Yet until we integrate the mother in that way, we will unconsciously oscillate between the child and mother energy in our relationships and professional lives. We will seek to take care of and support others as if they are our children, or feel as if we need that parenting from them ourselves.
We can’t ripen as female leaders until we grow our awareness of this so we can choose when to bring in the mother, when to bring in the child and when to show up as a woman. This phase of coming into awareness of our womanhood is as natural and important for our psychological growth as is the cutting of the chord that ties our bellies to her when we are born is for our physical growth. If we don’t go through it, we impede our own maturing just as we would if we’d remain tied to our moms through our belly buttons or keep feeding off her breasts beyond the time for that had passed. Yet it is tricky because it does not have a physical manifestation, as in so many cultures the initiation rights for this have been lost or are not done in full awareness of this process. In some cases, marriage and/or birth will serve that purpose, but unless it’s brought into awareness, there are good chances it won’t happen even with those big changes.
Integrating the mother in our consciousness
In absence of properly held initiation rights into womanhood, it is up to us to create our own ritual space to connect with the mother and invite her into our awareness. It is very important to highlight that this is NOT about ‘letting go’ of the mother within us. She isn’t going anywhere! And rightly so, because there are so many gifts she brings with her. In fact, first thing to do when it comes to integrating the mother in our consciousness is to appreciate those gifts by connecting to her deeply and feeling our gratitude. Here are some steps you can explore and go through after setting up your ritual space.
1) Honouring the mother
Take some time to attune to and honour your mother’s energy. You can do it in journaling, dance, meditation or whatever practice helps you connect more deeply to yourself. Make this about understanding and feeling her rather than yourself! Attune to what she is like, to the care she has given you, the sacrifices she’s made for you, the pains and the joys you have seen her go through. What are some gifts she has given you? Some special qualities, skills and lessons on how to go about handling reality? What are some painful moments she’s been through to give you what she thought you needed? Listen deeply to her being and her best intentions to raise you into a capable loving good human, no matter how strangely and painfully those came out at times for you as her child. Make a conscious choice to feel into your mother’s energy with gratitude and appreciation. If there’s pain coming up for you around how she’s been and what she’s done, check if it might be time to understand and forgive her. Remember, forgiveness is not about her, it is about yourself and what you carry within.
2) Welcoming the mother
You might already have begun noticing that many of the things that have come up when attuning to your mother are manifesting within you. It’s time to bring those into awareness. Sit with the questions of:
“In what ways/situations am I showing up as my mother right now?” and
“In what ways/situations am I showing up as a child right now?”
You might choose to focus those questions on your life in general, your relationship or as is the focus of this writing, in your professional life and leadership. Hold those in a space of self-compassion and non-judgement – this is how things have been and there is no other way they should have been. Feel into the sacredness of this moment of raising your awareness. Remember you are not alone, so many sisters have gone and are going through this right now. Remember that as you do this work, all women around you will be influenced and be supported in stepping into their womanhood through your presence.
Once you finish writing/thinking about your answers, take a moment to intentionally welcome the mother within you. Make sure she feels safe to remain and keep giving you her guidance and gifts when the time is right. You can use the Hawaiian H’oponopono practice and repeat the 4 lines of it as many times as you feel you need:
I love you
I am sorry
Please forgive me
3) Choosing to show up as a woman
Last but not least, take some time to connect to the energy of the woman and welcome her in. Now that you know what the mother and the child are like, ask yourself:
What is the woman like? How is she different from the mother and the child?
When have I seen her manifesting in my own and others behaviours?
What are the qualities she carries? What are her light and dark sides?
How can I bring more of her gifts in my being and doing?
How does it FEEL in the body when I invite the woman energy in? How is that different from the child/mother?
Make a commitment to yourself to find more and more ways to show up as a woman in the ways you relate to others, create and lead. Make a choice to give yourself love when you find yourself mothering or playing someone else’s child when it generates suffering for yourself and others, and return back to that woman energy. And also, make a choice to let the mother and the child energies flow freely when the context is right for them.
Integrating the mother in our leadership
The truth is that integrating the mother and inviting the woman into our leadership is a journey in itself. With the steps above we are already on our way, yet there is so much more to come. It’s just like deciding to have a healthy diet – it is a big step, but then comes the practice, the actual LIVING according to that choice. For some people, that change will come more easily, others might need to implement a routine for some time (eg. journalling on ways the woman has showed up in your life on that day).
A big challenge is also the integration of the woman in the context of relationships. Just because we decided something in your own space and time doesn’t mean others will suddenly begin relating to us differently. We might notice some changes, yet it might also be good to share with them about the journey we are on and ask for their help. Remember – they hold their own pieces of this and we can’t control their projections. For example, it is very common for people to project their parents onto their leaders, whether formal or informal. It is not our job to change that!
What is up to us, as a women and leaders, is to look at people around us as grownup men and women, to trust their wisdom, capabilities and skills to manage their own process and their own lives. Sometimes, when they need some care and support, we can come into that mother archetype and give it to them. Sometimes, when we need some care and support, we can come into that child archetype and ask for it. As after all, a woman is a woman because she is whole, because she is able to see and reach for the parts of herself that are best suited for the situation at hand.
About The Paradise Vlog
I believe we already are in paradise, regardless of where we are and what’s going on in our lives. I believe life is a journey towards becoming aware of this and enjoying as much of it as we can in the limited amount of time we have here. The ‘The Paradise Vlog’ youtube channel is the space where I share my process of shedding patterns and beliefs that obstruct our view in order to replace them with presence, joy and wonder. It’s also my invitation to you – an invitation to connect and journey together in creative ways, as we help each other see through to the greatest expression of ourselves. I also love creating spaces for growth-oriented people to connect to their soul power and life purpose. I do that in the form of coaching, shamanic work and group sessions in the Connection Playground. Reach out if you feel curious to explore any of those with me.