What is feminine power?
In honor of International Women’s Day, our CEO explores what feminine power is. Our passion is helping you live with expanded confidence, and we are so honored to be able to serve you!
Women, I don’t know about you but I didn’t grow up thinking it was good to be a girl. To me, it seemed like being a girl was a huge liability. My body was weak. I bled. My emotions ran from hot to cold and back again, all in the space of an hour.
I was told I would have to work harder, do more, just to be heard.
I was told that my voice wouldn’t be as valuable as the boys.
That I would be paid less.
That every month I would be in pain.
That I wouldn’t be taken seriously, even when my credentials outranked everyone else.
That I’d have to sometimes wear pantyhose.
That my body could be hurt or used and I should carry a whistle and clench my keys between my fingers like a weapon when I walked alone at night.
A lot of things in my young life validated these truths. And maybe, things, in your life, have to?
And yet, I am here, today, to tell you, that being a woman is powerful.
That the collective feminine is one of the greatest untapped resources on the planet.
My name is Liz Janowski, I am the CEO of Sonata Aesthetics. I am a mother to two babies. I am a wife. I am an artist. And as you can probably already tell, making peace with being a woman wasn’t easy or obvious for me. As I tend to do with almost everything, I learned these lessons the hard way.
In the next 15 minutes or so, I’m going to give you a glimpse of what the feminine empowerment journey has looked like for me thus far, in the hopes that maybe you can find some inspiration, validation, or renewed sense of possibility for the role of women in the 21st century.
I grew up very fearful. I felt different. Small and quiet.
I learned that the way to be safe and to get noticed was to be very smart and to work very hard.
I was an achiever. I kept my head down. I worked with the men, and for the men. I mostly saw other women as either not as disciplined as I was, or as competition. I saw my body as something to carry my head around, and to mold in to appealing and desirable shapes so that I could look a certain way.
If you would have asked me what it meant to be feminine, even a few years ago, I would have said, perhaps, “pretty”? I had no experience and no expression of what feminine power might look like. Femininity seemed like something you used to get to be Prom Queen, or to snag a date, but certainly not something that could drive your life.
I watched my Mom wear pantyhose and drive hours to work each day to compile spreadsheets and prove herself to be just as tough as any man. She worked herself to the brink of collapse and would spend her nights crying about the anxiety of working at jobs that she hated, as she redid her chipped nail polish. They called her “the hammer”, and that was my model for how a woman should act. Toughen up. Hide your tears. Work through any crisis. Sit at your desk so long that you give yourself bladder infections from forgetting to pee. It’s a man’s world, right?
I followed in these footsteps. I was the only woman in an all male class of PhD candidates. I went back to work after delivering both my son and my daughter within three days, strapping them to my chest and getting back to business.
But something started to shift for me, about 3 years ago. I am married to a man who has no need to assert his power. Some of you may know him. He certainly could throw his weight around, but never has. He sees me as his equal, even his better.
I became a Mom. Twice. I saw my body and part of my purpose as shepherding the souls in my care through this world – and how that called out to a different kind of strength from me. Mama Bear strength – which is at once ferocious and gentle. The kind of strength that finds power even in the depths of deep exhaustion – power to protect, to nurture, and to create a different kind of world for our little ones.
And most importantly, I started to listen to my body. It started by chance. I was looking for something. I felt restless, unfulfilled. And my paths crossed with Ali, my now beloved teacher and friend, who will also be speaking tonight.
You see Ali and another amazing woman named Jen lead a dance class. And it isn’t just any kind of dance. It is sensual embodied dance – which means almost nothing until you try it. And so let me set the stage for you.
The room is dark. No mirrors. Very flattering red lights. A handful of women. Eyes closed. You lay on a mat. Music drowns out your thoughts, and you learn, with practice, to start listening to the voice of your body.
Even acknowledging that your body has a voice can be revolutionary. Acknowledging that your body might have wisdom for you & might even be wiser than your mind, is pretty edgy for a lot of us. It may sound kind of “woo-woo”. Don’t we mostly ignore, or hate, or starve or over-feed, or numb out our bodies. And you are telling me that your body knows “secrets”?
I not only want to tell you that your body knows your truth, and I want to tell you that listening to this body-wisdom is the key to unlocking your own feminine power, and that this feminine power is what we so deeply need to heal our world.
Listening to your body is a process.
And you might not like what it has to say. My body has told me to leave friendships, to walk away from business partnerships that I invested lots of time and money in, to cry in public (many, many times), to try things that seemed completely outrageous, and sometimes to be gentle, to slow down, to rest.
Listening to the body doesn’t take any special training, but it is a practice. It involves remembering to take deep breaths. It is aided when you can move in ways that are more “feminine” – like circular movements, hip circles, chest circles, rotations of your arms, and legs, and head. We spend a lot of time in forward, tight movements, like sitting at desks, driving cars, and running – and perhaps not enough time circling, slinking, slithering, and sashaying.
Listening to your body means validating cues and signs that may at first be very quiet, but with attention, will grow louder. Try listening to signs like digestive issues, pain, anxiety – and asking yourself what these signs may be telling you about situations or people.
I learned to ride roughshod over the signals my body sent me, to turn down the volume on the signs, to dull my intuition – I learned that what my body wanted wasn’t important. I had my boundaries violated as a young girl, & as a teen, & as a young woman, and each of those incidents made me feel, as many survivors of abuse feel, like their wants and needs of their bodies do not matter.
Much of the practice for me of reclaiming my feminine power has been to tune in and listen more closely to what my body has been desperately trying to tell me.
I want to acknowledge that not all of us have the control to change our situation at the first (or even the fiftieth) sign of discomfort. I didn’t always have control over my situation either. But if you do, and as much as you can, I urge you to see your body as your ally, your protector, and your radio antenna tuned to truth.
Listening to my body truth has helped me to see that we women have our own form of power. And this power looks different than the power of the masculine.
We’ve all experienced what masculine power looks like. We live in a world defined by masculine power… (and we all have both masculine and feminine characteristics, of course). Masculine power does. It builds. It constructs. It pushes things forward. It is directive. It has timelines and focus. It can be, as I described my Mom to be, the “hammer” … in all the ways that is both good and bad.
Again, all of us, men and women, have both types of energy. We are complex beings. It is also just an undeniable truth that we live in a world that validates and victorizes masculine power, with all it’s focus on “Winning.” and “Killing it.” and “Being number one”.
Feminine power moves differently.
Feminine power, like the feminine itself, circles. It includes. It connects. It softens. It creates. It listens. It feels.
I see feminine power as having three main characteristics, and I can tell you that this kind of power can heal our planet. You women, we, have the power to rebalance our world.
The first and probably most widely accepted feminine power is it’s relational nature. The feminine works in partnership. It thrives on collaboration. Blending knowledge. Asking for opinions. Working as a team. It listens, learns, blends and weaves.
This is the kind of power that integrates different viewpoints in to a grander master plan. The feminine seeks friendships, connectedness, partnerships. It sews the quilt of the collective stories in to a grand art piece of wisdom. Women exchange gossip and heartaches and joys and secrets, and feminine power uses that to create something bigger than could have been created by just one person.
The feminine leads with collaboration, emotion, and instinct.
In our world where the opinions of the vocal and aggressive few can dominate politics or power, the feminine genius of leading through relationship can soften, heal, expand and offer light in dark places.
The single most important thing I learned from listening to my body was to ask for support, to seek out friendships. I learned that my husband, who is a great guy and a huge supporter of the feminine, shouldn’t really be my best friend and sole source of support. He has his own work to do and his own form of divine power.
As I learned to tune in to my body, I became a better listener to the voices and the body vocabulary of other women around me. The friendships I have worked to develop are the key places where I learn and grow today.
How can you use this form of power to better your life and the world?
First, see it as a strength. Practice listening. Lean in to healthy friendships. Contribute to communities you care about. Ask for feedback. Seek out trusted opinions. Blend knowledge. Weave together a story bigger than your own by relating to others. Seek out help and collaborate to build better and bigger things than you could create on your own.
And Ali will speak to this, but your boyfriend or husband doesn’t need to be your sole confidant. Lean on friends and sisters, and your man will rise to where he can meet you best.
The second form of feminine power is expression. We can create. The biggest creation we are capable to making is a baby. Our own cells, save one little sperm cell, create a human being. Wow. As we all know, motherhood isn’t just about creating a physical being, it is about creating and nurturing a soul. The very act of wiping snotty noses and reading bedtime stories is, itself, generative. You are generating the life story of another person on our planet. Motherhood is also infinitely creative in the way you craft a home, traditions, sensations – the fabric of a homelife, the details of a life story.
Motherhood isn’t the only way the feminine creates. Our very nature is creative. We generate art, creations, expressions – and are aided by tuning in to our intuition.
Intuition is considered by many to be the ultimate feminine superpower. It again calls to us to listen to the subtle cues of our body, to the “signs” and synchronicities around us, to the messages we hear over and over again from the ether around us. Your intuition gains voice when you listen – when you acknowledge it – when you actively call it in. You can do this through meditation, dance, prayer, solitude – or if none of those are an option, by just turning on your awareness to all the little signs, hints, and clues always around us.
Intuition is how you just “know” something. It is a deeply undervalued but intensely powerful form of knowledge.
And, all creation is somewhat intuitive. Creating is intuiting. It is trusting your “gut” to try something new, to take a different path, to reach just a little further than you thought possible.
I’d like to ask you to take your creations seriously. Whether they are food, or children, or business plans, or art, they are a part of your feminine offering … and when you acknowledge them as creations — and acknowledge yourself as a divine artist of life, you gift them and yourself with the power to keep creating.
A big turning point for me in my life was when I acknowledged that I create. In every choice I make, each day, I am “art directing” my life. Acknowledging that gave me a sense of both power and responsibility. It helped me to feel purpose. It allowed me to see and appreciate the beauty in the mundane of school drop offs, and shoveling snow, and laundry. Each of these acts was a creation, just as much as running my business or orchestrating a photo shoot.
And you, have that power of creation, resting inside of you, at every moment as well. Just like the egg cells you have carried or did carry inside of you since birth. You have the seeds of life waiting to germinate in your own soul.
The third, and for me, the most resonate form of feminine power is our ability to feel. Did you know that we have more nerve cells than men? (Mama Gena 8000 nerve cells in clitoris.) We have a great physical capacity to experience sensation. Our bodies are designed to feel. Our skin, our sexual organs, are all set up to explore feeling. We have hormones that fluctuate in our bodies that expand our capacity to experience emotions, whether it is monthly cycles that pull us up and down, or the hormones that flood our bodies as we become mothers and bond us to our babies. We are feeling creatures.
This can seem like a liability. Crying at work, expressing huge displays of emotion to a partner — this can all be seen as a weakness. We’ve all seen how the emotional or irrational woman is vilified by society. How being emotional is something we should apologize for. (I am sorry for crying)
But what if it wasn’t? What if being able to cry at the drop of a hat meant that you were more open to what was happening around you? What if the deep anger you feel when you hear about suffering was your direct line to empathy – the kind of empathy that can heal our broken world?
Feeling allows us to connect to others. Compassion helps us bridge the gaps between people. I like to say, building on the teachings of my mentors, that sensation is our direct line to God. Without sensation, without feeling things, how could we connect to love, how could we form strong bonds with others, how could we experience divinity?
Feeling your feelings is not something most of us were taught to do. At least not for the darker feelings like anger or depression or disgust.
I learned that good girls always say yes. That nice women always try harder, with a smile on our faces.
I learned that I should push down or push away feelings that might make others uncomfortable. Being nice was more important than being honest or real. And reclaiming the full range of my self-expression has been edgy for me. It is also my core passion … for myself and for others.
Feeling your feelings, experiencing the totality of sensation in what life has to offer us can be blissful and ecstatic. It can also be hard and uncomfortable. And that is why along with our powerful capacity for feeling, we women are resilient. We keep getting back up again. Over and over. We work through pain. We cry and then wipe off our mascara and hug each other and laugh. We experience grief and then we find love again.
We are so resilient that most of us don’t even recognize what a strength it is. We are willing to fail and then try again, which is a marker of true leadership. Women tend to be more accepting of failure in others. And most of us, me especially, also would be well served to be more accepting of our own personal failures as well.
We aren’t perfect and that is fantastically beautiful.
Because what we are is strong and capable – and full of feelings. Feelings that make life worth living. Feelings that allows us to form bonds, and friendships, and businesses and families. Feelings that allow us to create beautiful things and to express divine truths.
Learning these secrets about our own feminine power, about our special gifts, has enriched my life in every way. I am a better mom, a better wife, a better business woman, and a much better friend. I listen more. I feel more. I cry all over town. I experience joy. And I create.
And so as a part of my reclamation, I am also starting to declare my truth – I am a poet. I create with words and images. And you can learn more about my project – the permission project – which is about radical permission for our full feminine self expression by following @permissionary on Instagram. There is so much more to come.
Because I am here to help us reclaim the world for women.