© UnsplashWant to live a more fulfilled life that benefits you and others? Brita Fernandez Schmidt, executive director of Women For Women International, explains how to connect with your passion and purpose...
Want to live a more fulfilled life that benefits you and others? Brita Fernandez Schmidt, executive director of Women For Women International, explains how to connect with your passion and purpose...
'I know that when I'm inspired,I feel I can move mountains, overcome fear and follow my dreams. I feel a surge of energy that speaks to the very essence of who I am. I call this my "fierce". When something inspires me, it is my fierce that responds.
I call it that because when I follow it, I allow my true power to shine without holding back. Fierce also implies something that is not tainted by the norms we learn and which govern our everyday lives. I want you to feel your fierce, too.
The great news is, we can commit to getting closer to our fierce simply by allowing ourselves to feel inspired. Stop for a moment and remember the last time you had goosebumps; when was that? Understanding what inspires us is key, as it helps us to realise what our life purpose is. © Hazel ThompsonBrita
I remember a number of important events in my life that have inspired me deeply. When I moved to Venezuela at the age of 15 (my parents were teachers and my father had been offered a job at a German school in Caracas), I witnessed poverty and inequality that set my fierce on fire. I knew I wanted to do something about the injustice I was witnessing, and for the last 25 years, I've championed women's rights across the world.
I followed my instincts and my passion, but it wasn't until much later that I actually wrote down my purpose. And when I did, it was life-changing, which is why I want to encourage you to do so, too.
Maybe you're thinking you can't just sit down and create a purpose out of thin air? But I have learned that it's not coming out of thin air, it's coming from you; your life, your experience and your fierce. The incredible women I've worked with have taught me we are all leaders - leaders of our own lives.
Once we acknowledge this and own our power, we get closer to realising we all have the ability to shape our lives in whichever way we want. Here's the first part of my six-part guide to how. You can find the other three-steps in the February 2020 issue of Red, on sale now.
DEFINE YOUR PURPOSE
Start by looking back over your life-changing moments. Often it's childhood memories that are powerful and reveal a lot about your fierce.
One thing I wrote down was the births of my daughters. I think of their births as the best moments of my life, yet I also wrote: 'Pain, sadness, disappointment.' For both, I planned water births at home without any medication. Instead, I ended up in hospital with all the drugs available. I'd been determined to breastfeed, but had to give up after a few months because I wasn't producing enough milk. I felt like I had failed.
But the next question to ask is: what can I take from this experience? Once I got through the pain of feeling like a failure, I was able to focus on what was important: that my daughters were happy and healthy. I learned thatI needed to loosen my attachment to expectations, and be open to life unfolding. This experience laid the groundwork for practising unconditional trust.
HOW TO DO IT
Write down your life-changing moments and consider what you have learned about yourself. What do you remember, how did you feel, who are you as a result? You will see a pattern of values emerge that are important to you. Now you can start to formulate your purpose.
How you want to be in the world and what impact you want to have. We all want to matter, and defining your purpose is the process of taking ownership of how you want to matter. If you want to care for those around you, then being a mother or a carer will help you fulfil that desire; that is your purpose.
Finding our purpose shifts the focus away from our 'career' towards a more meaningful way of living, at work, at home or with friends.
The process of owning your power is often referred to as empowerment. But empowerment can be seen as something that is given to us or done to us, while the power to be active agents for change is already within ourselves. Only we can allow us to own our power.
That is why I believe 'in-powerment' is a more accurate description for the process by which we come to truly own our power. Many of us wait for others to tell us how to succeed, rather than defining what success looks like for ourselves.
We follow other people's ideas, often without questioning, and do what we believe is expected. We forget to really listen to our fierce. Owning your power is a process, and developing unconditional trust in yourself is one of its four key pillars: strength, love and care are the other three.
Trust your instincts: if something doesn't feel right, trust that it's not. Learn to listen deep within you. Realise that you can feel fear and your fierce at the same time, and that in those moments, you can choose which one to follow.
HOW TO DO IT
This is something you can practise because we all have moments everyday when we are asked a question or presented with options that make us fearful. It is not about getting rid of the fear. It is about getting to know the fear, saying hi to it, and then asking yourself: What is your fierce telling you?
As you uncover the root of your fear, you will heal wounds and find joy. Breathe. Let go of the fear and keep going. That is following your fierce.
© waterstones.comFears to Fierce: A Woman
LEAN INTO YOUR PAIN
One of the biggest fears we all have is that we will not be strong enough to cope with the pain that can come with challenges and change. This could be the fear of losing your job, or an illness in your family, or the fear of not being liked or needed, or in control. I have those fears regularly.
Interrogating our belief that we are not strong enough is an important part of the fears to fierce journey, because knowing our strength is another key pillar of owning our power.
HOW TO DO IT
Take a moment and ask yourself how strong you think you are. Does your answer surprise you? In my case, I always underestimate myself. I want you to think back to a really difficult time in your life. Remember how hard it was. How painful. Sit with the pain for a moment. Now, remember that you got through it.
Did you think, at the time, that you wouldn't be able to cope? Yet you did. This is because we are stronger than we think. When you feel pain as a result of a challenging event, lean into it, allow it and don't try to numb it. It's there to teach you how strong you really are.
Fears To Fierce: A Woman's Guide to Owning Her Power (Rider Books, £14.99)by Brita Fernandez Schmidt is out now
Subscribe to Red now to get the magazine delivered to your door.
Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.