Have you ever been told, perhaps told someone yourself, or heard someone say to another, “You’re too sensitive!”? Maybe your inner critic is the voice that delivers this message. Have you ever been called ‘a softie’ or been told to ‘toughen up’?
No one openly admits that such wonderful characteristics as sensitivity, vulnerability, compassion, and empathy are weaknesses, but the society we live in treats them as such. Does that sting? I hope it does.
Woven into the fabric of our patriarchal society is the perception that strength lies in physical power and characteristics that align with that, such as assertiveness, decisiveness, aggressiveness. Certainly, these are incredible strengths to possess. All you kick-butt awesome womxn out there who exude these confident qualities, I truly do admire you! However, this definition of strength is outdated and a limited view of what it is to be strong.
It is time to celebrate the overlooked and undervalued qualities in each other that provide us with the inner strength to make our way through life, be our best selves, and make this world a better place: sensitivity, vulnerability, compassion, empathy and more.
This is Butterfly Strong. Join me in this movement to celebrate a broad and inclusive definition of strength. What exactly do I mean by Butterfly Strong?
Butterflies are fragile, delicate creatures. Their paper thin wings can be torn in an instant. Even still, butterflies face all that Mother Nature places in their path and on those tiny wings travel thousands of kilometres encountering all kinds of weather and overcoming obstacles throughout their journey. They follow their instincts and persevere. While this isn’t the traditional image of strength, it sure is a powerful one. Wouldn’t you agree?
The strongest womxn we know survive and thrive by drawing upon their inner wisdom, their personal strength, and persevering time and again. The very characteristics you possess that allow you to feel, to care, and that open you up to being hurt, when viewed through a patriarchal lens frame you as fragile. However, the truth is the very opposite. They are, in fact, your greatest strengths. They are your superpowers! And this is Butterfly Strong.
What’s the story behind Butterfly Strong? How did it all begin?
I am a business owner, the co-founder of DimplesCharms.com. When we were first starting out I was a member of a prestigious Canadian business incubator and later an accelerator program. What I noticed among amazing, strong, successful female business leaders whom I met, read about, or saw in the media, was their confidence, assertiveness, and decisiveness. They were awesome and tough — archetypically strong.
It made me wonder, do I have what it takes to succeed if I’m not ‘all that’? That doubt nagged at me continually.
I tried to demonstrate these qualities more and I began to ignore my intuition and suppress my emotional side, believing there was just no place for those traits in my business life.
Then I had a turning point. A time came when we were on the verge of entering a partnership, a very important decision and major change for our company. On paper, all the standard indicators looked great. But I had an unrelenting feeling that things just wouldn’t go well. It was more than just nervousness, it was a gut instinct. I ignored it and ignored it until I almost became physically ill. Finally, I confessed to my co-founder, who also happens to be my husband, and he said, “We need to listen to your gut, Patti. It’s never misled us.” And in doing so, not entering the partnership we avoided a near disaster. That’s when I realized that while it’s important to keep an eye on financials, staying in tune with your intuition also makes great business sense.
However, I still didn’t embrace my subtler strengths. For so long, I hated that I was emotional and that I would cry whenever I was joyful, sad, frustrated, angry…well pretty much when I felt any which way. It made me feel weak and fragile.
One day, a friend and business associate told me, “ Patti, that’s your superpower!”
“Your superpower. You feel. The world beats the heart out of most people. The fact that you still feel so much, that is a superpower. The world needs more people with heart. Embrace it!”
“What?” I was infuriated! Angry to…you guessed it…tears. “What kind of lame superpower is that? I actually can’t stand that part of me!” Every time I saw her she said the same thing. Eventually, my attitude softened and I thought, “what if she isn’t wrong? She’s not right, but what if she isn’t totally wrong?”
One day, I looked up from my work and saw the butterfly that is painted on our office wall. It’s been there for ages as a symbol that life’s special moments are fleeting and a reminder to be present in them. However, at that moment I realized something else: Butterfly Strength.
The more I contemplated it, the more I saw how my own vulnerability, humility, empathy and sensitivity actually make me a stronger person. They allow me to be my authentic self and connect with others, which is a tremendous asset in life, business, and leadership. Bringing your whole self into every situation and not denying who you are makes every person, family, community, and business or organization stronger.
And do you know what a flock of butterflies is called? A Kaleidoscope! A beautiful metaphor for the intermingling of various perspectives and human traits combining into one beautiful ever adapting collage of life.
Of course, since we have a jewelry company, we made a necklace to celebrate Butterfly Strong. It is a symbol, a reminder, to anyone who wears it that even when you may feel fragile, know you are strong!
Butterfly Strong. Remember: even when you feel fragile, know you are strong!