Feeling empowered is the first step toward empowering others

“Empowered women empower women.” I shared this quote on Instagram during one of the hardest times in my career, after a female coworker talked about me rather than with me.

More than just a product of Instagram meme therapy or an echo back to the “girl power” movement of the 90s, this quote has stayed with me through both good and not-so-good days. It has served as a reminder of the power we women have when we come together and why I want to work with those around me.

I’ve been very lucky to have been surrounded by groups of dedicated, strong women throughout my life—from competing in an all-female show choir in high school to joining Kappa Delta sorority in college, and now leading our social teams at a female-led agency. All to say that “girl power” is a real thing in my experience. While society may paint groups like these as catty or backstabbing (yes, we’ve had our share of drama!) these groups taught me how to navigate challenging situations, form strong relationships and feel more comfortable in my own personal power. In short, my experience within these groups have taught me to feel more empowered in my day-to-day life.

As a Midwesterner by nature and upbringing, I grew up surrounded by so many wonderful women who spent their lives caring for everyone around them as opposed to themselves. When I moved to New York City after college and began my career, I fell into supporting and backstage roles. I was the note taker, the organizer, the peacekeeper. I was never quite as strong as my self-assured city colleagues, who didn’t seem to have—or at least express—self doubt. I coped by bonding with other females in my industry, and when I was brave enough to let out those insecurities, one let me in on a little secret: Everyone else had had them, too.

That person has since become my best friend—a source of friendship and empowerment. Throughout each phase of my career, I’ve found that when you put strong women together, true power is unleashed. I have multiple “consultancies” behind me who push me to ask for not only what I want, but what I deserve. We share salaries and negotiation tactics, guidance on how to navigate tricky conversations with colleagues and direct reports, as well as our sources of inspiration and our dreams. They inspire me to set the bar higher and dream bigger than I could have imagined. In short, they are my support system, my sounding board and my cheer squad.

Having them in my life has helped me reveal and now consistently bring my authentic self to my day job―the woman who is a bit more brash than the norm in the Midwest but perhaps a bit too kind for New York City. The woman who talks a mile-a-minute like she’s auditioning for Gilmore Girls, but also gets even quicker paced when she stumbles upon a really good idea. The woman who shows up, shares herself and listens for input and insights, alongside more than a few bold, badass people. Together, we see value in paying this forward, as many of us serve as mentors for national and chapter-based non-profits which allow us to connect with women across industries in different stages of their careers.

My advice is this: Find the people who lift you up. Rally around them and behind them. Keep them close. Embrace what makes each of them distinct and own your own “imperfections.”

Don’t focus on being perfect; just aim to be and excel in that act of being. Recognize the humanness in yourself and in each other, and love yourselves for that. Because you can’t empower and lift others up unless you feel it yourself.

By Amy Gilbert, Head of Social at The Social Element

Amy Gilbert