Ask Anne-Marie: How Does The Integration of Feminine Principles Play Into Being an Embodied Leader?
This article is in response to a question posted to the Ask Anne-Marie global forum. A place where we co-explore burning questions across multiple topics of leadership, erotic nature, power dynamics and relationships.
Welcome back to Ask Anne-Marie and this week’s question.
How does the integration of feminine principles play into being an embodied leader?
Our greatest potential, as evolving and conscious humans, is accelerated through the integration of our Masculine and Feminine powers. These energies are equally inherent to all gender orientations. We express these principles through our emotional intelligence, thought patterns, and behaviors. Our unique expressions of masculine and feminine energies are driven by the belief systems we have inherited through our culture, DNA, and social standards.
Masculine energy has yielded significant contributions through the gifts of decision making, logic, reason, discipline, focused and grounded presence. These qualities have broken down chaos into order in ways that have served the whole. Without scientists isolating the whole into parts to study and research disease, we wouldn’t have cures or treatments that support healing and recovery.
Signs of Imbalanced Masculine Energy
What we call patriarchy is an embodiment of distorted or imbalanced masculine energy. In other words, a masculine that has separated from the feminine and from his role in the greater eco-system of humanity and of the planet. This shadow energy entails ego-driven tactics, power over, control and domination for one’s personal gain, which cause disharmony and rupture. When Thy Will is trumped by ‘My Will,’a field of greed, fear, and scarcity reigns. Thy Will defined as our divine will; god, our higher self, creative energy or whatever one calls this unique and expansive essence. It represents surrendering to and cooperating with something larger than ourselves, so that the greater whole can thrive.
In contrast, healthy masculine energy is productive and supportive to the whole system.
Divine Masculine traits include:
strong, but gentle
willing to turn away from greed and scarcity in order to foster dignity, honesty and diplomacy
confident over arrogant
adventurous over reckless
leading through inspired action and not trapped by the need for ego-stroking
The Patriarchy Influence & Historical Shaming of The Feminine
We have been living in a masculine dominated-culture for centuries, causing a collective repression and fear of embodying the feminine within. Patriarchy is a system that favors power through control, dominance, exclusion and hierarchies that segregate economics, genders and races. The impact is vast. In a nutshell, the patriarchy empire has lost access to compassionate and empathetic care for the whole.
While these energies run rampant externally in our political and cultural systems, they are equally alive within us, each in our unique way.
For example, early in my corporate career, as a business analyst and consultant, I felt trapped. Oppressed by the expectations and social norms. The unspoken rules that prioritized the masculine attributes of logic, analysis and control over trusting my intuition, nurturing and caring for the teams I managed. I saw emotion as a guide to gather more information rather than as a weakness. I wanted to listen to the challenges of the whole system not just one. I sought to practice patience over swift band-aid approaches that I knew would cause suffering and eventually require more time and resources down the road. I offered recommendations that would serve the whole and was repeatedly redirected to focus on the outcome that would satisfy one executive’s personal will instead of the whole. I was disillusioned and crushed.
Everything seemed to be about speed and greed. About maintaining power up in the fancy executives suites while I watched hundreds of employees work overtime to meet unreasonable goals causing burn out, health challenges and emotional pain. The stress at work often cracked the foundations of their marriages and home life. I tired to assert my visions but as a thirty year old female, I didn’t have much weight. After numerous rejections of my visions, I learned that my way was being evaluated as too soft, and I needed my job to survive, so I tucked my feminine energy into the background. Until, I finally left to eventually start my own business.
Feminine ways of leading are often ridiculed and diminished, even by those of us who want to embody them! This is the impact of conditioned beliefs and world views of reality. The good news, is that these outdated scripts can all be rewritten. I’ve been on a beautiful and gritty ride as I unravel the stronghold these beliefs have had on my freedom to wholeheartedly express myself and come out of hiding.
The Power of Integration: Marrying The Masculine & Feminine Within
Within each of us, male or female, we have the polarizing energies of masculine (yang) and feminine (yin). Many eastern traditions express these energies into polarizing maps to articulate the distinctions.
Both of these energy expressions are important. However, when the masculine energies begin to dominate the feminine, there is an observable shift that typically results in the following behaviors:
control over surrender and flow
doing and striving over being, yielding, listening and receiving
linear analysis over whole systems thinking
competitive and urgent over collaborative and patient
separation and exclusion over connection and integration
Separation is fueled by judgments and labels of inadequacy. Suffering extends through beliefs of superiority and power over others. We see this through race and gender discrimination or wars based on religious differences.
Group mind is a powerful force. When enough people join together with a common vision, such as prayer, spontaneous healing and magic occur. On the other hand, when group mind is about superiority and power over, the blind spot of selective thinking justifies causing pain to innocent people. The distortion and amnesia of forgetting we are One is a painful expression of separation. This was seen during the reign of Adolf Hitler, genocides, and other extreme superiority movements. Those who led and followed in these movements felt aligned and justified in their beliefs. Meanwhile, they had lost contact with their empathy and realization that when we hurt another we hurt ourselves. When this happens, individually, and culturally, we suffocate under patriarchal oppression of control, aggression, doing, striving and impatience.
To Re-Wild Is To Un-domesticate!
As primal mammals, our brain and nervous system are wired to track threat and safety (Learn more in We’re wired to connect and protect). which naturally means we will judge what appears as a threat or different than us.
I remember a spiritual teacher of mine years ago, repeating over and over during our meditation retreats: “You will judge; don’t layer on more suffering by judging yourself for judging.” It was a relief to have this permission. Since then I’ve studied a lot of neuroscience which affirms this kind of self-acceptance because human beings judge and discern to interpret differences or threats to our survival (physical, emotional or mental). When we stop judging our judgment we interrupt the patterns of self-aggression.
This is a journey of shedding inherited and habitual ways of being. For example it’s part of the human condition to compare ourselves against others. We often feel inadequate (not enough) or superior (better than):
Inadequacy collapses us into shame or fear and drives us towards striving to “become worthy.”
Superiority puffs us up to maintain and fit into our self-image and the status we seek to maintain our self-worth
Superiority can be driven by a fear that we are not enough so we hold tight to an ideal of our strengths to avoid feeling vulnerable or exposed.
Both keep us chasing and evaluating others and ourselves in judgmental ways. This is one of many ways in which our wild and loving nature gets caught in the steel trap of comparison and judgment.
We are love itself, and to judge, separate and discount our brilliance is to clog the pipeline of our own sovereignty, self-expression and unique superpowers.
Unwinding Social and Cultural Conditioning
To embrace our wildness is to interrupt the patterns of conditioning that shape us into cookie cutter concepts of who we “should be.” Unwinding from conditioned reality requires both fierce discipline and self-compassion. One by one, we peel off the masks of social conditioning and inherited limiting beliefs. We reclaim our power and wisdom by exerting our courage and presence. We make space to listen within for our most authentic yes, no, and genuine desires, regardless of what we are told is right or the appropriate way to be.
Embodiment is the journey of remembering, integrating and marrying the feminine and masculine energies within. Our reservoir of wisdom comes from accessing the widest range of our masculine and feminine powers.
What Are Feminine Energy Principles?
There are many ways feminine energy expresses itself. The following are some of the foundational pillars for me:
Apprentice and Surrender Into the Unknown
Embodiment (Whole Being Wisdom)
Befriending the Shadows
Accessing & Enjoying Our Erotic Nature
1. Deep Presence
When we’re in deep presence, we’re able to become aware of how we feel right here, right now, in our bodies, in the present moment that life is offering us. Self-awareness is our inner compass to study our beliefs, behaviors, thoughts, emotions, preferences and triggers, so we can access the greater aspects of who we are. Our ability to self reflect, and track our mental and emotional patterns, is the ground of our power and ability to make conscious choices.
We live in a culture where we are praised for busyness and "doing.” It takes immense courage and discipline to explore what’s behind the autopilot impulses of “doing” and yield to inspired action through “being.” Ironically, for many of us, it takes discipline and a good dose of permission to rest! I still hear thoughts that I’m lazy when I need to unplug and rest. The driver is a strong force and we are well served to track it and how it moves in our psyche.
Becoming conscious about when we’re in coherence with mind and body or when we are in reactive states and behaviors allows us to respond to life and others in an embodied way. When we explore what’s happening beneath the surface, we may discover that we need to set a boundary, clarify our need, interrupt controlling patterns of fear, self-criticism or impulses to hide for fear of failure. Or, take a nap!
Mindfulness practices can help to slow and suspend habitual and autopilot behavior which allows us to identify subconscious habitual patterning and make conscious empowered choices.
2. Apprentice and Surrender Into the Unknown
It's a practice to listen deeply and slow down instead of react from the arsenal of strategies driven by fear, patterns of control and scarcity thinking all of which are designed to keep us "safe".
For example, if we think we have to know everything about running the business, being a good partner, parenting and managing our lives perfectly then when a moment of uncertainty arises instead of saying, “I don’t know, I need help,” we panic, make rash decisions from autopilot survival beliefs and act from fear.
If we admit, “I don’t know” and listen, receive support and wait for aligned action, then this courageous surrender into the unknown will likely reveal a pathway potentially with solutions far beyond what we could have imagined.
The impulse to control is natural. We are wired to fear uncertainty because our physical, emotional and psychological survival needs are real. And, our subconscious wiring and beliefs will often habitually direct us towards avoiding threats and controlling our environment to ensure safety.
Some Questions to Consider:
The impulse to plan and control is habit but is it healthy and satisfying to try to fix, understand and solve every uncertainty we encounter? Does it box us into domestication or wild us back into the flow of our lives? How much do we really control?
When you pin yourself into a concept or agenda do you miss discovering what might be awaiting you beyond your intellectual concepts? Perhaps, something more aligned and resonant than what you were able to dream of?
A Feminine Approach is a Surrendering Dance with Uncertainty:
You will initially respond to the unknown with panic. This is a universal experience. It’s not a problem.
What you do after this moment is what catalyzes your unique wisdom and courageous heart.
What is we could normalize the first blush of panic and actions to thwart the unknown and catch ourselves before we go to far down the rabbit hole of fear?
What if we make space to not know and engage in creating space and self care instead of frantically fixing or seeking solutions?
What if we could welcome our fear body, interrupt the impulses to control and manage, and surrender into the universal intelligence of who we are?
This is my practice and I’m not perfect. Yet, I feel more alive and in touch with the magic of what unfolds, surprises and delights me beyond my imagination when I yield after my initial panic of not knowing. And, it’s true, it’s not all puppies, unicorns and rainbows. I often find myself on my knees, begging for support and guidance to help me stay present, open-hearted and connected to my wisdom and trust in the larger unfolding.
By opening up space into the unknown, and the undefined essence of who we are, we tap directly into our primal essence.
Another feminine principle is to bring disparate parts together into new constellations of engagement and connection. Acknowledging and discussing dissonance, without layers of judgment, is a gateway towards clarity and authentic action. Sometimes connection means letting go and dissolving what is outlived or needs space to breath.
We contribute to creating the quality of connection that we seek by owning our experience, sharing our needs, expectations and boundaries in an open-hearted way. We take responsibility for our projections and practice seeing the other person as they are rather than an agenda or fantasy of who we think they should be.
Becoming aware of, noticing, and owning one’s direct experience in relationship to oneself and others is an evolving art form. For example, the discipline, skill and courage to attune to and name the interpersonal dynamics that foster connection as well as disconnection is a great contribution to the whole when the shared desire is to evolve and grow together.
There are three key components that set the tone and quality of connection and collaboration that we experience with ourselves and others:
Self: Our level of self-awareness and relationship to ourselves.
Other: The quality of presence we bring to each interaction including our ability to share authentically, listen, clarify, bring curiosity and check assumptions.
System: Cultivating an ability to observe, name and discuss dynamics and patterns of our relationships that cause disconnection; by looking at everyone’s contribution.
The feminine principle of seeking connection influences the environment through the quality of presence we bring to our interactions. Including how we recognize, manage and communicate our emotions, thoughts and beliefs. Prioritizing connection means practicing curiosity about understanding differences. It means taking responsibility for the beliefs and behaviors that solicit connection and disconnection, acceptance and disapproval, defensiveness and vulnerability.
4. Embodiment (Whole Being Wisdom)
Embodiment is a feminine principle related to wholeness and accessing our multi-dimensional channels of wisdom and power. A masculine energy that serves us well is our ability to rationalize, project and break a strategic vision into implementation steps. However, if we are solely focused on our cognitive thinking capacity to navigate, then we may miss the incoming data from other channels of wisdom.
Embodiment is a descent and integration from our heads into our hearts and into the ground of our presence of being. Culturally we’ve been taught to value our intellect, disregard our feelings, and treat our body like a machine, often driving ourselves into illness and burnout. When we are disconnected from our bodies and live primarily in our thoughts and habitual emotional patterns, we are missing a reservoir of our wisdom that waits patiently for our attention.
We leverage the full spectrum of our power and wisdom by consciously accessing our body sensations, intuition, emotions, dreams, thought patterns, heart desires, and the quiet voice within that just seems to know things that the mind may rebut because it’s not rational or logical. We also may include and harvest our reactivity patterns as allies and warning signals.
The feminine energy of seeking wholeness is what allows us to reintegrate multiple channels of how we access and express wisdom. The act of taking something whole and separating it into parts is an important masculine energy. I see this often when parts of myself that I judge or abandon are no longer exiled and I accept and work with the parts of me that feel inadequate and not enough.
Vulnerability is a powerful feminine leadership energy and yet, culturally, it’s been framed as weak. In general, men have been conditioned to believe that it’s weak to cry while women have been told that their emotional range is a problem. This creates wars inside of ourselves and between genders.
Our vulnerability is a form of our power. To be vulnerable and willing to see things as they are rather than how we want them to be is where our power reigns. Exploring reality rather than fantasy is where we come back into our intuitive power.
To be vulnerable is to be raw, open and unguarded with our heart, mind, and soul. Whether we experience vulnerability through pain or joy, the exposure to these emotions invites us to ride the waves, trust the unfolding and surrender our need to control.
Vulnerability opens us into our humanity. It interrupts the weight of holding our shame alone. The courage to name and discuss our emotions can short-circuit the habit of pretending we’re not impacted by the disturbances in our own system as well as the larger systems that we participate in (our organization, family, community, etc).
To embrace vulnerability is to recognize and track how we truly feel by noticing and connecting with our body:
What's happening inside through a self-inventory of emotions, thoughts, sensations and habits that lead to results we don't desire
Our capacity to open our heart towards parts of ourselves that we feel we should protect and hide
Internalized shame stories that drive our behavior and keep us in boxes
Reactive tendencies and taking full responsibly for our experience instead of dumping our emotional pain onto others in relationships
Asserting our needs, setting clear boundaries and maintaining self-care practices can feel vulnerable in a culture that has standards of what’s acceptable to think, feel and behave. I’ve discovered that the safety I seek is in my internal permission to be messy and human instead of buttoned up and stamped with ‘approval’ by social standards that are often implemented to control and keep me small.
6. Befriending The Shadows
Befriending our shadows is a process of revealing our wisdom by coming home to all the ways we create separation inside and out. Existing in a culture laced with shame, repression, power over and controlling forces over masses of people creates a power dynamic that needs attention.
We’re wired to be reactive and protect ourselves and each one of us has unique strategies in which we protect and defend. It’s part of being human. To avoid this reality is to exile part of how we operate to survive.
Running away from or defending our reactive tendencies reinforces habits of protection, judgment, dissatisfaction and feelings of depression, loneliness and entrenched attachments to our self-image.
When we discover and accept our operating system, we can begin to integrate and weave exiled parts of us back into our basket of inherent wholeness.
To become our most integrated and whole self we must explore cultural as well as personal messages of disapproval and judgment. These are the messages that promote feelings of not being enough and shame for being who we are.
There are two types of shadow integration.
Self-Judgment Shadow: These are areas of disapproval that we consciously hold disapproval towards in others or in ourselves.
Blind Spot Shadow: These are blind spots about our thinking, emotional patterns, belief systems and our behavioral impact on others and ourselves. These shadows are the seat of our unconscious reactivity.
Blind spot shadows are often revealed when you hear yourself say, "I can't believe I did that, I couldn't stop myself." They are so automatic we don't even recognize them happening until after the fact.
When we hear messages wrapped in "you should", from an early age, and long enough, it's easy to lose contact with who we are. This can cause our authentic self to be replaced by a self who is chasing a life of “who I should be”.
7. Accessing & Enjoying Our Erotic Nature
Erotic nature is a fluid force that directs both masculine and feminine energies towards our impulses to create, connect and experience pleasure. Our unique erotic expression is individualized and based on our conditioning, needs, gifts, passions and so on.
Your erotic nature is the primal, passionate, and creative intelligence that moves you. It is the seat of your life-force and power vibrating with aliveness, turn-on and connection, both sexually and non-sexually.
Erotic energy is often felt as a pulsating, throbbing, sensual vitality that arises in the pelvis and belly, undulating up the spine towards our brain. In our consumer-driven culture, erotic energy has been narrowly defined as sexual arousal. Yet this is only one of a multitude of ways in which eroticism moves through us.
We can be turned on by someone or something without being genitally aroused. For example, when I’m in nature, in the flow of physical activity or engaged in a collaborative creative process, I get incredibly turned on. Through the process of writing I have felt hormonal highs that are no different than what my body feels after an orgasm. The erotic satisfaction extends beyond my sex into my heart. And, into a state of flow, grace, synchronicity, and magic.
To know your erotic self is to be fully present to the inner landscape of your direct experience, sensual body and emergent impulses to create. A conscious relationship with this life-force transmits a sonar wave of manifestation, healing and love. When you’re in a flow state of juicy open-hearted connection to your erotic self, you transmit a quality of aliveness that nourishes your whole being and everyone around you.
To learn more about erotic intelligence, click here.
How Do You Access and Leverage Your Feminine Energy In Your Leadership?
These are just a few of the articulations of feminine energy that I hold dear to my heart. What do you consider as feminine expressions of power and wisdom?
Maybe it’s patience?
Or carving out space to rest and create self-care practices?
Or being seen in your gifts and seeing the gifts in others through practicing appreciation and witnessing the splendor of another?
Or maybe it’s a radical approach to self-acceptance and compassion within a stream of messages that beckon you to fix and improve yourself?
I want to co-create a world in which we feel accurately reflected back and celebrated for our brilliant gifts and unique medicine. A world where we are welcomed, and celebrated, despite our differences. A tribe of awake and compassionate allies that commit to dissolving and re-birthing from the pain of competition, comparison, judgment and exclusion into harmony, support and connection.
Feminine power is not gender based. It’s the diverse qualities of energy that we embody and cultivate with practice and time.
Tell me, how are you accessing your feminine power?
What practices and commitments do you make to honor this energy that lives in you?