YOU’RE TOO STRONG FOR A WOMAN,” he says, the VP of the board with the military cut.

It’s Alice in Wonderland as I feel myself shrink in the chair facing his big desk.

“Take it down a notch,” he barks.

Now I’m so small my feet don’t touch the ground, + my heart breaks. Quietly.

No one’s ever told me I was too strong.

“Sen daglarin anasisin. Daglari yikacak kadar guclusun.”

“You can move mountains.”

This is what my parents said to me every day growing up.

When this happens, I am 35, living in Fargo, North Dakota, far from my native country of Turkey where the blue Mediterranean swells + fierce Ottoman women rule.

Cut to a decade later, different organization, me sitting at my own formidable desk, + a staff member sitting across from me.

“You’ve simply got to do better,” I say sharply.

The staff member’s face reddens, then crumples, as fat tears spill down her cheeks.

This is my wake-up call. My lowest point. For in that moment, I realize I have become a bitch in heels.

Not strong, the way my Ottoman mother + aunts + grandmothers + ancestors were, as they lifted the country from ruin during WWI + into the current day.

No. This authority smacked of meanness. The opposite of my training. Because I stuffed down the true strength + grace my family + culture taught me, it came out harsh + cold. Cold + gray as the long Fargo winters.

This wasn’t me.

I flashed on the blue of the Mediterranean, which lies within me, vast + sparkling one minute, intense + direct the next.

That was the true leadership in my blood.

The blood of my grandmother, a teacher when women were not even allowed to leave the house. My mother, too. My people. They were the leaders.

Compassionate. Able to step back when others reaped rewards. The kind of gentle confident strength that moves mountains with a whisper. Or firm, loving word.

From that moment on, I reclaimed my leadership. The kind that sparkles with fierce firmness + softness all at once.

The staff member who cried, she is one of our most trusted + successful, standout employees. Every day, she creates magic. I am honored + privileged she gave me a second chance.

If you find yourself nodding as you read, if you’re ready to make this shift yourself, comment below or email me info@sheleadsfearlessly. I’m here for you.





P.S.     If you like podcasts, you might be interested in listening Mary Strachan‘s B is for Brilliant Podcast.  I was her guest and it was a powerful interview about fear and taking risks; how they go hand in hand. We also talked about how “thirst” for knowledge and learning can be a deterrent if it is not channeled wisely. As you listen, I would love for you to think about if fear of risk taking gets in the way of your dreams or if you stop yourself from moving forward because you “just must learn one more thing before…” just like I used to do.  You can listen to the interview by clicking here.

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