Very recently, I’ve been asked by a dear friend of mine how I manage to keep a smile on my face amidst all what I go through, and my answer was, “By making others happy.” Literally, some days, the only thing that helps me to get out of bed in the morning, other than my kids, is knowing that I’m helping someone today. As I have discovered during the past few years, nothing is more rewarding than putting a smile on someone’s face.
How It Started
To me, turning forty was not simply a new stage in my life on a physical level, or merely the beginning of a new phase with more challenges and responsibilities, but it rather proved as more of enlightenment for me. I finally got to know myself better than ever before, realizing the things that make me happy, the things that motivate me, and one of those is helping others. I’ve come to discover that helping other people gave me the boost I desperately needed in my life; and made me feel more appreciated and loved. Then, I specifically felt the need to make sure other women also feel appreciated, so I decided to create a community where women can connect with one another, share interests, advice, ideas and experiences. Luckily, I was surrounded by countless successful women, friends, relatives and neighbors. At first, I wanted to do a kind of a monthly meeting, where we can connect and discuss ideas, books, or life experiences through which we can support and empower each other.
(Listen to WNBA Player on EP04 with Imani McGee-Stafford, and Ally Salama on Empathy Always Wins Podcast as she shares her story as a survivor of sexual abuse, living with mental illness.)
However, upon realizing that, with the busy lives we all lead, it would be hard to meet on a monthly basis, I came up with an idea; I created an online community on social media, where women have the opportunity to support and empower each other. The community gradually grew bigger, and I started doing my best to support women; giving advice, sharing inspirational quotes or articles. Then I began to interview women entrepreneurs and featuring them for free on social media.
I was beyond proud to see all the encouragement and support was spreading between women on my page. But, what started as an initiative to support other women, actually resulted in helping myself in the process without even realizing it. During my journey in empowering women in general and meeting with many female entrepreneurs in specific, I discovered something that was transformative for me; connecting on a constant basis with other women from different walks of life helped me realize that we are all, somehow, the same; we all share common experiences, and it was an enlightening experience for me to see how women, who meet together for the first time, no matter how different they are, can connect on deeper levels; as we listen to each other’s stories, we immediately identify with each other’s pains, experiences, successes and failures. More astonishingly, we are all willing to support and help each other, with the genuine expectation of nothing in return, a trait I discovered to be common in women communities. The warmth and positivity we felt when we met was absolutely thrilling.
What I’ve Found
Listening to tens of stories from different women, I found that, while I try to help them, I actually helped myself in the process. I was going through a very difficult phase of my life, and connecting with other women gave me a psychological boost that brightened my day, I never felt as alive or purpose-driven as I felt while helping those women getting more media exposure for their works and talents.
Nothing could quite explain the feeling in my heart when I got a thank you note from one of them, which eventually reflected on me personally and on my life. This feeling of belonging to a bigger community of inspirational women raised my sense of appreciation and gratitude towards life, and helped me discover my capabilities as a person; the more women I support, the more I feel a sense of meaning in the world, and the less sad I become. Now, I have read all about the benefits of helping others, you know, the being positive and all the human development buzz that we watch on social media – but, believe me, experiencing it is something else.
Then it hit me; we’re all humans, we’re not perfect, we all have our insecurities, even the most successful ones, we all need recognition and appreciation. Then there’s the effect of that on me, I felt important, wanted, like someone needs my opinion and support, and I get thrilled when I encourage them, maybe more than they do! Such things really help me on gloomy days – empathy is contagious and it’s amazing.
What I’ve Learned
From personal experience, I can say that it is empathy, this identification with each others’ pains and experiences, that helps us move forward, even more, it helps us feel more human. How women, or people in general, share their stories, successes, failures, experiences, and help one another, this is what makes us human, only then can we connect together on deeper levels and feel that we really are part of something so much bigger than ourselves. Like anyone else, my life is still not without problems, but having this strong of a purpose helped me in being more powerful and resilient in facing them.
At the end of the day, I can say that creating this space for women to exist in coordination has been one of the most fruitful experiences of my life. Those women thought they needed my support, but, really, I need them.
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