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Transcending Rigidity and Fragility

When people talk about leadership, they are often referencing the expressions of leadership and not leadership itself. They’re talking about messaging, speaking on stage, rallying people in service of a vision. But at its core, leadership is the state of being that allows all of those things to be done with depth, potency, effectiveness and alignment.

Without embodied leadership, any expression of leadership will fall flat. Presentations will feel like performances, requests will feel uninspiring, and messaging will feel bloated or deflated.

When leadership is deeply embodied by a leader – a mother, a CEO, a volunteer coordinator or a project manager – our presentations, requests, visions and messaging feel grounded and inspiring.

In working with women to nurture the development of their leadership, I’ve located one big thing that determines their success:

Their ability to embody both sensitivity and resilience.

Sensitivity translates to receptivity, openness, tenderness.  A courage and willingness to feel deeply, and feel it all.  Sensitivity is a permeability, an allowing.  It’s a connection to our humanity and the value of being open.

If we’re overly identified with sensitivity – disconnected from our resilience – we’ll experience fragility.  In this fragile state, we may find ourselves cowering and quivering, feeling tiny and insignificant to ourselves or others, playing out stories of victimhood, or feeling small and numb.

Resilience is the bamboo-like blend of strength and flexibility.  A courage and willingness to rise strong, and lean in.  Resilience is a groundedness, a moving-towards. It’s a connection to our divinity and the value of being devoted.

If we’re overly identified with resilience – disconnected from our sensitivity – we’ll experience rigidity.  If we’re rigid, we might experience ourselves as hardened and emotionally disconnected, fiery and quick to anger, playing out narratives of right and wrong, or feeling tough and numb.

Sensitivity Resilience

When there’s a lack of integration of our sensitivity and resilience, we’re suspicious and untrusting of ourselves and others, emotionally cut-off or wildly emotional.  We feel cold, unpredictable or unstable to others.   

When we’re integrated in our sensitivity and resilience, we’re tender, open, receptive and feeling, while at the same time being strong, flexible, grounded and devoted.  We feel warm and trustable to others.

Most of us were not modeled the embodiment of sensitivity and resilience by our parents, teachers, and other close adults in our lives.  In a culture that praises toughness and rejects sensitivity, many people perceive themselves as overly-sensitive and push themselves to be tough, but are actually out of touch with their sensitivity because they don’t allow themselves to feel.

In new age circles, we often praise sensitivity and reject toughness, resulting in a disintegration of our resilience and an inability to be focused, clear and decisive, while being open-hearted.

You’re not the bull or the china. {tweet it}

TRANSCENDING RIGIDITY & FRAGILITY

DIGNIFY SENSITIVITY & RESILIENCE
To transcend the loss of power that occurs when we’re out of touch with our sensitivity, resilience, or both, we must first know the value of each.  To understand the value, connect with the true qualities and not the often perceived qualities; We commonly mistake sensitivity for fragility (“doormatting”) or resilience for rigidity (“bulldozing”).  In connecting with the true qualities of each and seeing how they complement and enhance one another, we can begin to embrace and cultivate those qualities within.

ACKNOWLEDGE WHERE YOU’RE OUT OF TOUCH
Simply acknowledge to yourself, with honesty and forgiveness, the ways in which you’re out of touch with sensitivity and resilience.  Remember: we want an integration of both.

LOOK FOR MODELS
Whenever I want to embody a new quality, I seek out people who are already doing it with grace, and seek to model them.  I do this by spending time with them, or if they’re unreachable to me on a personal level, I connect with their work (watching interviews of them, reading their books, etc).  In the same way that a child learns by watching how the adults closest to them act and react, we can be influenced by those we seek to learn from by getting closer to their orbit.

BE WILLING TO SWALLOW THE JAGGED PILL
The hardest thing about transcending rigidity and fragility is that it requires us to drop the victim-perpetrator narrative.  It requires that we – as free adults – recognize that we have the power to make choices for ourselves today, and that if we don’t like the unfolding story of our lives, we can either choose it or change it.  If we don’t, and keep running our lives from a sense of duty or martyrdom, we’re essentially waking up each day and knocking on purgatory’s door. For example, for someone super-identified with their sensitivity and feeling victimized by the harshness of others or the world, I would ask them to recognize (here comes that jagged pill) that they are choosing to relate to the world as harsh and themselves as unable to handle it…that regardless of what “proof” they have that it is so, it’s a limited and limiting way of perceiving things and not ultimate truth.  I would ask them how running this narrative was negatively impacting their life.  I would ask them how this narrative might be keeping themselves and others in a holding pattern of disempowerment and disconnection.  I would ask them to open their heart to consider a different story.

 

—> In the comments below, I want to hear from you.  You can share… Where in your life do you feel out of touch with your sensitivity or resilience? What are some of the stories you tell yourself about why you’re not soft enough or strong enough?  What are you committed to learning to embrace?

 

23 Comments

  1. Wonderful Miss Moodley!!

    Feeling fragile, sensitive and unable to embody my physical self and feel my feet firmly on the ground.

    Thank you for your thoughts and worldview!!

    Natasha

    • Thank you, Natasha. I believe in you! Remember how strong your body is – she wakes up and breathes and processes food all day, without any conscious direction from you. We are inherently strong. Sending you so much love…

      xo
      Nisha

  2. A fresh way to discuss leadership and on point. Thank you!

  3. Nisha,
    Thanks so much, as monday in an argument with my husband he sais you are so rigid, and it deeply hurts me also because I know it is true, i can feel this rigidity in my body as a protection of being so hypersensitive!!
    and it has been my all journey not to get trapped in the littleness and in the I am too sensitive for this world. I am know learning to embace this as a sacred gift!!
    I still need to work on the manifestation but each night you are in my visualisation, one day I could go to san francisco, tulum or in guatemala if one day you organize a retreat here!!
    I love the design because each time i walk in the streets in Guatemala, i look at some huippiles and they remind me of you and my dream to work with you !!!

    • Thank you so much, Caroline. So sweet of you to think of me 🙂

      Sending you so much love as you integrate your tenderness and resilience.

      Love,
      Nisha

  4. I love this Nisha! I see this rigidity show up around me sometimes and then I know it may well be something within me I’m seeing reflected… however, instead of feeling bad about that now, I forgive myself for it, and carry on. That may well be one of the hardest things I’m learning, in life, actually!

    • Oh my goodness, I so hear you that it’s hard!
      Whew, self-forgiveness is a journey.

      Thanks for connecting here 🙂

      xo
      Nisha

  5. Nisha,
    You hit it right on the nail! So often women feel/think/believe that we must be something other than our true selves to be leaders in our lives and community. We put on a mask, play a role and then wonder why we feel trapped and as if someone will find out our big secret – we are NOT that person. It’s a process to come into your own and as well to allow others to come into their own. Bravo on this post and your work.
    🙂

    • Amen, Lisa, and thank you so much for chiming in 🙂
      Time to take the masks off, and just be who we are.

      I love your website name, by the way!

      xo
      Nisha

  6. Wow! Does this speak to me!!! The bull and the china have been what I have known. I am now finding how critical it is that I learn to do the between stuff. I am learning that resiliency is crucial and sensitivity is absolute! I am learning how to listen more than talk, to support more than criticize, and to believe in the potential of the people I am leading to learn and grow and become wildly successful! They sense this when I talk to them! I know it because of the way they respond to me when I am thinking “I know you can do this!” I still struggle with the critical voice that is always nagging somewhere in my consciousness and am paying attention to that and choosing not to use that way of projecting what needs to happen. I also have recognized that overly flowery compliments and superlatives do not have the power to move people because they can sense it is bullshit! This is a deep struggle inside me for it to come out of my mouth!

    • Shari, thank you so much for your beautiful, vulnerable share of your own growth edges. I honor you! On your side, sister…

      xo
      Nisha

  7. Thank you for writing about this. I often struggle with the balance between these key ideas, resilience and sensitivity, and having the ideas embodied in such a simple way really gives me a useful way to remind myself that both are necessary and useful qualities to have when choosing how to respond to a situation. Especially in new relationships, either romantic or work-related, I think these ideas are very important, because there is a lot of uncertainty. Dealing with that uncertainty can be tough. But by being in touch with the right balance of resilience and sensitivity, each person can meet the other with an openness and understanding for the other person, and have the ability to take their perspective by being aware of how the situation made them feel (sensitivity) and how they might be able to deal with their feeling on their own (resilience). Then both sides can effectively communicate. I think by stunting either force (sensitivity or resilience), this stunts our ability to see beyond ourselves. Thank you!!

    • Beautifully stated, D. I love what you’ve shared here. Thank you!

      xo
      Nisha

  8. Thank you so much, for such truths, perception and choice are such a powerful force. I’m working on cultivating resilience with bravery whilst keeping in step with my inner truth.

    Please would you tell me where you got your beautiful dress in your top picture? Looks gorgeous! ????

    • Marisa, thank you for reading and for your comment!

      The work you’re doing? That’s the work. Brava.

      The dress I’m wearing in the image linked to this article is designed by Mara Hoffman.

      xo
      Nisha

  9. As a leader I often times have difficulty connecting to sensitivity and getting people to get things done. What are some practices I can use to help me get closer to this side of me that I so want to more deeply connect to and still get people to get things done?

    Janelle

    • Janelle, I love this question and I hear it often. You’re not alone in the challenge to balance this!

      What I’m imagining you’re experiencing, from what you’ve shared, is that you want to be sensitive and patient, but also clear and directive. Is that the case? If not, please let me know and we can explore further. If so, here’s what I suggest:

      * Recognize your own feelings as they arise in a situation, and allow them to help inform you on how to respond. Most of us are so identified with our feelings that we are simply reacting without filtering, or we’re so disconnected from our feelings that we’re overly filtered and feel unexpressed. The happy middle exists where we can notice feelings emerging, simply witnessing them, then consciously choose how to respond. This could be the difference between blowing a gasket vs. stepping into another room to breathe, then coming back with more clarity. When we notice our feelings then consciously choose how to respond, rather than silently seething or flipping out, we might find ourselves saying things like “I’m very frustrated that this didn’t get done on time, because we had a meeting about it on Monday and I feel that we laid everything out clearly. Can you share with me where the breakdown happened so we can avoid issues like this in the future?” The key here is that you allow yourself to feel and trust that while you may not express those feelings in a reactionary way, they’re still valuable – they show what you care about, how much you care, and why you care. Then, the communication can be clear and productive.

      * Recognize other people’s feelings in a situation, inquire about them, acknowledge them. For example, you may notice someone feeling frustrated/angry/fearful/upset, and either expressing it in an unconscious, reactionary way, or repressing it. If you lovingly inquire about it in an appropriate space (ie. feel into whether it’s better to bring it up in the moment or in a private conversation later), you can have them feel more heard and seen, and even shave a better outcome for the project or partnership. For example, you might say to someone, “I get the sense you’re feeling a bit frustrated with the project and I would love to hear your thoughts on that. Is it true that you’re feeling frustrated?” Then, let them talk about it and focus on what the productive takeaways are. Look for the win-win. You may find that you discover even better solutions than you had before.

      * Dignify feelings, but not stories. In other words, “I’m feeling frustrated” is different than “I’m feeling frustrated because no one cares what I have to say and I’m the only one who cares about this project.” The former is 100% valid. The latter is a story about what’s true, not necessarily what’s true. One of the most challenging aspects of leadership, is helping people see where they’re in a story of what’s true vs. the reality of what’s true. The only way to have a win-win is for people to hold an empowering context, so nudging people (and yourself) towards that is key.

      I hope this is helpful. Let me know!

      xo
      Nisha

  10. Your last paragraph is so dead on (I mean your whole post is, but I just loved the last paragraph). So many people are completely engrossed by this victim mentality and it’s really sad to see – and even when you try to break them from it, they fight you on it. It’s disheartening.

    • Thank you so much! It’s the toughest and most empowering part. The thing we all must embrace if we’re to truly step in as creators in our lives.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

      xo
      Nisha

  11. Thanks for this. I am struggling with this right now.I am very sensitive but I feel weak right now. I used to be so hard and masculine. Now I’ve swayed the other way and I feel feminine but weak and tired like I cant trust myself to get up and go and make money I need to create some stability in my life while I build my business and before the crefdit cards run out. I’m in so much debt, not sure how I got here. And I have a means to make money when others dont. I can make more whenever I want (uber) and I just dont do it. Then I beat myself up for being lazy. I dont enjoy uber that much but its a means and its there. Shouldnt I use it?! I’m praying for a more fun way to make money. But I feel like I should be motivated to do the not fun job (uber) to at least pay bills til the fun, creative work can pay or a knight or some benefactor will bail me out. And I keep charging it hoping the credit card wont get declined! I feel stuck. It sucks.

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