Lessons from Cara Alwill Leyba’s “Girl Code”
To be frank, #girlpower never resonated with my idea of women’s empowerment. In my head, it conjured up images of hearts, pink fists, and princess crowns that didn’t feel particularly meaningful to my experiences as a woman. But this past month, when I read Girl Code by Cara Alwill Leyba, I finally stopped scoffing at the term “girl power”.
Cara’s a life coach, blogger, and self-published author who loves all things glamour and self-help. Now, I’m all for self-improvement, but glamour? Even typing it out feels foreign to me. The title of the book–“Girl Code”–felt reminiscent of my awkward high school years, and the subtitle (“Unlocking the Secrets to Success, Sanity, and Happiness for the Female Entrepreneur”) seemed too good to be true.
Despite my skepticism, the book’s promise to teach me the power of connection convinced me to give it a chance. The back cover reads: “Something dynamic happens when women genuinely show up for each other.” Not when women “support” each other, but when they “show up” for each other. The choice of words intrigued me: She’s advocating for actual action, and not the idea of “just being there” for others.
I ended up learning a great deal about the true meaning of #girlpower and, yes, what that dynamic “something” is when women show up for each other. Here are my top lessons from Girl Code.
Connection is about “give and receive”, not “give and take”.
Even when we don’t mean to, we tend to think of our relationships as an exchange. When you pay for drinks one night, you hope your friend will pay next time, right? When she gives you a ride, she’s hoping you’ll eventually return the favor. Most of the time, it’s harmless and practical to see your relationship as this kind of exchange.
But what about when she needs more than you do? What if you never need anything at all? Wouldn’t you just be giving and giving to an ‘uneven’ relationship? Is that healthy? How long would a relationship like that last?
There’s a difference between “give and take” and “give and receive”. I don’t help my friends with their problems because I want them to help me with mine. Instead, I help my friends and enjoy the process. I give help and receive joy from the giving.
Cara explains that women who give to take “don’t understand that by helping someone else, you are also helping yourself grow. You’re sending a powerful message to the universe that you are self-assured enough to help someone else succeed, even if you receive nothing back in return.” When your ‘gain’ is the joy of giving, you are always succeeding.
In the face of jealousy, disarm others and yourself.
I’ve often found myself angry when women close to me succeed. When I feel this way, I’ll find some reason to invalidate their achievements or put them down in an irrelevant way: Well, she only got that job because she had a connection. I give her a week before she quits the gym. Their relationship can’t possibly last when she graduates and moves away.
It’s not always this way. Sometimes, I’m overjoyed to hear about good news and hard work. I immediately reach out to wish them well or hear about their experience. What’s the deal? Why the polar opposites?
I realized I was only happy for other women’s success when I was having successes of my own. When I was in periods of failure or stagnation, I was bitter, jealous, and angry that others were doing better than me. This horrified me. I don’t want my happiness for others to be contingent on my own happiness. I should be happy and supportive no matter what.
In the face of jealousy, Cara advises “disarming” others and yourself by using compliments and praise. Congratulations on the job. I love your dedication at the gym. Wishing you and your partner the best! When you send out positive energy to others, they are no longer a threat to you. And when that positive energy is genuine instead of spiteful, something in you shifts and you are no longer a threat to them. How could you be, when you expressed pure happiness for them?
Choose to be better.
My instinct is to think the best of people. My brother gives me one-word answers and slams my car door after school? Wow, he’s not normally like this. Must’ve had a hard day. This is not to say that I’m a silent pushover. I communicate what needs to be said but with compassion: “Hey J, if you don’t feel like talking, it’s cool. Let me know if you need something. Careful with the door next time, though.”
I give most people space and the benefit of the doubt because I don’t gain any joy or peace when I assume the worst of others’ intentions. When I assume the worst, I suffer and so does the other person. What if I had attributed my brother’s behavior to him being an angry, selfish teenager? I’d have to say something like, “I don’t care if you’re having a bad day. You don’t just ignore me and you don’t take it out on my car.” Any pride I feel for asserting myself isn’t long-lasting. Eventually I regret not being gentle with him when he needed it and making myself look like a cruel sister.
Cara reflects on a time she was late to an event because her driver put in the wrong address: “It would have been easy for me to think purely of myself. It would have been easy to get angry … But how would that have made either of us better?” It’s not easy to let situations go when we feel wronged or mistreated. In the moment, we feel we deserve the right to lash out and assign blame. But that doesn’t make anyone better. It’s a hard experience to be patient and compassionate, but you don’t grow from the easy experiences.”
Disclaimer: I work for Cara Alwill Leyba as a contractor. Prior to working together, I received her book, Girl Code, as a gift from her publisher because she collaborated with a client of mine. All opinions are my own, and I do not receive compensation for talking about her work.
Cara’s website: http://caraalwill.com