No matter how confident you are, there will always be moments when you’re uncertain, especially if you’re a woman making your way in the unfamiliar territory of an advancing career. While we commonly discuss the situation, the scenario, and our actions, the truth is what is likely holding us back is our fear.
During a recent conversation, a few of my close friends and I discussed our struggles, challenges, and strengths and what became abundantly clear is that while names and details were changed to protect the innocent, we all faced some sort of fear.
One shared that she struggles to take time for herself, feeling pressure to help others and keep pushing forward. Another wants to be recognized for the hard work she’s putting in but can’t force others to validate her efforts. Another shared that a family member turned 80 and exclaimed she’s “finally happy with who she is.” While she admires her family member, she doesn’t want to wait until then to love who she is.
I mentioned that I had worried about how my closest loved ones and the rest of the world would perceive me at different points in my life. As a result, I’ve taken cautious and thoughtful steps to consider the impact before moving, which sometimes held me back. I wasn’t sure when I was younger that my relationships would be resilient if I showed up 100% as me and demanded what I wanted, and I had wasted a lot of unnecessary time and effort because I was afraid of what others would think.
As we continued to share, it became clear that while our challenges may be different, the root was the same, FEAR! Fear of not providing value, putting our needs first, not being enough, or what other people think. In those moments, the people around you who know you and can speak your truth are the ones that carry you forward with reassurance that you can handle whatever stands in your way.
That support group is what Abby Wambach describes as a Wolfpack, and it’s how I’ve achieved so much on my journey. A Wolfpack can be that shining light that helps lead you out of the dark when you’re unsure which way to move, and best yet, “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step,” as Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said. Your support group can help guide you as they have a different perspective on the situations you face, may have just conquered a similar challenge, or may have the ability to see around the corner ahead of you.
The question isn’t if fear will strike. When it does, will you notice it, see it for what it is, and have the support to help you move past it? With your Wolfpack, you can.
Build Your Pack
While asking a bunch of friends to go out to coffee is nice, it’s not the same as bringing a pack of women together to have difficult conversations, be vulnerable, and hold you accountable when you fall off course. It takes courage and relationship-building effort to set the tone, clarify expectations and form the group. After building several of these over my career, I’d like to share some tips to help you find and develop your pack.
Before you start, you must clarify your purpose by asking yourself these two questions: What do you want to accomplish? Who are the women who have the same vision or have the same challenges? Once you have clarity, you can begin building your pack.
1. Wolfpacks are invite-only
While you’ll likely get more individuals to show up to an event posted on social media, you don’t want just anybody in your wolfpack; you have guidelines on who to invite. First, consider what kinds of past experiences and future goals you want your group to share. Next, what values and qualities do you expect everyone shares? Finally, what different perspectives and experiences might help strengthen your group?
2. Use “yes, and no are both good answers.”
I’ve used this phrase in all kinds of situations. It shows the other person you don’t want to pressure them into doing something they don’t want to do. When you build your group, you’ll likely be approaching women you have great relationships with already. It’s essential to recognize that the wolfpack might not be for everyone and “no” can mean not interested; and it could mean this is not the right time for them to participate. The only plan you have is creating a win-win situation.
3. Tap into your centers of influence
Find a few close and trusted individuals that share common goals and similar yet different networks. Ask each person to bring a couple women who would share the same vision, be open and willing to dive deep into the conversation, and would keep conversations confidential. As you get to know each member, leverage their strengths to help you build the group. Be specific about who to invite, but exercise trust as you allow them to help you co-create the group. Building these relationships intentionally from the beginning goes a long way to keeping the group on track.
4. Set the tone for vulnerability and safety
Remember that your wolfpack is there specifically to talk about tough topics. To create a safe space for vulnerability in the specific areas you want to discuss, you must set boundaries together from the beginning. For my group, reading Abby Wambach’s book Wolfpack was the starting point. It became the basis and the vision for what we wanted our group to be like, so we asked all members to get familiar with it. Given the book’s breadth, everyone had an idea of the topics we would discuss and was comfortable sharing their insights and perspectives. A topic considered safe in one group may be taboo in another if it crosses the perceived boundaries of the group’s agreed-upon focus.
It’s also important to recognize the role of personal responsibility in a group like this. Members need to know the group is there for them, but it will only work if they share the effort.
5. Cultivate one-on-one relationships within the group
If there are eight women in your group, that means there are 56 individual relationships between them. I’ve already said it a few times, but these one-on-one relationships are precious. Building trust between individuals contributes to a higher level of safety within the entire group and ultimately expands the potential for what you can help each other accomplish. Encourage group members to meet outside your scheduled gatherings and help each other with related projects on their own time (if they want to). The group will flourish with deeper relationships and an ability to dive into topics quickly at future meetings.
Get Inspired, Get Connected
As human beings, we weren’t made to be alone. We need connection with other people. In any area of your life, connecting with others on a similar journey opens up opportunities to help each other. Sometimes you can share resources and skills, but sometimes talking and listening are all the help you need. I encourage you to lean into those you hold dear when facing fear and build your packs for various aspects of your life. This approach has enriched my personal and professional life, and I hope you find it does for you too.
For more inspiration on achieving your goals and building your financial freedom, check out my Women’s Million Dollar Conversations series. Each episode highlights a woman who has made, saved, or sold over a million dollars, the challenges she’s faced, the wisdom she’s gained, and the insights she shares to help other women reach their potential.