Your inner dialogue can hold you back, but it can help you soar too. According to authors Elle Luna and Susie Herrick, learning how to use your story and feminine voice can actually be something of a superpower. We caught up with Luna and Herrick to talk about their beloved new book Your Story Is Your Power. Keep reading to get the deets on each woman’s journey, what inspired them to collaborate on creating this powerful read, and which specific exercise from the book they each find most impactful.
Brit + Co: We’ve heard your new book called “life-changing,” “empowering,” and “a must-read.” What inspired you to collaborate and create Your Story is Your Power?
Susie Herrick: Throughout my life, the feminine was deeply shamed in both my family and my culture at large; I discovered this through a painful series of events that brought to consciousness my feminine voice, wisdom, and intelligence. I got inspired to write a memoir about these experiences, and it was in the writing about that, and then meeting Elle who was similarly inspired, that we started dreaming about writing another book that would be more of a handbook for how to do the internal work that I had done serendipitously.
Elle Luna: The Women’s March and the presidential election were catalysts in terms of the timing of the book, but the content of the book had begun years (in my case) and decades (in Susie’s case) prior. In her memoir Aphrodite Emerges, Susie invites the reader to look more closely at the ways misogyny might have impacted their own understanding of the feminine. I was working on her book as one of the editors as well as providing some illustrations for the text. While I was helping, I was also learning a lot from Susie’s personal journey and the medicine she had discovered to heal the feminine in her own life. Slowly, I began to understand the ways I was blocking myself as a woman and the impact it was having on my life.
After the election, Susie and I wanted to combine the content from her book with the storytelling look and feel from my book The Crossroads of Should and Must. This book seems to be emerging in lockstep with our sisters — writers, artists, activists, actors, entrepreneurs, politicians, and so many more — who are all stepping forward and using their feminine voices to create a better world for us all.
B+C: Tell us: How did you define the concept of a “feminine voice”? What do you think makes a voice feel “feminine”?
EL: Have you seen the movie Pleasantville? There’s a point in the film where everything goes from black and white to full color. While everyone’s experience is unique, that’s my experience of the feminine — full color. During our book tour, Susie and I heard stories from men who were made fun of for doing things seen as “feminine.” One man was made fun of in the locker room for signing up for the high school musical, and now, decades later, he wondered with sadness how different his life would have been had he not been afraid to pursue his passion. Men are starting to understand just how much has been lost when we devalue the feminine.
SH: I took a deep look at what I was ashamed of about myself and what I had suppressed in me. I had done all of this with good intent: so that I wouldn’t be put down or disregarded, especially by men, but particularly as well by my own internal voice. The desire for beautiful environments that inspire communities to thrive, a deep peaceful love of nature and the rhythms of it, the delight in witnessing love and responding to people who seek love, and a profound desire to nurture the planet back to health were what my feminine wisdom was tapping on my shoulder for.
B+C: How did you collaborate to develop each specific exercise in the book? Which, if any, are the most profound or impactful for you?
EL: Susie has decades of expertise as a psychotherapist, and my favorite exercise in the book is the one where you get to read her dialogue with her Inner Misogynist (the name she gave to the parts of herself that had internalized the cultural misogyny). It’s a three-step process, and holy smokes, is it effective! For anyone wanting to hire, fire, or retrain (and potentially obsolete) inner voices, this one is for you.
SH: Elle and I had such a lovely capacity to collaborate together; it was so fluid, our work together. Women collect together and collaborate under stress and in times of need. The three-step process that details how to talk with and work with the internal misogynist had the most profound impact on my life; how to fire and rehire a part of myself so that I could relate to myself in the way that I wished others would relate to me gave me power. Some of the exercises were compiled from professional experiences, some were created for a workshop we had done on this subject, and some were created while we were writing.
B+C: How has your personal story reflected your inner power and helped shape your journey?
SH: How I see myself has impacted how I am in the world; when I didn’t cooperate with the part of me that made me feel ashamed, life got better. I did this through looking at my own internal story and how I saw myself in that story. My journey continues to evolve!
EL: A few years ago, as I was just beginning the work outlined in our book, I was on a first date. We went to get tea, and although he was nice, I knew pretty quickly that I probably wouldn’t go out with this guy again. As we finished our time together, he offered to pay for my tea. We stood up from the table to leave when he cranked his arm back and slapped me on the butt. I was shocked. Did he really just do that? I saw my car, only 20 feet away. “Just thank him for the nice time,” I thought. “Walk to your car, don’t make a scene, just get out of here. It’s not worth it.”
But, I’d been learning about using my voice, and I figured this was a good time to try it out. I obviously wasn’t going to go out with this guy again. Still, my resistance arrived (the internalized misogyny) and tried to talk me out of it — I battled the part of me that wanted me to be safe, stay quiet, and not say anything. In defense of this new part of me that wanted to come forward, I thought, “Do anything but be quiet. Do a jumping jack, or run screaming. Just say something, anything, besides be quiet.” So I put my hands on my hips and used every ounce of my courage to utter, “Umm… I think you’re here because you want to meet a nice girl. And, well, no girl is going to want to go out with you if you slap her butt. So, stop that!” And I turned and walked to my car with a triumphant smile plastered across my face. It felt so energizing and delicious to say what I really thought (and opened the door for me to practice and get better with time).
The work outlined in our book has changed my life for the better. The more I have grown internally, the more obvious the next step becomes externally. As a result, I started feeling better and better. I stopped taking crap from others once I stopped doing it to myself. And the funniest part? That guy wanted to go out on another date with me!
B+C: How can knowing ourselves at our core help us feel happier, more productive, and more action-oriented?
SH: When I got to hear the wisdom of the disparate parts of me, I felt better and had more capacity to make decisions and take care of myself in healthy ways. When we can work with all the parts of ourselves with love and not shame, it’s like hearing the needs of everyone in a community. The internal community starts to hum and get really good at living a life that is in harmony with the soul.
EL: Rilke can answer this one: “Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”
B+C: Beautifully said! Where do you believe community fits into each woman’s personal journey? How does community affect each woman’s feminine voice?
EL: Susie and I just completed a coast-to-coast book tour. Together and independently, we met with women and men in Seattle, Austin, New York, Dallas, Denver, San Francisco, Miami, Portland, Ashland, DC, Houston, and many more — and on so many occasions, a woman would stand in the audience and say, “I must be the only woman who’s experienced this but…”
Would you believe that we’d heard practically the exact same story in two other cities that same week? Sharing our stories with a community has the power to transform our lives because it gives us a safe space to bring the hurt, tender parts of ourselves forward for healing, and we begin to discover that we aren’t alone. Together, through sharing our stories and listening to one another, we each have an incredible opportunity to get to know the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves as women. Through a lot of individual change, we can create collective change. The world needs your feminine voice and your feminine intelligence now more than ever.
SH: Women are experts in building and nurturing community, yet their own communities have muffled that voice. Can you imagine what the world will be like once we start seriously listening to the intelligence inside us? Feminine intelligence is available to everyone. I believe that if our global community can start taking in this intelligence — our own feminine wisdom — deeply, the human race (and our natural habitat) might have a chance to not only survive but thrive.
Have you read Your Story Is Your Power? Tweet us your favorite exercises or quotes @BritandCo!
(Photo via Elle Luna/Susie Herrick)
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