On Wednesday, September 21, 2016, at The Woman of Insight Retreat in the City in Vancouver, BC, I was privileged to listen to the stories of featured business women who had turned their lives from struggle to triumph.

By sharing their courageous human journeys, they endeared themselves completely to their audience of entrepreneurs.

In a time when so many business events and conferences are poised to sell us something, this retreat and its speakers were in a class of their own.

Fuelled by social commitment and enormous vision, they told us how they are helping women grow multimillion-dollar businesses; connect children to nature with music, movement and make-believe; crusade for breast cancer and other forms of cancer; educate, empower and elevate women entrepreneurs; and publish writers to help, heal and inspire humanity.

What we don’t immediately know about people who are now serving their world in generous, visionary ways is what it was like for them during their challenging beginnings.

The many ways they may have tolerated the intolerable, done the hard work of ending their soul-suffering, listened to the call of their soul-yearnings to become pioneers.

This is not what we see.

What we see is who they became, the thing we call success.

Each storyteller was remarkable in her own right – and particularly impactful through the emotional, raw and vulnerable expression of her experiences.

There wasn’t a canned presentation among them.

Their vulnerability touched our hearts, our memories and brought honesty to a room of aspiring business owners.

We who are beginning or continuing our adventures and soul-callings need to show ourselves compassion by realizing that our heroes had arduous, edgy journeys and creative challenges that will only end with their last breath.

How curious that what we are most afraid to do – to share who we are freely and purely – is the very thing that builds connection in a room full of strangers and even connects us to ourselves.

When we hear from others about their painful choices, we breathe easier.

In that moment, we become able to release the cloud of judgment, shame and comparison that makes us cringe at our human errors, able to forgive ourselves.

To be called a liar by police officers at the age of 14 when so-called exemplary foster parents are abusing their wards – until a child is murdered several years later – that is deeply terrifying.

And then to live in hiding for 35 years as a key witness in that murder investigation and survive, and take a stand for children who are marginalized – that is wildly inspiring.

To stand for one’s child as a single parent, saying No to a less-than supportive spouse, pulling from any and all talents to make a living, learning professional skills through sheer grit, and then creating a way to help others – that is fiercely courageous.

To want more for oneself than bare feet and poverty, to believe in a vision and take it beyond imagination to governments, to sponsors, creating goodness from a tiny seed – each speaker had this depth of courage.

These women made me want to acknowledge my stories, the ones that don’t get told, that are themselves frightening to consider revealing.

The ones that by their sheer scale of suffering taught me to open my heart to self and others, to turn down the dial on judgment and to discover that compassion is another form of love.

It can feel like a crazy task when we fight for the freedom to be ourselves.

When we are in the middle of claiming it, no matter what we are fighting for, it is frightening, gut-wrenching, miserable.

Two days later, another business woman and teacher shared her emotional pain and challenges with her followers on Facebook Live.

As a public figure, she is not immune to the onslaught of criticism and rejection that comes from standing for her work and values.

Always encouraging her tribe to share their hearts and work without succumbing to the kind of marketing they inherently dislike – the rabid pitching, intimidating and pressuring – it is however the path least taken.

This truthful business narrative, like the stories at the women’s retreat, sets the example for courage and full permission living.

Now if any of these women who dared to tell us their stories of imperfection, struggle, betrayal, abandonment and even terror had decided to shame themselves into saying nothing so as to avoid our judgment, who knows what that would that have cost us and the people they have been inspiring and blessing over the years.

Hiding in the bog of our comfort zones with old fears, doubts and shame keeps us disappointed, depressed and dispirited.

To be as compelling, powerful and as unapologetic as possible will light up our lives, our businesses and our world.

One daring voice at a time.

Over to You

Where are you keeping yourself from the truth of who you are? What if by connecting with what you keep hiding, the energy you release enhances your life, career, business, life transitions, health, relationships and legacy? 

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