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"Inner Safety" and Innovative Female Leadership: Midwifing a Post-Patriarchal World

Bethany Webster

We're living in a transformational time in history. Patriarchal systems in our world are crumbling and more dysfunctional than ever.

World changes are pointing to the fact that we must rely on our own inner wisdom as our primary source of truth and no longer defer to outer authorities to define our realities. Age-old hierarchies based on "power over" are now clearly visible as increasingly toxic, obsolete and illegitimate. After centuries of imbalance under white male patriarchal values, (domination, greed, and exclusion) our planet and humanity itself is at a critical crossroads.

Now, more than ever, feminine values are needed in our world; values such as cooperation, collaboration, listening, process, empathy, emotional intelligence, intuition, and more. We need more men and women capable of expressing these values, embodying them and modeling them for others.

Because our world is in need of feminine values, we need women leaders who are capable of authentically embodying these feminine energies, while also confident in embodying healthy masculine energies as well. (Healthy masculine qualities such as directed action, firm boundaries, and sustained focus.)

In other words, we need women leaders who have sufficiently healed the patriarchal wounds in themselves so that they can lead large-scale change in their communities, neighborhoods, families and corporations.

In order for women leaders to lead the way to a post-patriarchal world, they must do the necessary "inner de-cluttering" from the internalized oppression that they've unconsiously inherited from their mothers. In other words, authentically and powerfully embodying the feminine values requires that we look deeply at the ways we have felt "in exile" from the feminine. Which of course, originated in our earliest experiences with our mothers.

The "mother wound" is the seat of our deepest limitations as women because the most insidious forms of patriarchy are passed through the mother to the daughter, often unconsciously and unintentionally, remaining deep in the fabric of our sense of self.

This inner de-cluttering clears the pathway for your genius and your greatness to emerge and flow into everything you do; it is what gives your work a new level of depth and power, creating luminous and transformational impact all around you.

I spent the year 2016 speaking to thousands of women leaders around the world about the invisible link between their struggles and the "mother wound." I was amazed (but not suprised) to see that these symptoms show up in the majority of women leaders, even women at the highest levels of global success.

Why are these inherited limiting beliefs so "sticky" and hard to shift?

No one has a more formative impact on our psyches than our mothers.
As author Dr. Mario Martino would say, mothers function as "significant cultural editors" defining the limits of what is possible through their own beliefs and behaviors, which we unconsiously internalize as our own as we develop in early life.

The limiting messages that we inherit from our mothers have been deeply FUSED with our deepest human needs for love, safety and belonging. Letting go of those limiting beliefs can feel like letting go of "mother." It takes inner work to disentangle our sense of self from these early messages of limitation.

Our task is to de-couple those inherited limiting beliefs from our needs for love, safety and that we can effectively dispose of them.

If we don't do this necessary de-coupling, a part of us will always remain somewhat attached to them out of old childhood fears that still operate in the background; keeping us in a state of perpetual limbo, not fully empowered and always a bit doubting of ourselves. This inner "de-cluttering" of limiting beliefs received from our mothers (overtly or covertly) is a form of deep initiation that clears the pathway to our full expression as women.

The good news is that you are not alone.
All women have the mother wound to some degree. Even if you have a harmonious, supportive relationship with your mother, she inevitably passed down cultural messages of limitation, just by virtue of living in a patriarchal culture that de-values women. Ultimately, it's impersonal and not about your mother in the end. So the mother wound is not something to feel shame about. We all have it to some degree. It's time to pull this out of shadow, remove the stigma and bring it into the light if women are to collectively move forward on a huge scale.

The bad news is that the mother wound stays in place until we work through it. We project whatever we refuse to own within outselves onto our spouses, bosses, children, colleagues, employees, friends and situations. This can create problems in our relationships, both with ourselves and to others. The question really becomes how long do you want to postpone your potential? How long are you willing to tolerate painful patterns in your life? How much longer are you willing to stay in limbo?

The invisible Axis: Moving from External Safety to Internal Safety

The main reason this is so critical for women leaders is because now, more than ever, we need to be brave and to feel safe within ourselves to bring forward unprecedented ideas and solutions that the world needs. And we can't be brave unless we place our primary sense of safety within our own bodies, not in the ourside world. Let me explain...

As children we need external approval to survive. When we are children, physical and emotional safety are always externally located in our parents, particularly our mothers. Our sense of well-being rests on the whims, preferences and presence of people outside of ourselves. Thus, pleasing them and bonding with them is essential. To survive, most of us create some kind of mask in order to be accepted and get our needs met.

As adults, particularly for women leaders, the primary source of emotional safety must move from the external to the internal.
You see, if we haven't sufficiently healed the mother wound, unconsiously our emotional safety still depends on the external approval of others. And that is a trap that keeps us stuck indefinitely. It's as though we move through life, problem-to-problem, projecting "the longed-for-mother" or "lack-of-mother" onto other people and situations, while always a little at war with ourselves. This inner war is unwinnable and must be stepped away from in order for us to actualize and live as the true self.

Internal safety is the solid foundation for your courage, creativity and for your full potential to emerge. It's the secure base for exploration, for being truly creative and innovative as a leader.
Internal safety becomes our experience when we've de-coupled limiting beliefs from our core needs for love, safety and belonging and created an "inner mother" that unconditionally supports us. It's the little girl inside you that still believes her safety is external that keeps you stuck, that keeps you from rocking the boat, that plays it safe, that keeps you in perpetual limbo.

Examples of Manifestations of the Mother Wound in Women Leaders:

  • Not speaking your full truth, toning it down, hanging back, hiding
  • Over-functioning for others
  • Feeling driven by fear, controlling or dominating people or situations
  • Projecting need for mothering onto others
  • Avoiding your own needs and putting others first
  • Unconsciously waiting for permission to go for what you really want
  • Overwhelm and exhaustion from constantly "powering through" and pushing yourself
  • Other people taking credit for your work
  • Feeling competitive with other women

True Leadership requires that we rinse reality from the projections of our childhood

If we don't do this inner work of healing the mother wound, we project these painful dynamics onto other people, situations and we can easily end up unconsciously harming those we want to help. We sabotage our goals. We give up. We stay at a lesser level of expression. Our true potential goes untapped.

Lasting, meaningful change requires looking at this deeper cause to our disempowerment

We walk away from this inner war when we:

  • understand the futility of obedience to limiting beliefs (no payoff)
  • grieve the powerlessness of childhood and empathize with the little girl we were
  • access our righteous anger as constructive fuel for empowered new choices
  • sufficiently transfer the sense of primary attachment from "outer mother" to "inner mother"
  • have quality external support that values our empowerment and let go of toxic relationships
  • deeply commit to unattenuated expression as integral to your life purpose

We must give ourselves permission to disobey and betray
those aspects of our family ethos and popular culture that have separated us from our true potential. And we need to be brave enough to walk away from the inner war and make peace within ourselves. Generations of women coming after us are depending on us to be brave, to be inter-generational change agents, clearing the way for them as we do for ourselves.

As we heal the mother wound, life begins to re-organize around us, our internal safety becomes reflected in the world around us.

There's no such thing as avoidance. Unresolved pain from our past is present in all the current challenges we experience each day. Everything that's happening to us as adults is a reverberation of what's happened to us in the past as children.

Seeing the truth of this is a point of immense power, because it gives you the choice to do things differently, to come out of the fog of projection and into clarity. Clarity brings acceleration to your work in the world and positive movement in every area of your life. in the flow every day.
Giving yourself permission to think big and really go for what you want to create. Imagine being magnetic to all that you desire and experiencing ease and simplicity in all areas of your life. Imagine having a very high baseline of joy as your default feeling state. Imagine seeing challenges as opportunities for owning more of your power. Imagine feeling the exhiliaration of doing what you love every single day and having that nourish the world.

We don't need more women leaders who perpetuate patriarchal values or who repeat the words of unconscious men. We need more women leaders who have walked (and are walking) through their own inner fires, who blaze with the light of their own inner realizations, who bring original knowledge they have gained through walking their inner depths. We need more women leaders who bring us gold from the deep mines of their own souls, who have bridged the chasms of separation from themselves and thus radiate a frequency of wholeness that awakens others. We need more women leaders who love their own bodies, who say no to distractions, who allow themselves abundance, success, pleasure, wealth; and who embody a fierce integrity.

Inner Safety Leads to Innovative Female Leadership

We can't wait for the world to get more comfortable with female leadership. The deeper truth is that WE have to get comfortable with our own female leadership. That's the game-changer that needs to happen.

This path isn't for everyone. It's for those who are deeply ready and committed to take a quantum leap in their leadership by doing quality inner work and getting specialized support to accelerate the process.

Are you ready to step into this kind of leadership? Are you ready to midwife a new paradigm?

Yes? Then join me!

Introducing the Emergence Coaching Program for Women Leaders on the Rise.

I invite you to check it out to see if it's the next step for you.


© Bethany Webster 2017

Art credits in order of appearance: "Key Lady" by Lidia Wylangowska, "Independence Day" by Katie Hoffman, "In her dream she flies" by Pam Hawkes, Random Red Thoughts by Katie Hoffman, "Luxcondivis" by J. Kirk Richards,"Receiving the Blessing" by Ezshwan Winding, "The Light" by Tamara Natalie Madden, Photo of Bethany by Wendy K Yalom