“You better work, gurl.”
— RuPaul’s essential coaching advice
And the only way to empowerment that I have ever found is to work. Nobody ever hands you power just because you whine the best.
Work gives us a way to make change, to feel pride, to develop skills, to contribute to the community, to create value.
Work is redemptive.
It matters little what kind of work it is. It may be service to others, may be growing food, may be minimum wage shifts, may be management, may be volunteer or highly paid.
What matters is our attitude towards the work. When we are engaged, present, taking feedback, committed to getting better, the work helps us grow. When we resist, slough off, backtalk and are sloppy, we get almost no benefit.
Our attitude is held in our stories, in the talk we make about work, and those stories are based in our beliefs, the life-myths that hold the truths we fear and that we trust.
My role as a corporate shaman is empowerment, of individuals, of groups. To do that I need to help them discover, verbalize and test the stories and beliefs they hold, identifying where they hold blocks to making better, more empowered choices.
Everybody holds pain, anger and even trauma in their body. Taking our own power often feels impossible, so we instead focus on the flaws in human organizations, from profound unfairness to incessant stupidity. Pointing out the negative, though, almost never changes anything. Instead, change requires leading, finding positive ways to make things better. We must become the change we wish to see in the world.
Until we can operate in the market, all we have is complaints and abjection.
I believe in the power of the market to bring together people in constructive ways. (1996) Sure, the market can be subject to abuses, but that’s why we need the tension between social structures — government, religion, etc. — to keep them all under check. That tension, well, it’s a very market driven concept.
The market empowers people to become better, to participate in society, gaining not only economic rewards but also rewards of pride, of growth, of enlightenment, of sharing, of connection, of personal & social value.
In short, by gaining mastery we can become professional enough not only to gain respect but also to give it. Open minds, full of detachment, may see the big picture, but implementation takes experience and knowledge. When we work together to value all the smarts in the room we can lift the community up.
One of the key reasons I was so effective in taking care of my parents was my experience in leading teams, working with others in respect. Hospitals teach staff to work in teams, so when I responded as a member of the care team, I was accepted as professional, gaining shared information through shared work.
As a corporate shaman, a facilitatress, I have always been ready to coach others in doing the work that can empower them, that can help them empower others. That is always coaching about getting better at doing work, from the work of understanding themselves to the work of becoming a team member to the work that helps them create their own art & expression.
The line between the baggage we carry and the work we need to do is always complex. For example, one person spoke of how their family avoided conflict, but they now had a boss who was challenging them, a situation that pushed their buttons. I spoke of the importance of standing up for what you know, affirming that others know that if you won’t fight with them you won’t fight for them. They went back to the office, stood up for themselves, which gained them respect and a much more comfortable workplace, encouraged to open up, take responsibility and more freely give the gifts of themselves.
For me, mirroring their own strength back to them, sharing similar experiences, created a connection that empowered. As trans people, we learn to self-police, to over conceal and play safe, so getting the reflection that the strong, potent self we hold within is not just scary, it is also compelling and brilliant is vital to understand.
The way that you do anything is the way that you do anything. For queer people, who have felt massive social pressure to conceal parts of themselves, even from ourselves, there are always huge parts of us that we strive to keep hidden. Our feelings, our instincts, our potential, our power and more are thrown into the big, dark scary box where we never get to explore them let alone sort out the good from the mistaken and polish up our best.
Learning to do any kind of work in a more present, more authentic, more actualized, and more integrated way takes one more step to self-understanding, self-ownership and empowerment. We can never find ourselves and develop mastery in the closet. We not only need to see possibilities and hear other narratives, we need to feel safe enough to take the risks involved in trying the new, in testing the dreams, and seeing how we can incorporate them into a full life.
You better work, whoever you are. Demanding comfort, a world that rises to meet you and never challenges anything you believe, is a path towards anger, separation and sadness, even if you find a few people who all agree that you all got a raw deal, that it’s their fault and you deserve better.
Working to make better choices, working to get your gifts shared, working to feel pride, working to express yourself and just working to take care of your family are crucial to make a better life for you and a better world for those you love.
I believe in empowerment. I use encouragement, mirroring and stories to shift viewpoints to help people find, claim and express the exceptional power they possess, the power they have all too often been told is scary, ugly and has to be hidden.
And if I can’t do that, well, what am I doing in the room?
“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”
― Barack Obama