One of the things I enjoy is to engage with young women. So, once a quarter, I host a "Girls Lunch with Dr Lulu". We sit, eat, talk, question, laugh, and share experiences about life in general.
My Personal Reflections: Lulu Gwagwa
I have never been more convinced about correctness of focusing the Girls Lunch on the INNER SELF, than I was on Saturday. Internship and mentorship programmes are very important for young women. But they are all based on the assumption that the inner self is firm, solid and fertile to receive and absorb the learnings. The reality though is that for most young black women this is not the case. This creates a gap between where these young women are (BEING) and what is expected of them (DOING). Listening to Dr Mara Mberira this weekend was an aha moment for me. I could clearly see self-doubt, imposter syndrome, fear of failure simmering and festering in this gap. We owe it to our young women to raise their awareness and to retool them so that they better able to do the required inner self work to close this gap between BEING and DOING. This allows young black women to reimagine themselves and to engage the external world with a confident authenticity.
Virtual Lunch, June 06, 2020
Observing how people, families, companies, countries and the entire world has tried to find a way to move forward with life in the depths of COVID 19 has been a sobering experience. Initially, we saw people poke fun at the virus and the uncertainty of its existence. They posted memes online and we laughed, life was what it had always been. Until it wasn’t. Suddenly the joke wasn’t so funny anymore, and we all had to accept being confined into the walls of our homes as our new reality. It was at that distinct moment between shock and disbelief that we saw solutionists come forward. “We live in the digital era” they said, “Surely we can find a way around communication at this time!” And they were right, we did. We saw people using Zoom for their business meetings, some even went on virtual dates and others attended online dance parties. Life was moving forward. Not because we wanted it to but because we had to.
Luckily for the class of 2020, Girl’s Lunch has been no exception to this re-structuring. The Girl’s Lunch team came together to identify how the years programme could be adjusted for the Corona outbreak and it was decided that the 6/06/2020 meeting was to be a virtual one. “Places are endlessly made, not just when the powerful pursue their ambition through brick and mortar, not just when design professional[s] give form to function, but also when ordinary people extract from continuous and abstract space a bounded, identified, meaningful, named, and significant place” (de Certeau 1984, Etlin 1997). The school of sociology so expertly defines space as not just a geographical location but also as a group of people who attach meaning to a particular cause. This is what we witnessed happen on that day. That virtual meeting of powerful women and girls to exchange knowledge, to share experiences, to unravel, to put together again, to heal and to simply be was extraordinary to see and be a part of.
There is something about meeting virtually that is so deliberate. We physically show up for a lot of things because we have to. Work, school, we have to be there. Meeting with people online is such a big act of presence because one has to kind of go out of their way to attend. Others had to learn a new way of communication that they didn’t know about to attend, people loaded data onto their devices and cleaned up their homes for this meeting. The girls let each other into one another’s homes to be present for this meeting. All 60 girls attended and every single one was invested in that space for that time
A common thing brought us all together, to grow and to expand so that our cups overflow. With this proactive mindset and the willingness to blossom into our authentic selves, we showed up in numbers to what was the first ever virtual workshop for the Girls’ Lunch. Dr. Lulu and her team of coaches have thus not let the lockdown hinder the progress of the Girls’ Lunch.
One of the goals of the Girls’ Lunch programme is to build a network of a diverse community of authentic African women. In the spirit of networking and creating these ties, Dr. Lulu invited Dr Mara from Namibia to kick-start our second workshop. Coach Mara did not waste any time. She went straight into the topic of being in relationship with yourself by explaining how the needs that are met or unmet in our childhood lives set the tone for relationships we have with self and others in our adult lives. She powerfully enlightened us on how a healthy and unhealthy relationship with self looks like. This threw all of us deep into our thoughts and feelings. Cages were rattled and souls were ‘shook’. Not to say the least, the expressions and emotions shared on Saturday morning were in a state of awakening.
Being in relationship with self means sitting in your discomfort(s) and pain(s) with an open heart. It is moving forward from unmet childhood needs and relinquishing yourself from being a prisoner of your past. It is taking responsibility for the work that needs to be done in order to move forward. It is being a co-creator of your life and believing things happen through you and not to you. It is teaching people how to treat you. It is having the courage to set boundaries because you know that that is self-love. It is putting aside time for self-care, unapologetically. It is showing up as your authentic self. It is putting yourself first by filling your cup and only sharing that which overflows. Being in relationship with self is a conscious path that moves from self-judgement to self-understanding.
As we begin our journey of self-discovery and self-actualisation, let us do so fearlessly yet with patience and kindness. Let us welcome the growing pains of unbecoming in order to become. Let us also remember and practice the words of meditation gifted to us by our own yogi, Refilwe Nkaunyane, as we build a healthy relationship with self - all things considered.
Hands to your head for kind and loving thoughts
Hands to your heart for kind and loving intentions
Hands to your mouth for kind a loving communication
There’s a saying by JK Rowling that, “There’s an expiry date for blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction, the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you.”
The second Girls Lunch workshop was nothing short of revolutionary and informative. In the first 15 minutes everyone was trying to login and some excitedly waiting for the others to settle in. Showing up in this way was indeed challenging. But to me, seeing the group show up in the way that we did is evident of the ethos and resilience of the 2020 Cohort. We committed that we would show up no matter what
Dr Lulu started us off with a gracious welcome and shared on the importance of showing up fully and authentically in the spaces we find ourselves in. She shared with us how she showed up when she met the speaker of the day, Dr Mara Mberira, in Namibia in 2018.
Coach Pam gracefully managed the Zoom space for us. Although most of us had signed in with different email addresses, she managed to effortlessly assign us to breakout rooms. I ended up in a group I was not initially assigned to, but it was where I was meant to be. Coach Ngao facilitated the check-in for our small group (9). I found the breakout rooms effective and less intimidating compared to checking in with the whole group (60). Coach reminded us to breathe and to connect with our feelings.
Afterwards Refilwe took us through a 5-minute meditation. For many of us, being home for so long means that our minds and emotions are all over the place. Meditation helped to ground me. This was very effective in preparing us for the talk.
When we think of relationships, our inclination is always to look outside of ourselves, but as Dr Mara Mberira spoke, the saying: “The most important relationship is your relationship with yourself. Every other relationship is a bonus” by Beyoncé kept ringing in my head. Relationships we have with others are indicative of the relationship we have with ourselves. Ultimately, we teach others how to treat us.
If we’re not connected to ourselves, we keep looking to others to fill the gap, and to build this connection for us. Dr Mara highlighted core beliefs evident in adults with unmet childhood needs: I am alone; I do not matter; I am not wanted; I am not loved; I am not important; not enough; I am bad; I am invisible; I not valuable; I am not safe; I am not worthy. The most common core belief in women is: “I am not enough”.
Until we go into the intentional process of personal development and self-reparenting, we will keep self-sabotaging. We will keep placing people who should be in the 5th row in our lives in the first row. If we don’t keep to our word and create boundaries, we will keep being doormats.
These were some of the lessons Dr Mara shared with us, and I was ready to hear them. I now need some time to process everything. It was a lot. She made me realise how long this odyssey is. It is a sacred pilgrimage of personal discovery worthy of embarking on.
Often times, the relationship with ourselves takes a backseat because we are afraid of what we might have to deal with. But that does us more damage than good. What I have learned from the session is to confront myself. This includes identifying how my childhood or past may have had a negative effect on me, dealing with it, and letting go. As soon as I invest in the relationship I have with myself, the happier I will be and the more successful my relationships with others will be. When Dr Mara said our relationships with others is a reflection of the relationship we have with ourselves; that was a hard pill to swallow because I sometimes blame others for how things turn out without the understanding that things happen through me and not to me. Now I know I have to take responsibility. It is my responsibility to teach people how to treat me. I have to make a decision to start prioritising myself because the relationship I have with myself is what is going show up in future relationships. This journey is not easy. It comes with discomfort but this is one investment that comes with guaranteed reward, and that reward is peace and happiness.
Dr Mara emphasised that what happens in our childhood is what forms our thoughts. Through those thoughts we develop systems, the systems grow into habits then those habits become patterns. This ends up being our way of living. We could decide to accept that and not live our best lives. We could also choose a better life for ourselves and in so doing, a better life for those around us. This starts with acknowledging the pain from my childhood, forgiving my past, and also acknowledging where I am now and believing in a better future. I could also seek professional help because it is possible that I might have hidden the past so well that I need someone to do the unravelling, whilst remembering that nobody can do the work for me when it comes to my healing. This comes with a lot of unlearning and learning. Most importantly, I have to learn to love myself.
I was happy to realise that I have already started with this journey, understanding that the choices I make and the people I associate myself with is my responsibility. As Dr Mara said, this journey does come with some risk taking. The risks include losing some people and things, which I am prepared to do, as scary as it may sound. I have also realised how I have taken for granted the impact that affirmations could have on my personal growth. Accepting me with my strengths and weaknesses is important. My value as a person does not depend on what I have or what I do; because I sometimes find myself seeking for fulfilment from external things. Self-criticism, guilt and shame rob one of self-love. I have to forgive myself, for lying to myself, for not being there for myself, for lowering my standards, for not believing that I am enough and for seeing things for what they are actually not. Above all these things is letting myself be and showing up authentically, being gentle with me, understanding that self-care is an act of love and self-sacrifice actually is not
This talk was honestly a lot to take. I have to constantly go back to it and remind myself why having a relationship with myself. Dr Mara delivered this talk so gracefully with so much wisdom.
The venue for the Lunch was via Zoom which was troubling at times but on the whole the transition from big group to small groups went well.
The talk on relationships by Dr Mberira is something I'm still processing 2 days later because I felt that I needed time to process what jumped out for me and why. I found that I had to share what resonated with me immediately with my partner, best friend and little brother. I had really long conversations about how I felt I may have neglected my relationship with them, how I can do better and what I need from them to feel seen.
Another interesting thought/realisation that came up for me is the explanation for the actions/comments my older siblings had with me in how I grew up with our parents (we share the same father but not the same mother). My little brother and I were in a more stable environment and both parents were more active in our lives compared to my older siblings. Obviously, I have my own issues with my parents but it's definitely not the same or as complicated because I guess they have seen that our father can be better; he just wasn't at that time with them. Things make sense now.
I just wish more people were emotionally ready to dive deep within themselves to do the work because this was so needed for me. There is still a lot I need to work through but now I have the language to properly express my needs and how to set my boundaries.
Without a doubt the best experience I had in this programme.
The 6th of June could not have come sooner, 10h00 came and we were reunited with our coaches and sisters! What a memorable experience, it surely was irreplaceable. We kicked off the session with a breakdown of our next journey – Being in Relationship - which entails addressing the relationship we have with self, a partner, parents, friends, our community, etc. Thanks to the new normal, we will do this over 3 months allowing us time to chew and reflect.
The Global pandemic has introduced the world to a new way of engaging. So, we met via zoom. With over 60 ladies online, we went into 8 breakout rooms to catch up on how we have been since we last met in March, and how we have managed to cope in COVID 19 pandemic. It was encouraging to know how we all applied what we learnt previously and how much self-awareness has increased. A few of the ladies have already moved out of their comfort zones by starting their own businesses, resigning from their jobs and even finding courage to start their own blogs. It is clear that we will never be the same again. We can only grow stronger, wiser and more confident in ourselves and the decisions we make. The 5-minute mediation session led by one of the Girls, Refilwe Nkaunyane, was a cherry on top.
We then returned to the bigger group and Dr. Lulu Gwagwa introduced us to our speaker, Dr. Mara Mberirallthelifecoach@gmail.com Namibia. She bulldozed the session with amazing insights on relationship with self, family and friends, leaving us all speechless and hungry for more! She started off by highlighting how our upbringing plays a big role on our current behavior and patterns. She did this by giving us examples of character traits of childhood needs that were met or not met. “Relationships we have with others mirror the relationship we have with self”.
After this jaw dropping talk from Dr. Mara, we have hope that we can develop fruitful and authentic relationships with ourselves and the people around us, and still be able to set healthy boundaries. We now understand that everything we want and long for really starts with ourselves. We have to learn to sit still with our own thoughts (mediation) in order to heal our souls. This is critical as we build our self-worth and self-love.
A special thank you to Dr. Lulu Gwagwa for teaching us constantly the importance of networking! Thank you to Coach Nothemba for introducing the session, and a special thank you to Coach Yoli for walking this path with our Peer Group.
With COVID-19 wreaking absolute havoc on the world and changing the way we all work, live and play, it was a welcome joy to get confirmation from the GLWLG team that the sessions would be going on exactly as anticipated. When we received word that the sessions would now be conducted over Zoom, however, a bolt of trepidation undoubtedly struck most of us. We began to have flashbacks to our Zoom fatigue and back-to-back digital meetings stretching far over their mandated end times.
Our concerns were for naught, as our beloved coaches had worked tirelessly to produce what has now become my ultimate favourite session.
The guest speaker for the day was Dr Mara Mberira, who effortlessly and with deep compassion took us through the process of reintroducing ourselves to our emotional tender spots, ones that we may have spent years of our lives trying to hide under shows of strength, dogged resilience, and brazen bravado.
I’m certain I’ve never been so lovingly yet thoroughly called to order on how I have neglected my emotional wellbeing before.
In part by highlighting how we may have experienced wounding through childhood neglect that we experienced through the absence of attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection and allowing, as well as pointing out the effects of each of those neglects, Dr Mberira helped each of us identify and codify our pain far better than we could have imagined. This was especially enlightening for me, as I had tried to do inner child work in the past, but I often struggled to pin-point the root or ‘name’ of the various hurt I experienced in what was for all intents and purposes an uneventful childhood.
My favourite part of the session was how Dr Mberira emphasised the importance of being able to turn inwards and find community with the self first before searching for it outside of ourselves. I have always struggled with managing the guilt derived from turning away from others whenever I choose to turn inward, as well as the guilt when not taking advice and choosing to rely on my internal knowledge first. However, Dr Mberira put me well at ease by pointing out that in sitting with your discomfort in such situations, you build up a reserve of strength to stand comfortably in your truth and in the face of the nay-sayers.
I look forward to follow-up sessions after this powerful one, and I’m incredibly excited to delve further into my emotional journey with the ladies in my pod, the 2020 cohort as a whole, and the coaches.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it many challenges. One could either feel pity for themselves, fall into despair and do nothing or see this as an opportunity to unleash one’s creativity. This month’s Girls Lunch is a testament to the latter. Thank goodness for technology because through it, we were able to get together virtually and continue our journey of self-discovery and self-development.
The first session we had in the break-out groups was for me quite special as it placed emphasis on and demonstrated the fact that we are trying to build bonds of sisterhood through this programme. So having the opportunity to have an introductory chat and check-in with some of the girls was very special. Each of us shared our experience of the lockdown and how it has impacted us. The upliftment in this simple activity is worth mentioning because it helped us to feel connected and that we’re not alone as we face new challenges brought about by this pandemic.
Our guest speaker, Dr. Mara Mberira was exceptional. Her talk was thought-provoking, challenging and very insightful. She threw many gold coins at us and if I were to comment on all of them it would be a book worth publishing (hmmm maybe I should consider co-authoring a book with her some time?). Anyway, enough day-dreaming. One of the powerful statements she made that stood out for me was: “Nobody can hurt you unless you allow them to. Situations don’t affect us, it’s the meaning we attach to them that affects us” WHOA!!! This was just hard-hitting. This made me realise that I have power to control my internal environment. Dr. Mberira gave me back my power or rather, she opened up my eyes to the power that was dormant inside me. I’m truly grateful for this experience.
The session overall was lovely. It was great to see all the girls and coaches present and committed to the journey. I look forward to the coming weeks as we unpack the topic of Relationships even further.
Thank you to all who made this possible.