The culture we live in is harsh.
I know you feel it, sensitive soul – the pressure to do and be everything, to show up primed for action, to equate success with worth, to hide the tears, to push through pain, to equate accomplishments with enoughness, to be impermeable to bullshit and have a solid set of armor to keep the world at bay.
This culture, set up as it is, is patriarchal. It favors people, organizations and businesses that most closely subscribe to qualities rooted in action and structure – doing, succeeding, pushing, accomplishing, rigidity, linear, straight and sharp.
These masculine traits*, or traits having to do with action or activity, are like one side of a coin. The traits on the other side of coin, termed “feminine,” are those that have to do with receptivity and freedom – reflection, permission, receiving, softness, ease, formless, creative and gentle. As opposites of the examples listed above, these feminine characteristics would look like this: permission to do and be only what you can in any moment, to show up exactly as you are that day (good or bad), to understand inherent worth, to allow the tears, to listen to pain, to come to see inherent enoughness, to recognize when you’ve been hurt and learn from it, helping you gain an understanding of your boundaries and how you want to be in the world.
I want to help create a culture where all of these traits – both sides of the coin – are valued equally.
That’s a big part of the mission here at Sensitivity Uncensored. So how does this get done?
As participants in and of our culture, we are simultaneously living in the old paradigm while creating the new one. How we create the future is dependent on how we navigate the present. Our ability to build a new culture – one that is different from the current paradigm we find ourselves in – is dependent on a few things: First, our awareness of the current paradigm and what isn’t working. Second, our ability to envision something different. And third, our ability to ground that vision and turn it into actionable steps that we take in our own life.
I’ve been involved in a lot of online discussions recently with feminist** entrepreneurs about how we build a new culture that values all of the aforementioned principles. Here’s the thing – no one knows for sure how to do this, because we’re pioneering. We don’t have a formula. All we have is a theory, trial and error.
So much trial. So much error.
Which is the nature of pioneering, of doing something new and revolutionary. Trying to turn the ship of an entire culture is a long and arduous process. We will fail – sometimes miserably (and publicly, for those of us who have a platform). If we can tend to our wounds, bandage ourselves up, pick up our fallen comrades and choose a new way forward, we can get back to the work of creating the next idea, the next theory, the next iteration.
Here’s what I’ve been noticing – there is a lot of emphasis on how we change the structure of the new culture – the gross, dense, brick and mortar container that holds it all together. The specific rights and specific wrongs. The law.
This is all well and good. We need a container. We need the law. We need structure. And we need structure more inclusive of feminine principles.
But while we’re busy with our Lincoln Logs and our Tinker Toys – the dense (and masculine) aspects of building something new – we’re forgetting about the subtle aspects of culture creation.
We are part of this culture we’re in, and so it’s like a stew that we’re steeped in – it’s hard to know what freedom from it feels like or how to operate that way. But I would ask: If a patriarchal culture is built with structure and other dense qualities at the expense of the subtle, then shouldn’t we consider looking to the subtle, the feminine, to guide this new pioneering process?
The way that we think is also a reflection of our culture, and so we think in ways that require order and structure. This would then be an obvious place to start when creating something new, because it’s the way we’ve always done it. But perhaps, just maybe, we’re missing something.
Perhaps we’re missing the subtle.
And we’re missing it because we’re not using our sensitivity.
Sensitivity is our ability to sense and respond to things in our environment – and high sensitivity is the ability to sense and respond to the most subtle aspects of our environment. This – THIS – must be part of the equation while we’re trying to build something new. We need to find our subtle tools. Set down the Lincoln Logs for just a stinking minute and pick up the Etch-a-Sketch. Set down the hammer and pull out the crayons.
As individuals, we need to allow ourselves to use our sensitivity, so that we can be receptive to the world and to others. Receptivity is what we use to gather the subtle information we need to create this new thing. Receptivity is what allows us to read between the lines, to understand what isn’t spoken, to stop making assumptions based on the old way, to throw out the old rule book for an authentic exchange.
We should strive for integrity – for setting clear values that honor all, living them, apologizing and learning when we harm, intentionally or not. We should ask for integrity from others, ask for what we need, set firm boundaries, call out harmful behavior, create ground rules and start to form a subtle container for a new way of interacting. We can hold others accountable with firm compassion without using our wounds as weapons. Attacking others because of wounds, rather that sorting through them ourselves, is the old way. That is patriarchy.
As businesses and organizations, we must carefully navigate our practices so that sensitivity and receptivity are leading the way. Competition is a patriarchal idea, a patriarchal ideal on which the rules and laws of business are based. Under these rules, it’s a race to patent or publish an idea first, to be the first to call out “that’s mine!,” and use only the cold, competitive laws of copyright and plagiarism to hold yourself accountable. That’s predatory. That is patriarchy.
Collaboration, idea-sharing, and respect for other’s ideas and brain-children is feminist. Creating together is feminist. Calling out and correcting harmful behavior is feminist. Changing the rules we operate under so that they include the subtle aspects of business and support all of us (not just the fittest or most competitive) – like receptivity, sensitivity, sharing and respect – is feminist.
I do not know how we do this thing of changing our culture. I am fumbling to figure it out. I draw sketches and stack a few logs, get called out, see my mistake, take it all down, start again with what I’ve learned. That’s the process. What I do know is that sensitivity and the subtle must be part of the change – perhaps they must lead the change. Which means that we need more highly sensitive people to be in the conversation. To notice the subtle. To explain it. To lead with it. To model it.
It’s scary, this leading with sensitivity, because it’s not been valued yet. We’re pioneering. We’re building the trail, one step at a time.
Let’s start by noticing the subtle elements in our world. My questions to you, sensitive one: What do you see, between the lines of what’s obvious, going on in the world? What is the conversation that’s not happening (yet)? What is being missed, skipped over, or ignored? Where is there a disconnect between what is being said and what is being heard?
I’d love to hear from you – because we’re building this thing together. I’ve drawn my sketch and placed my Lincoln Log. Now it’s your turn.
*“The masculine/feminine principle” is not meant as a way to describe sex or gender, or even relating to sex and gender. I am not claiming that males are inherently masculine and females are inherently feminine – in fact, I’m claiming that we shouldn’t relate these principles to sex and gender at all. Think of masculine and feminine as principles, or categories, of characteristics. Each one on its own is incomplete. Like a yin/yang symbol, for the psyche of a person (or an organization, or a business) to be complete, we need to have and allow for the dance of both categories. They work together to create wholeness.
**A note on terms: if patriarchy is the term for the masculine-valued culture we find ourselves in now, then a feminist culture is one that would support the integration of feminine characteristics and principles into what we already have. (Notice I’m not at all asking for a replacement – we need both sets of values).