Growing up in a small community in Germany, my dreams quickly outgrew what life offered.
Opportunity knocked, the stars were in alignment, and one day I found myself on a flight to Hong Kong, where I was going to live and work. I was full of excitement and joy about my new chapter and the freedom to pursue my inner bliss. My expectations were sky-high. But after four years of expat life in Asia, I felt far from it. My spirit nudged me that I wasn’t experiencing any bliss, and it was time for change and search somewhere else.
This time, my new journey took me to California. Clearly, it couldn’t get any better. After all, I was in the land of unlimited opportunities. My work in the field of health and nutrition allowed me to blend science and nutrition and gave me a sense of purpose to help empower people about living a healthy lifestyle. I thought I had it all, but I realized I was unhappy with a nagging emptiness lingering inside me. How could this be?
Then one day, my cosmic alarm clock went off! I meditated and realized that I was looking in the wrong places! Eager to find bliss, I had traveled the world with my eyes and my mind closed. What I was searching for all my life had been inside of me all along!
Like having a blank canvas waiting to be painted, I am excited about connecting and weaving a new web among the many amazing women on a journey that reflects our passions, strengths and values. Women helping Women. What could be better than that?!
Testimonials for the Woven Bay Area Summit
Nikki Silvestri is the Co-Founder and CEO of Silvestri Strategies, working to support thriving communities, economies, and natural environments. Watch her powerful speech on vulnerability and strength spoken at the Woven Bay Area Summit.
Fear Sucks! – 2nd part
In a former post I shared with you how fear has shown up in a key area of my life: in Relationships. Now I would like to talk about how it showed up in my Career:
Am I good enough to get job? What if I’m not the best at the job? And what if they want to fire me? How do these fears play themselves out? When I interview for a new job, I spend more time making sure that I am seen as good enough. Which is helpful to getting a job offer, but not necessarily in getting the right job offer. I get so lost in the process of making a good impression and getting a job offer, that I forget to, or maybe even can’t objectively see if this would be the right job for me. Which is very likely why I am not feeling passionate about my work. In terms of fearing not being the best at my job, that means I spend mental energy on showing my value, time that would be better spent actually adding value. And then fear of losing the job again causes me stress and anxiety that could be better focused on more positive endeavors.
I recently had an experience at work that caused me to face these fears face on. And let me tell you, I had a few really agonizing weeks living in self-doubt and anxiety. It didn’t feel good at all, I was spinning out of control. And then I participated in a Shawmanic Journey (non-drug induced) and came to realize I was living in the future, fearing what might happen and in doing that letting my life pass me by.
As soon as I realized that and let go, the fear and anxiety washed away. My situation didn’t really change but at the same time, it no longer seemed as dire as it had a few weeks prior and my job itself didn’t feel nearly as daunting or cumbersome. All of that freed up mind space to start focusing on the important things at work and opened up space to start exploring possible directions to take my career that I might be more passionate about. I am thankful for the new insight I am gaining into my fear and for the ability to start learning to remove it from my life. But I realize the change is an ongoing practice in awareness and I need to continue to be mindful every day as I work to learn new behaviors and incorporate them into my life. I can see already though the benefit they are having and hope to continue to make more progress.
I would love to hear from you. Have you experienced these types of fear? And what have you done to remove these fears? And if you aren’t comfortable sharing that here, I would like to challenge you to at least examine your life and find something you are fearful of and see what you can do to change your thoughts and behavior surrounding that. Believe me, I can tell you from personal experience it will leave you feeling lighter, happier and more content than you could imagine.
And oh yeah, I’m sleeping much better these days too!
“My most recent relationship was with a man who seemed great early on in the relationship, but as we got to know each other more, I was seeing that maybe he wasn’t as wonderful as he seemed to be, but that was overshadowed by the fear that he might not want me or might end the relationship.”
Read Julie’s full post on Relationships:
Fear Sucks! If you ask most people who know me, I am guessing they would say that I am strong and confident and not afraid of very much. In general, I would have to agree. But, when it really counts and I look deep inside, I can see that I harbor a lot of fear that I hadn’t always been aware of. And most of it stems from a fear of not being good enough and that has wrecked some havoc on my life! Being an optimist, I can look at that last statement and say, the good news is that I have started to realize that and am really working on removing that fear.
So I want to share with you how that fear has shown up in a key area of my life: Relationships. (I will talk about how it showed up in my Career in a separate post)…
“Why doesn’t he want me? What if he leaves me? Those fears have kept me from asking two more important questions: Is he good enough for me? And does he treat me well enough? And that has left me in relationships where I have stayed too long when the answers to the later two questions were not a resounding YES! My most recent relationship was with a man who seemed great early on in the relationship, but as we got to know each other more, I was seeing that maybe he wasn’t as wonderful as he seemed to be, but that was overshadowed by the fear that he might not want me or might end the relationship. That doesn’t mean I didn’t question if he was the right guy and a strong enough partner, I did, I just ignored those answers and fought to make sure that he wanted me. He finally ended the relationship after a year and I was devastated, for about a week. Yes, I know that isn’t a long time to be devastated, but it is a good indicator that he wasn’t good enough to be my partner. I am thankful now that he ended it, because I might not have gotten to that point on my own. In hindsight I can see that I wasn’t valuing myself enough in that equation or I would have ended things much earlier on, or maybe not even started them. I am grateful to the lesson that relationship has taught me and hopeful that I am learning
to be able to skip the first two questions and just ask myself the last two questions next time I am getting ready to enter into a relationship!”
To say that my biological father and I had a strained relationship would be putting it mildly. My parents divorced when I was 2. My mom remarried when I was 3, and my step father was my Dad. However, my little brother and I saw our biological father every other weekend. As a little kid, I couldn’t place my finger on it, but I just always felt that my father was a liar, and that he didn’t really care about me, and I was angry. I carried that anger into my adulthood. I despised my father for not caring enough to remember my birthday. I would receive a card or text from him a day or two late, and it would infuriate me. How could he not remember the day his first child was born? On my wedding day, my father walked into the room and upon seeing me in my wedding dress, moments before I was to be married, his words were, “How do I look in my suit?” I just smiled and said, “Great, Dad.” When he said things like this, I would feel full of rage that this man was so oblivious to anything other than himself.
For the last several years I guess you could say my brother and I were just sort of waiting to get the phone call about my father. He’d never taken care of his health, and when we had a rare visit it was obvious he wasn’t taking very good care of himself. But when I got the text from my father’s roommate saying that he was in the hospital, it still knocked the wind out of me. I was in shock and could not sleep that night. I’d tried to forgive my father so many times over the years. I kept trying to forgive all the times he’d hurt me, and then I’d interact with him and I would continue to be hurt by him. Why? I realized it was because I was not letting go of those expectations that he could be anything different! I kept wanting more than he was capable of giving. And I kept feeling the pain of not having him meet my vision of who he should be. That night everything in me was saying I needed to go see my father.
The next morning my step dad (who has been my Dad of the heart my whole life – always there for me, would do anything for me) drove me for three hours to the hospital to see my father. I went into the ICU. There he was, with the oxygen mask taking over most of his face, forcing air into his lungs, IV’s, machines beeping…but I was relieved that he didn’t look as bad as I thought he would. My father’s eyes grew huge when he saw me walk in. I went over and put my arms around him. He started to sob. I told him it was okay. I looked into his eyes and said that I had come to tell him I loved him, and I forgave him. That I forgave him for all the past hurt, and that I accepted him for who he was. It was difficult to understand him through the mask and machines beeping, but the words I heard him say were, “I’m sorry,” “I want us all to get together,” “Thank you,” and “I love you sweetheart.”
On the drive home it was incredible the amount of weight I felt had fallen off my shoulders. As it turned out, I was actually the last person that my father spoke to. He went into a coma shortly after I left, and passed away 8 days later. I am at peace knowing I was able to connect with him before he left this world, and that I received the true gift of being able to forgive and be forgiven.
My grandfather met me at the exit door of the overnight Zephyr that transported me from Denver into Chicago. “You can’t wear those Denver clothes in Winnetka,” he sighed while lifting my suitcase into the trunk of his red Cadillac, “Let’s go to Marshall Fields and find you something to wear.”
Always a careful listener, I paid attention when the saleswomen (dressed in black from head to toe) brought outfits into the dressing room while saying things like, “this print will make you look friendly; this navy skirt is great for church and dinner at the club; this white eyelet dress will make the boys take notice; this black sweater with gold buttons will bring you interesting girlfriends.”
My grandfather would dismiss “this” blouse or “that” skirt based on his knowledge of what the other “kids” were wearing, the way it fit on me and what he thought would help the other kids accept me in spite of the fact that I was, “that new girl from Denver.”
It was my grandfather who made me aware of the importance of fashion geography and its weather, the difference in body shapes, the when and where to wear tweeds, floral prints, and solid colors, and what accessory choices constituted a person’s style, appropriateness, and ability to engage others. My curiosity piqued, I wanted to learn more! Enabled by my grandmother’s 30-year collection of catalogues and magazines, and the natural coolness of her basement (in the unbearable heat of Winnetka summers) I set out on a journey to discover what more I could learn about what I began to call “wardrobe strategies.”
Before the summer school classes at New Trier High School, after the swimming parties and before the dances, I spent every waking moment immersed in my grandmother’s world of fashion. Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Ladies Home Journal, Town & Country, Time, Life, Mademoiselle, Seventeen magazines showed what the high fashion ladies wanted to wear while Abercrombie and Fitch Co., Butterick, Vogue Pattern Book, Simplicity, Sears Roebuck & Co., Mode du Jour, and Marshall Fields depicted what women actually purchased and wore.
With a clear understanding of how much I didn’t know, I studied the lines, designs, patterns, and shapes of garments. The importance of a blazer (or sport coat), number of buttons (double or single breasted), it’s color (country-club navy or herringbone tweed), lapel shape (notched, peaked, shawl), pockets (patch, flaps, jetted), and back vent (no-vent, single, double vent). Nearly every private school uniform had one; nearly every member of a country club wore one; and (at that time) all flight attendants were required to wear a blazer.
So, why couldn’t I get one to fit me?
That question led me to the discovery and definition (for the first time ever) of three 5-year, highly predictable wardrobe “cycles” – each characterized by a specific body shape, design and psychology. From that discovery, I catalogued the emotional responses evoked by the arrangement of wearable things (which I call “looks”). These insights enabled me to develop a strategy by which a person’s wardrobe can be arranged to achieve specific outcomes: getting a job, engaging an audience, first date and networking success.
“Suzie Woodward’s Wardrobe Strategies” was published by Scientific Press in 1984 and sold 50,000 copies. I gave the 1st copy to my grandfather who died 6 weeks later.
“I had come a long way from the child who was afraid to ask where she came from! I felt empowered and inspired.”
I have always been curious about my ancestry. When I was a young child, I even have memories of asking my dad about his deceased twin brother. I found it fascinating that there could be another “copy” of my favorite person in the world. Even more interesting to me, was the idea that my dad was adopted. It fueled me to continue asking questions, and finding out more. Where we had me and my family come from?
When I asked, “What’s our nationality?”, he would simply reply by asking back “how do you feel today?”. When I said, “Jamaican”, he would reply, “Fine, then we are Jamaican.” I found it difficult to get answers about my grandparents, and eventually I was hesitant to ask. I felt guilty about bringing it up. Would my question be met with excitement or disappointment at the limited answers he could provide me?
This year, things shifted. I had a heart-to-heart discussion with a friend, during which I realized that I had every right to be curious about my heritage! Sure, they were my father’s parents, but they were also My grandparents. My lineage. Why shouldn’t I try to find them? I became inspired; I was on the hunt! I realized that it wasn’t my fault for asking these questions as a child. As someone who has been adopted, it is understandable that he had fears of rejection, and this had nothing to do with me! After some discussions, eventually I convinced that a search for his birth mother would be beneficial to us all, and he became just as excited as I was about finding her!
And so the search began. The last place he knew of my grandmother living happened to be the next town over from where I worked. My father and I searched through Ancestry.com. We tried government archives. We took to the yellowpages. We were on a mission. Eventually, it became more about “being on a mission” to discover more about our family’s past, and less about the end result of if we found her or not. I had come a long way from the child who was afraid to ask where she came from! I felt empowered and inspired.
After seemingly endless effort, it turns out that my grandma is a tough woman to find. I haven’t found her yet, but in a way, the gift she unknowingly gave me was the search for her itself. Knowing that I could search. I was finally allowing myself to seek illumination to the mystery of my heritage! By the end of the journey, this search had also created another dimension of the bond between me and my father that I will always cherish. Through the process of trying to find my grandmother, I learned about myself and my power to seek the answers I desire. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Have you ever felt that you are an alien in your own skin? That your life is happening around you, but you are not part of it? That some invisible force has the remote control of your life? These feelings described my life in October 2010.
I was working in my hometown of Budapest, Hungary in corporate real estate. I had family and friends around me and my life seemed “normal”. I was full of dreams – the prosperous career, the happy family life, the marriage-leaning relationship – of my future. A list waiting to be checked. But as I looked around everything else was happening just not what I dreamed about. Instead of my rainbow color dreams grey shadows held onto me. I felt like a stranger in my skin, living someone else’s life. I drifted through days, did my job automatically, and my mind wandered miles away. I wasn’t fully present in my life. I was 26, and crying in the shower before work each morning. I saw my future, and finally something inside me snapped. I couldn’t keep up the charade any longer! I finally said “enough!” I applied for a cultural exchange program and quit my corporate job. I left the country where I was born and raised and I turned my life upside-down. This was one of the best decisions I have ever made. In September 2011, I started a new chapter when I moved to California as an au-pair to take care of two amazing kids. I realized that my path was within me all along, and I had created my own path to freedom. I am finally living the life I had imagined for years. Since then, there has been no turning back.