Where Are You On This Journey?


Do you know about the hero's journey? There's a call, then resistance, and then an adventure? When Joseph Campbell devised the model, he studied ancient stories and folktales. Since then, it's been the blueprint for a lot of epic movies like Star Wars. Needless to say, all his heroes were men!

Though the hero's journey is really cool, I'm interested in the heroine's journey - mostly because it's about our inner world, but it also gives us a framework to reflect on how being born into a world where women are seen as "less than" has affected all of us - men and women - both in our personal and professional lives.

Here, I've adopted and streamlined Maureen Murdock's model of the heroine's journey into six phases, while adding my own commentary and providing personal examples. As you read through, think of examples from your own path: Where are you on this journey?

Aligning With Patriarchy

Since we're born into patriarchy, we begin our lives aligning with masculine ways of operating in order to belong and achieve. This means we learn to value logic over intuition, analysis over creativity, and expectation over desire.

Through years of rigorous schooling, I became really good at critical thinking and logic. As a way to get ahead, I put away any dreams for poetry, music, or art, and instead decided to focus on becoming a good researcher and getting a PhD or MD one day. Since my father was the main breadwinner and scientist of the family, I thought following in his footsteps would be the best direction.

Success As The "Good Girl"

We play by the conventional rules and achieve success in a way that gains approval from society and culture at large. We make our teachers and parents very proud.

After years of soul searching and wondering about my purpose, a certain anxiety took over. A desire to both survive and please others led me to take a research job at a top school on the other side of the country.

Inner Dissonance

Life loses its joy and enthusiasm. We feel like we've disowned a part of ourselves and like our soul isn't being fed. Women often describe this as a feeling that "something's missing." Of course, what's missing is nothing external, but internal.

Everyone was very impressed with my fancy research job, but I felt pretty hollow inside. I would have nights of crying, and wanting to run away and escape.


With the help of a guide or friend, we go through a transformational process to retrieve parts that have been buried for years: desire, creativity, intuition. We learn to undo "good girl tendencies" and our constant quest for social and cultural approval. If we have any past traumas, we come into relationship with them. We confront and accept darker aspects of the self.

Eventually I did go take a few adventurous journeys (which I call "sabbaticals"), first to Burning Man and then to India. At Burning Man, a key experience at a Temple led me to get back in touch with my softer, more present feminine side. I realized how important it was for me to be creative. In India, I reconnected with the beauty of process, journey, being, relationship...

Finding Wholeness

We take the best of the masculine and feminine sides and have them work together. We integrate and/or balance our gifts with financial sustainability. We refuse to be contained, defined, or flattened out and instead allow ourselves to be complex, multi-faceted, and real. We accept our flaws, fears, and vulnerabilities.

I came back from my journeys and went to graduate school to study a program called learning, design, and technology to find ways to integrate these inner polarities and make peace with them. My creative skills and confidence became enhanced.

Sharing Your Gifts

From a place of wholeness, we create, lead, and give to others in a way that feels true. For some, it may mean creating art, beauty, and/or design while we work full-time. For others, it might mean becoming founders, artists, healers, creative entrepreneurs.

I started to support other women through a similar journey towards wholeness and expression. I started writing more poetry and fiction. I reconnected with my love for music and singing.

So, what phase are you in? Are you in the "good girl" phase, achieving outward conventional success in order to gain social approval? Have you finally taken that time off, to reclaim parts of yourself that have been lost? Are you actively sharing your true gifts? It's OK if you feel like you are in many phases at once, or in some ways, have gone "backwards." We cycle through this journey multiple times in a lifetime, and it's not a clean linear process. It's common to cycle through different portions again and again as we grow and change.

Ultimately, the hope is to share your true gifts with the world, but it's not like one day you suddenly "arrive." Only new edges appear. Now I'm at a new edge with sharing my voice through this podcast, which features the journeys of women creative leaders and risk-takers, focusing on their origins, creativity, and leadership. It's been scary and exciting, and I find myself cycling through the journey towards wholeness yet again.

Want to share where you're at on your own journey? Comment below or in this post.

Learn more about the Heroine podcast here.

Follow Maria Molfino on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mariamolfino