There is no one, clear path for women to "success." There is no map, no obvious way forward because the definition of success is going to be different to each individual person. What is most important as a woman, a mother, an employee, is to figure out what you personally need to be happy and complete. It is not enough to build up everyone around you in order to create your own happiness. That will work on a superficial level, but in order to make sure that you are fulfilled you will need to dig in deep and do your own soul searching. I decided to write "Grow Your Value: Living and Working to Your Full Potential" not only as a tool for other women to avoid many of the potholes that I hit along the way, but also as a way to reflect on my own journey and grow from it. Warts and all. Because once you know your value, it is time to grow it... in all aspects of your life.
I knew I needed to write this book while moderating a panel at the White House Working Families Summit with feminist leader Gloria Steinem, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, BET CEO Debra Lee, and former president of the Rockefeller Foundation Dr. Judith Rodin. These incredibly accomplished women completely turned off on me when I asked one particularly awkward question: Have they experienced any personal strain because of all of their career successes?
There was silence. Crickets. No one even wanted to touch that question. I realized, in that moment, just how scared we are of this conversation. Sometimes we don't want to talk about the real struggles, because that's exactly what they are... real. In an effort to become a more authentic version of myself, I knew I needed to "go there." From my children, to my marriage, to my career, I put it all on the table and dissected it. And shockingly, I feel like all the relationships in my life have improved as a result. It wasn't always easy to talk about, and I am sure that with this book I am just scratching the surface, but I am better for it and I think that my co-workers and family would share that sentiment.
You cannot possibly have it all if your professional and inner values are not closely allied and aligned. If you do not know your inner value, how can you command it from others? Additionally, if you lose sight of your inner value while developing your professional brand, it is impossible to truly enjoy your own accomplishments. You need and deserve a support system around you to celebrate your triumphs and lift you up when you are overwhelmed or lonely. But if you are determined to only show people the glossy picture and not the real woman underneath, how can you expect them to be there for you on a real, emotional level? Sometimes with success, comes almost a separation between you and the people closest to you and you feel all chopped up. That's certainly how I felt in my household as my notoriety escalated.
We need to start talking about the issues that women face in a way that allows us to be vulnerable, raw, and real. What is it like to make more money than your husband? How do we connect with our children when everyone is moving at warp speed? What can we say to millenials, entrepreneurs, or anyone looking to change their path? In "Grow Your Value" I was in awe of the "successful" powerful women who shared those bruises with me, and ultimately, you. From Pepsi's Indra Nooyi telling women to "leave their crown in the garage" to Dr. Judtih Rodin and Senator Claire McCaskill discussing some of the reasons their first marriages were unsuccessful, I saw that we all pay a price for success. I realized just how often we let our core suffer when we blindly stumble forward and tell everyone that everything is okay when it is not. While you can always step back, rebrand, and correct your path, you have to start by having an open conversation with yourself.
I am still a work in progress, but I am learning in real time to grow my value. And I hope you will too.
More information about "Grow Your Value" can be found at www.msnbc.com/growyourvalue