A call to encourage
The “Stay At Home’ protocol during this pandemic brought our meetings, seminars, training, and conference into the virtual world.
I wonder if you notice these questions whenever you join Zoom meetings and webinars, “Can you hear me? Can you see me?” Or “Do you hear me? Do you see me?These questions made me think about the millions of women today who are SILENTLY asking the same questions.
Studies show that COVID-19 aggravates pre-existing inequalities, and those who suffer most belong to vulnerable groups which include women and girls. There is an alarming increasing rate of gender-based violence. Mental health issues are also on the rise.
Women around the world are asking,” Can you hear our cry? Can you see our suffering? Can you feel our pain?” “Is someone listening?” Imagine what this world would look like if we turned “Stop crying”, “Stop complaining”, to ” I’m listening”. What would it be like if an entire generation simply listened to women’s dreams and visions. Perhaps this world is broken and wounded because generations before us have silenced women’s ideas. For too long a time society has been invalidating women’s suffering. How about if we respond with empathy and say, “I hear you. I see you. I understand what you feel”, instead of “you are not supposed to feel that way.
I was among those women who lived in loneliness and isolation. I was a stay-at-home mother without a clear direction in life. I thought pursuing personal dreams was already too late for me, and that I might be destined to be a lifetime caretaker of my son with special needs and disabilities. As a stay-at-home mother living in a place away from my hometown, my life was like a COVID-19 lockdown. Just as how the world faces the pandemic, with mental health issues on the rise, that too was my life. Being alone at home, taking care of children, traumatic events from the past stubbornly crept in. I journaled a lot, pouring memories and reflections into writing. But journaling wasn’t enough. Those were also the times I couldn’t celebrate myself as a woman because I simply didn’t fit into society’s mold. If their image of an ideal woman/wife/mother is a competition, I was already disqualified. Negligible, Uninspiring, Unimportant. In short, NOT ENOUGH. All those societal noises didn’t help the inner mental scripts of emotional abuse growing up. Their voices became my truth. I battled with depression for as long as I remember. Someone suggested professional counselling. All I wanted was someone to listen. I remember a time when I said out loud, “I can’t believe I need to pay someone just to listen to me!”
In December 2017, my family and I faced a deadly typhoon.We survived. At the height of the storm, I told myself, “I can’t die without writing my stories”. I discovered World Pulse. I joined to become an Encourager the moment I signed up. I mustered the courage to write our storm story. It was my first time to show vulnerability online. I expected to be criticized, but what I received was comments full of empathy and encouragement. For the first time, I felt seen and heard.
The Philippines experiences an average of 20 typhoons each year. It’s so common that surviving a storm isn’t new, but to read words like my story is powerful, or that I am brave. It was an empowering moment. To pay it forward, I “encourage all I can”, I read almost every recent story posted there and left encouraging words because I want other women to experience the same love and support I received.
It may look like that as an Encourager, I am the giver, but the truth is I am also a receiver because each story I read brought inspiration to me, to evaluate my life, to dream again. Encouragement comes full circle. The whole experience of reading stories and being inspired by these women leaders all over the world, and showing them that I am listening to my supportive comments became a healing journey for me.
If an African proverb says, “it takes a village to raise a child. I’d say, it takes a community of encouragers to heal a traumatized woman. It takes a community of encouragers to empower a silenced woman.” I have witnessed that over and over on World Pulse. Women need, not just one or two, but a community of encouragers.
Today, I can say, ” I can’t believe that the World Pulse platform is free, and there are encouragers who listen.” I am now the Encourager Coach and Ambassador of World Pulse. I support the World Pulse team in enhancing its Encourager Program. I give tips on encouragement at our monthly Encourager Party. I help women storytellers feel seen, heard, valued, appreciated, and celebrated. I mentor encouragers to do the same.
Women from all over the world tell their stories day in, day out that storytellers outnumber encouragers. This is why I am starting an #EncourageHer Movement (Encouragement) to inspire more women to be listeners as encouragers. I am currently writing a book about encouragement. I also just started my YouTube channel, Radiant Fields, where I talk all about encouragement, empathy, and inclusion.
May we include in our 2021 goals to encourage women and girls. You have no idea what impact you can create with your supportive message and uplifting words. In a world full of toxicity, criticism, and discrimination, creating a culture of empathy and compassion becomes a rebellious act. It takes courage to be kind. It takes bravery to care.
Let us stand for women. Let us #EncourageHer.