Stepping into the Power of Community


Far too often, I see women trying to do it alone. As an executive coach, I meet with high-achieving professionals who are overwhelmed, frustrated, and burnt out. They are balancing work, relationships, and well-being, leading them to feel so overwhelmed they can’t see the light ahead. They are juggling it all and struggle to ask for help.

by Ali Dunn, CPCC

One of the first questions I ask my clients almost always revolves around community. Do you have a support network? Who are you spending your time with, and what do they bring you? Usually, I am met with a blank stare followed by a response of, “I do everything myself, and I don’t have time for the community.”

As women, we have been fed a tale that asking for help is a sign of weakness; that we should be able to do everything on our own. And if as one person you are unable to meet these impossible standards – there is something wrong with you. Sound familiar? I remember being a victim of that lie. I couldn’t manage my life by myself but was too ashamed to ask for help. I was a martyr. And my own worst enemy.

I spent five years of motherhood completely misaligned and not in my power.

I went through a long period of isolation and depression. After the birth of my first daughter, I chose to take a pause from my career to stay at home with her.

At the time, I thought trading my salary for childcare was irresponsible and undesirable. How hard could it be to be a stay-at-home mom? I didn’t realize the damage it would do to my self-esteem and ability to feel confident. Not having my own professional outlet and community would cost me my livelihood. I was told I should feel lucky to stay at home with my child and that it was normal to feel sad or emotional, it was just part of the new mom process. I was powerless and without community. My family was 5,000 miles away, and I was too ashamed to admit my feelings of despair.

After years of suffering, it became evident that no one was going to roll out a red carpet of happiness, fulfillment, or purpose for me. My sleepless nights and perfunctory playdates had gotten the best of me, and I was a fraction of the carefree and joyful person I had been before motherhood. It was time to take responsibility for my actions. I had backpacked through Europe at age 19. Why couldn’t I pick up the phone to find a therapist or join a networking group?

No longer satisfied with the status quo, I knew it was time to get on the empowerment train.

The 1st stop: Therapy.

I sought medication for my sadness, and my therapist prescribed exercise (it worked). I considered walking away from my life. My therapist taught me how to live in it. I was scared to talk to my husband. My therapist showed me how. And finally, one day, the big question came, so loud and thunderous through the words of Mary Oliver, “Tell me, just what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Yikes. I hadn’t thought that far ahead yet, I realized I had not yet reached the end of my empowerment journey.

The 2nd train stop: Coaching and Community.

I needed to be with like-minded people. Creative, independent women were out there making an impact, I just needed to find them. For months I had been toying with the idea of signing up for a workshop designed for women seeking clarity on their next steps. I struggled to commit as I worried about how the workshop would play out. What if everyone laughed at me? What if I was the only one unsure of her strengths, talents, and desires? In a fit of desperation, I took the plunge and signed up anyway.

It turned out that weekly meetings with 17 women for six weeks changed the course of my life. I was not alone. I was in a community. For the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged. I felt powerful.

The power of community opened the doors to my “what’s next.”

The idea that I could be both powerful and vulnerable was like a homecoming I never had. Being unapologetically myself and knowing these women had my back was a gift. I could turn to them for encouragement, feedback, and hope.

This community (in addition to working with my coach), was the springboard that launched my coaching and entrepreneurial journey. Since then, I have run numerous community-building coaching groups for career-driven women and entrepreneurs. The common thread? Knowing that you are not the only one going through this and that it is more than okay to ask for help. As Daniel Siegal, MD notes in Aware, “Relationships are not icing on the cake; they are the cake. In fact, they are the main course as well as the dessert.”

So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to have your cake and eat it, too.

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7 Signs You Need Community:

  • You feel isolated and lack support in your personal and professional growth.
  • You long for meaningful conversations and relationships but struggle to make those connections in your current community.
  • You often second guess yourself, have a hard time making decisions, and would like to know you are not alone in your feelings.
  • You find yourself on the periphery of conversations, but your current connections do not share the same value system.
  • You are the leader in your group yet don’t have mentorship.
  • You are running your own business without a board of directors and are looking for like-minded individuals to hold you accountable and share insights.
  • You generally feel lost and seek a fresh start.

5 Action Steps You Can Take Today to Find Community:

Know your values. Determine your personal mission statement and seek out people who share similar perspectives. For example, if you value health, join a group led by a wellness coach. Set goals while you meet new people.

Find a professional networking group that matches your career goals. There is a group for everyone and everything! Women in tech, women creatives, associations within your profession, the list are endless.

Join a co-working space. Often these places have workshops and activities that facilitate connections so you can meet new people without the pressure of a formal networking setting.

Reflect on what is missing in your life and seek out or create a group to fill that void. Feeling full socially but lacking meaningful conversation? Join a non-fiction book club, take an online class, start a growth mindset hiking club, or sign-up for a business mastermind group. You decide what you need!

Join a team. Athleticism doesn’t have to end in high school. Join a tennis or softball team, say yes to pickleball, or start training for a 5K with your local running group. Step into your power!

About the author

Ali Dunn, CPCC, is a community builder and facilitator, speaker, and empowerment coach for executives and entrepreneurs. She helps creative and ambitious women shed their limiting beliefs so they can step out of their comfort zone and into their power.

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