How I Became a Woman Who Supports Other Women

Lean in and listen up.

By Riley Reed
how to be an ally

Supporting other women is central to my personal and professional life. I’ll never forget one evening, a couple of winters ago right before I launched Woke Beauty, I invited a group of ladies to my home for wine, tea, an epic cheese board, and intimate conversation. I had each person tell us one element she had to offer the group and one element she wanted to receive. Each woman–despite their differences in age, ethnicity, career, and identity preference, in her own words, said: “I can offer friendship. I need friendship.”

We collectively realized the great importance of the give and take—that supporting other women involves surrendering yourself and committing to togetherness.

I grew up all over the world in a vibrant household. Coming from a multiracial background; the act of getting to know people quickly and oscillating between various cultures and backgrounds became easy at a young age. A running joke is that adaptability is my superpower; I walk into new, unknown spaces with comfort. I love people despite their flaws. And I have a keen ability to make friends, to keep them, and to connect them. I used to consider that a brag but as I’ve grown into an adult, I’ve recognized that it’s not just a skill but a blessing that my parents fostered.

Human connection is deeply needed in our society. It gives me great joy to facilitate, share, and manifest it.

I strongly believe that we all have something to offer our respective communities that in some way, shape or form will ultimately heal a part of the world, so long as we tap inwards. Supporting other women is a universal act that everyone can practice. We know through science, literature, sociological studies, and emotions alone how much it can affect our ecosystem. Every person has a role to play in the grand scheme of things. Discovering yours is a vast, beautiful journey and I believe it is my duty to run alongside you till you find it.

Read on to learn more about how I engage in supporting other women.

I don’t talk to others the way I want to be talked to.

There is a misconception that we should treat others as we’d want to be treated. I’ve never bought into that. We all have different ways of loving, being, and behaving. Individuals crave different forms of communication. People come from varying backgrounds. It is so important to listen, perceive, and adapt accordingly.

When it comes to humans, equal does not mean the same.

I disarm with stories.

Supporting other women starts with building a personal relationship with them.

Revealing parts of ourselves leads to a bond and has the ability to create common ground. We all have different boundaries around what we’re comfortable with sharing. And that is okay!

When I first moved to Austin, I struggled with finding people I truly connected with. It wasn’t until I let a few walls down and tapped into my true self till I began to find those people. Ultimately, I credit many of my friends with my success in supporting my community of women. They taught me what healthy relationships feel like and they showed me what it means to uplift one another.

One of my first Woke Beauty events was a culmination of that experience. I hosted a panel of women who had bolstered me in incredible ways. By facilitating a space of conversation (stories) with them, I attracted a beautiful audience who had been craving a diverse, intimate experience.

I lead with compassion and curiosity.

If you are speaking then you are not listening. All too often, we jump to conclusions and rely on assumptions—based on our own perceptions—to dictate what we’re hearing. But that doesn’t allow us to actually listen nor learn.

Especially as of late, I’ve had some really difficult conversations. I found that the more silent I was, the more understanding I gained. Further, the person on the other end of the discussion ended up feeling more comfortable and therefore more curious about my own opinion. Though we may have been coming from different places we were able to see each other more clearly.

“Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve the silence? -Sathya Sai Baba

I choose abundance over scarcity.

“There’s not enough” type of behavior is treacherous. It breeds envy, a comparison mindset, greediness, and fear. Successful women know there is enough to go around. Rather than feeling bitter should another woman excel, they choose admiration and respect.

We all have different gifts to offer the world that will in turn elevate our respective platforms, careers, and personal lives. Just because someone else has success, doesn’t mean you don’t. Allow yourself to be informed and inspired by the women around you.

Furthermore, be a bridge and refer women for projects and inquiries. Word of mouth is the most underestimated form of exposure.

I love the Shine Theory which is a commitment to asking,

“Would we be better as collaborators than as competitors?”

The answer is almost always yes.

I give women space to feel.

The other day a dear friend dropped off a gift on my doorstep as a thank you for bringing light to her 2020. It was such a thoughtful gesture and we hadn’t spoken in real life in quite some time. I put on my mask and invited her inside for a cup of tea. I asked her “So, what’s really going on in your life?” and she proceeded to share some news she’d received in the prior week. She told me she hadn’t shared with anyone else besides her partner. I expressed empathy and after she said, “It’s okay.” I responded with, “Well, it’s not okay. And you don’t have to make up for it to make me feel comfortable. You can be here in whatever capacity feels true. I care for you.”

I do everything in my power to keep my threshold high so that women feel comfortable to enter my space and take it up completely.

We all have a right to feel secure enough to share whatever is on our hearts and minds. When we feel like we are burdening others, it is oftentimes because we feel a heaviness within. Remind the women in your life that they may show up as they are.

I’m brutally honest.

I let people know how I feel with language that allows them to receive with openness. It can be really awkward to show frankness and transparency but more importantly, it leads to a powerful connection. Honesty can show up in different ways:

  • Opening up about your life incites others to open up about their own.
  • Facing issues head-on–in the workplace with colleagues, in your personal life, or while networking–allows you to address problems as they arise rather than letting them fester.
  • Being transparent about your life can be great comedic relief.
  • Compassionately disagreeing with someone else’s opinion can encourage them to expand on their own, thus broadening both of your horizons

I follow up.

The world is filled with options and there are truly never enough hours in the day. You simply can’t help everyone on your path. Be intentional about who you choose to invest your time into deeply. And practice it consistently. Stay in touch with the women you care about. Express your appreciation for them. And always thank them for the value they bring to your world.

Journal Prompts:

To reflect on this round up of supporting other women, consider carving out some time to journal with prompts from Alex Elle:

1. What do I need to feel supported?

2. How does sisterhood show up in my life?

3. What are five reasons my past does not define my present?

4. What am I growing in my emotional garden, and what am I weeding out?