The Circle of Strength Women’s Event brought together over 150 women from throughout the world for a day of conversation and workshops around empowerment, gratitude, finding inner strength and trusting and understanding your own body and mind. This event was a celebration of life, love and friendship and Stand Up Speak Up co-founder Karla’s 50th birthday as she continued to live and work with Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer.

Dear Circle of Strength  

I was going to call this session ‘Shame’ …but shame and vulnerability are intertwined and  ultimately the great learning for me has been around the power of vulnerability. In my youth  I was not an outstanding child for whom, parents and friends held high expectations. I’d  say average is a good description. I sailed through my university and college experiences in  much the same way-unspectacular! When I joined the workforce post university, I felt like  it was a new beginning. The question was would anybody notice and give me a chance? Al  did. He saw something in me that others had not. When I was given more and more latitude  at work, I blossomed but it was not without some second guessing on my part. I sometimes  felt that others challenged the opportunities I had and were reluctant to give me just re ward. I too was never confident as to how much was my doing versus my team or my future  husband. This heaviness was a true vulnerability I had to carry in secret. Even now as Al and  I chat about all the major successes at Connex in Romania and Oskar in Prague, I require  convincing that my role was as impactful as he tells me. I believe him but my doubts creep  in! This self doubt and fear of the views of others gnaws at me and clouds my view of my  real achievements. I know this is not right, but I have a hard time believing in myself 100%.  When I came back to Canada and started a business, Tokii, I was perhaps overly confident  and felt invincible. I soon discovered that I had my vulnerabilities. I was proud; likely blind ed a bit by my European successes and failed to see the pitfalls of a flawed business strat egy. My doubts about my abilities crept back in and as time moved on, it got worse. When  I had to close the business, I was embarrassed at this failure and honestly those old self  doubts came back. So painful was my shame that I avoided the situation. I withdrew, hid  and carried these heavy secrets and likely it was a factor in my getting sick.  

When cancer had to be my focus, my husband, my parents and my son all encouraged me  to find a way to let go of the shame. I agreed with them but had no idea of how to get rid of  something that had plagued me for years and in fact my shame was more complex than I  had alluded to.  

As I re-read this very letter I realized that my shame was not just because of the failure of  my business but there was an even deeper layer I want to face, I need to face, and to say  it out loud. It is a deeply rooted feeling of being unworthy. That somehow this failure was  proof to myself of what I’d felt all along. Who was I really without Al? Had I simply been  lucky? Had all of it just been a façade? Somewhere deep inside me this failure triggered all  these emotions that were just too painful, and I had been prepared to bury these feelings  forever. It’s taken facing my life and my beliefs (because of my diagnosis) to start to do the work on this one basic belief (of unworthiness) I have carried for so long, to realize that I am  worthy. We are all worthy beautiful souls.  

With the help of a close friend, I began to see the way through shame was to confront it  freely and intentionally. I had to become courageous enough to be vulnerable and open. It  took a long time to talk about it without crying. Slowly I started to feel the power of con nection through being vulnerable. I wrote my story down over and over and released it  to the universe. And I asked for forgiveness, not just from those around me I felt I had let  down but forgiveness to myself. This was hard, and I broke down repeatedly. I ask that during this workshop with Judith you find the courage to look inside, to feel the  safe place you are in and to release what needs to be released. 

Love Karla


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