I had the good fortune of attending the United State of Women Summit in Washington, D.C. earlier this year. The Summit is convened by The White House and featured a rock star list of speakers and content that surpassed any event I have ever attended or produced.

I came away with lots to think about and most notably a question posed by First Lady Michelle Obama, while in conversation with Oprah. Oprah asked the First Lady how she managed to keep it real, have fun, stay sane and thrive during her time in the White House, given all the naysayers and media attention. The First Lady responded by posing this question to the audience:

Do you know yourself?

She went on to say, “Our first job in life as women, I think, is to get to know ourselves. We spend our time pleasing, satisfying, looking out into the world to define who we are – listening to the messages, the images, the limited definitions that people have of who we are.”

“I always tell young girls, surround yourself with goodness. I learned early on how to get the haters out of my life. You’ve got to surround yourself with people who uplift you, who hold you up.”

Understanding who and what brings you joy is at the heart of knowing yourself. In my view, the small things and big things carry equal weight, for the small things are a bit easier to orchestrate into your day – a dog walk, reading to a child, taking a run, or enjoying a morning coffee that’s brewed just right. When you have a daily dose of this goodness, you are far better equipped to take on the big stuff.

Be mindful of where you thrive in your work and play. I posed the question to myself. Do you know yourself? In reflection, I thought about how I steer clear of commutes, excel sheets and long meetings, and veer towards the creative design process and challenging problem solving. I know if I commit to a 4-hour boardroom style meeting, I am likely to zone out and be drained for a day, and if I start my day with a meditation or by hitting some tennis balls, I seem to be able to tackle the challenging stuff with greater success.

Knowing yourself also means understanding who and what causes your feathers to get ruffled. It’s likely impossible to keep them away at all times, but just understanding who they are and knowing that their actions and words don’t define you is powerful.

As you ponder your second act, take time to reflect and ask yourself, do you know yourself? As our stories evolve, we evolve along with them. This is simple but powerful stuff.

I am so grateful for the invitation to attend the State of Women Summit and for the incredible opportunity to sit in a room with so many women who are working together to bring about change for good. Thank you First Lady Michelle Obama for convening this extraordinary event and to all the changemakers who shared their stories and wisdom.

 As Women Succeed, We All Succeed.

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About The Author

Cindy Wilson
President/Strategist

Cindy Wilson is the founder of Wilsonwest, a highly respected client-driven event management and marketing agency based in San Francisco.
She is passionate about helping customers drive sales, build brands and deepen customer relationships through social impact, strategic events and meetings.