Every now and again something comes along that changes your entire outlook on something you’ve done a million times before. For me, one of those things came earlier this year when I listened to a podcast interview with burlesque performer, witch and all around glamorously magical lady Veronica Varlow.
Veronica spoke of her Circle of Seven; seven women who inspire her so much that she’s put their photos on her vision board in a circle around her own – reminding herself every step of the way not only of the reasons she loves these ladies and of the qualities in them that she aspires to, but also that she’s already one of those inspirational ladies too.
The more I listened the more I loved… so much so that I now use it with clients in my coaching programmes. And of course, since I don’t believe in asking a client to do anything I don’t already know works, I use it for myself too. Want to know my circle of seven? Here goes…
What can I say? I’m an unashamed Potterhead so of course this lady had to go on there. Joanne Rowling would be one of the five people at my fantasy dinner party, my circle of seven, and pretty much any other dream gathering I can imagine, because I just adore her. In this case she makes the list for her imagination and her ability to weave so much mythology and history into her books (every time I read or watch Harry Potter I come up with another realisation of how it links to something else I’ve read or learned) and for her huge success, which is inspirational to any writer. But there’s more than that too; Joanne is in my circle for her enormous sense of social justice and the fact that she uses her voice and considerable influence to fight for what she believes in time and time again, and was famously the first person ever to be booted off Forbes’ rich list because she’d given so much to charity. Then there’s her courage – not only in the fights I just mentioned but also in getting to where she has. JK Rowling’s story is so well known now it’s almost become a myth in its own right but in less than two decades years this amazing woman made her way from being a single mother on benefits in Edinburgh to becoming the first person ever to become a billionaire from writing novels. How? Because she had an idea she believed in and she refused to give up on it, even when the idea and her daughter were all she had.
Audrey Hepburn To me Audrey Hepburn has always been and will always be the epitome of beauty, class and elegance, and someone I will always always aspire to be like. I have never ever seen a photograph of Audrey when she looks anything less than the most beautiful and dignified woman in the world, no matter where she is, what she’s doing or what she’s wearing. But again, there’s more than that. I remember watching a biography of her one day while I was off uni sick and being utterly wowed by her amazing story; Audrey grew up in Holland during WWII, and was so badly affected by the occupying Nazi forces’ decision to cut off supplies that legend has it she resorted to eating tulip bulbs. But she wasn’t the victim… as a teenager Audrey helped and supported the Resistance, despite the danger involved and her own parents’ Nazi sympathies. Even in her later years Audrey remained an inspiration, retiring from acting in the late 80s to devote her working time entirely to Unicef. Of all of the photos out there of her this one is my favourite; and of all of her wonderful quotes, the one I love most will always be “As you grow older you learn you have two hands: one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” Maybe something we should all remember sooner rather than later.
Emma Watson I know, another Harry Potter link, but hear me out. This woman is pretty much my ultimate girl crush; she’s principled, educated, dignified, beautiful, stylish and never comes across as anything short of absolutely lovely. How can you not love her? Emma makes the list for any number of reasons, but largely because of her principles. I love the fact that in her early 20s, when she had more than enough money to set her up for life, was drop dead gorgeous and had movie studios fighting to give her roles, she decided instead to go to university – one of the best universities on the planet nonetheless – and has never shied away from educating herself and extolling the virtues of an education. I love the example she sets for the young girls that looked up to her first as Hermione and then as Belle; that education is important, that equality is important, that you’re more than just a pretty face and should never be afraid to say your piece. And I love the fact that she is an unashamed feminist in the most modern way. Because no matter what the media may say, starting an online book club featuring a monthly title that will empower women across the world is just as feminist as posing topless in your own way and on your own terms if you so choose; and encouraging young women to fight for their equality in all ways is, in my eyes, one of the most important things you can ever do.
Michelle Obama Hands up if you’d like another Obama in the White House? Me, me, me. But I know, Michelle has said no. The world first came to know Michelle Obama as the intelligent, dignified and uber cool first lady to the 44th US president, a position that she didn’t just hold but excelled at; campaigning and standing for equality in all of its forms, for education, for fitness and healthy eating and a vast array of other causes, all while wowing the world with her class and general wonderfulness. But as with all of these women Michelle makes the list for more than one reason; I love that this woman is married to the man who spent eight years as the most powerful in the world, and was not only completely supportive of during that time, but never once allowed herself to fade into the shadows next to him – instead using her position to champion the things that mattered most to her. I love that she and Barack are still clearly in love with one another and that, even amongst the most powerful people in the world, she has never shied away from showing that or the love for her daughters; and I love that she maintained her own legal registration throughout her time in the White House. And of course it all started before then; this is an African American woman who went to not one but two Ivy League schools – something that people still frowned upon at the time she studied – who had a successful career in her own right before her husband pursued his political ambitions and who is a genuine inspiration to women everywhere. And also, her carpool karaoke is my favourite ever.
Lisa Lister If you’ve read my blog you’ll have heard me talk about Lisa Lister; her book, Code Red, changed my life. In the years since then I’ve gotten to know Lisa and her work even more, and she’s the only lady on this list that I not only know personally, but am proud to call a friend. And because of that I know how warm, wise and lovely this modern day priestess really is, but those things are only part of the reason Lisa is in my circle. Actually she’s there for her courage, her authenticity and her utter refusal to live life any other way than in her truth. This is a woman who spends her life talking about periods and vaginas at a time when more than half of the world still shudders at those words; and who (successfully) runs her business her way, no matter what other people may tell her. Lisa knows more about lady landscapes and power than pretty much anyone I’ve ever met, yet is utterly genuine with that and never fails to remind people that she’s still learning and growing too. She is so honestly and proudly herself – even when that’s scary – and that is something that inspires me every time I hear from her… If I can run my business and present myself even half as authentically as she does I’ll be incredibly proud.
Wonder Woman Why is she in my circle? Because she is flipping WONDER WOMAN, need I say any more? I remember watching the old Wonder Woman TV series as a child, but as I’ve written here before, going to see the movie earlier this year was a real landmark moment. For the first time ever this 34 year old geek was watching a superhero movie focused entirely on a woman that was unashamedly feminine and yes, I shed a tear or two. Wonder Woman is strong, brave, powerful and takes no prisoners… but she also does that from a place of love and faith in the power of good. But it’s not just her general superhero-ness that puts Wonder Woman into my circle, it’s also the way she sees the world. Diana is pretty much the personification of gratitude, no matter what she sees and experiences she still feels absolute wonder at the world around her and still approaches every challenge as an opportunity to make the world a better place. Kind of how I like to think I take on the world!
Ever since I opened up to work with more ascended-type energies in my spiritual work a few years back, Mary Magdalene has been a bit of a guide for me; and that's become even more true over the last year when I've really stood up to stand in my truth. But that's not the only reason She's in my circle of seven.
The main reason Mary Magdalene sits in my circle is because of everything that she represents. Mary is the archetypal wronged woman; for literally thousands of years this wise, loving, powerful woman was known as a whore who needed to be cleansed and basically hung off the coattails of Jesus, a man who - despite huge evidence to the contrary - people refused to believe was actually in a relationship with her.
Of course that wasn't something that was relegated to the modern age; even back in biblical times the more patriarchal forces were threatened by the idea of a woman - and a priestess of the old ways at that - being so close with Jesus. And yet, they were married, and happily so. I say that on the back of a shedload of evidence and also because, you know, medium.
Yet throughout all of this, Mary refused to lower herself - as far as She was concerned people could say and think what they wanted. She knew who and what she was, she knew what her relationship was, and she was in no way scared to stand firmly in her truth, no matter what. A damned good example to all of us I'd say.
In truth there are so so many other women I could add to this exercise – I could more than double it just with ladies I know, and it could easily become a circle of 100 or more without much work! Undoubtedly this list will change from time to time, but this is my circle for right now. And already I’ve found that seeing them every day on the vision board in my hallway encourages me to consider this amazing ladies; the qualities that inspire me, the ways in which I’m already like them, and how, where and when I can embrace their best qualities more within my own life. So – and my coaching clients will tell you this is one of my favourite questions – who would be in your circle of seven? I’d absolutely love to hear!