The Feminine Success Model

I think many of us have been thinking about success all wrong.

And I think it’s time for a major shift.

Earlier this year, I finally read The DaVinci Code. For those of you who haven’t read it, it’s basically a murder-mystery centered around the idea that The Feminine has been systematically removed from Christianity. Religious implications aside, that book got me thinking a lot about the need for balance in the world and the idea of The Feminine being an important counterbalance to The Masculine.

Several weeks after finishing the book, I was sitting at a stoplight when an idea hit me:

Maybe there is a Feminine model for work and success that we’ve been ignoring.

I wondered if some people struggle to be happy and successful simply because we’re operating under a paradigm that doesn’t fit.

In my head, I imagined a triangle and a circle. (I’m a visual thinker.)

success triangleThe triangle represents the current model of success most of us are familiar with: we climb up to succeed by reaching a top that is smaller than the bottom; progression is linear and competition is necessary.

success circle

The circle represents something more… feminine: a model based on cooperation and collaboration rather than competition. Success is measured not by height, but by what’s created, connected, and encircled.

When was it decided that a linear progression towards an ever shrinking top was the one and only way to move through life?

When did we all decide the only thing to do was try to fit round pegs into triangular holes – even if it meant whittling away at the most beautiful parts of ourselves?

In the past year or so I’ve stumbled upon the power of the circle in many different ways. I’ve walked labyrinths as a meditative experience. I’ve coached clients on the circular nature of learning life lessons.

Last month when I was listening to Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto speak about plans for moving forward, he said we needed to move from a top-down model – he made the shape of a triangle with his hands – to a collaborative one. He mimed the shape of a circle.

To me, a circle represents the power of creation. The sun. A pregnant belly. There’s something primal and completely familiar in the circle.

This is, I think, the future for many of us.

Circles. Creation. Collaboration.

A completely new paradigm by which to measure ourselves and our lives.

In this paradigm there is no ceiling to break or ladder to climb.

In this paradigm we cultivate relationships and curate experiences. We make things and share them.

In this paradigm there is still success. There is reward and stability, but it comes from the circulation of resources – the continuous flow of energy – and not from the clamoring to catch what has trickled down from an upper level.

I’m still figuring out exactly what this all means – how it looks in day-to-day life.

So far it means I am avoiding comparisons and stair-step thinking. I’m putting more energy into creating than measuring any sort of climb. I’m making connection and collaboration a necessary part of my work schedule.

But it is a little scary.

I am so used to the linear way. It might not be what fits me best, but it’s what is most familiar. I know how to hold those measuring sticks and use those formulas for planning.

But I just can’t shake this idea that the world needs balance.

I think we need more circles; we need more of The Feminine.

What do you think??

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  1. Naomi says:

    I love that you used shapes for this illustration! My most popular post to date also used shapes and I think it fits perfectly for this as well! Circles are comforting and continuous and collaboration is WHERE it’s at! Great one, Britt.

    (Circles are also SO creative and continually changing as they continue on their way)
    Naomi’s most recent post: How to Stage Your Home to Sell

    • Britt Reints says:

      The continuous nature of the circle is one of my favorite parts of this metaphor.

      Now I have to go find your post about shapes…

    • Britt Reints says:

      Just found it and read it – and love it!

    • Melissa says:

      What you are saying above makes sense to me and resonates with things I have been thinking and reading. I don’t know if you are familiar with these ladies or their work, but it seems to me to echo what it is that you are exploring in this post. Here is a link to one of their current, ongoing courses:

  2. Abby says:

    Great post and I echo your sentiments completely, especially seeing as I’ve been feeling a total lack of confidence and falling into that comparison trap as of late. However, I don’t know if it’s really a “feminine” thing as much as it is a “connection and not competition” sort of movement.

    Today there are so many people making so much noise online that it’s easy to get lost in the mix, and only by helping each other and encouraging the creativity and insight of each other instead of only focusing on ourselves can we really get across any message. It’s hard to drop that ego, but at the same time, you get what you give!
    Abby’s most recent post: High-Tech Hypochondria

    • Britt Reints says:

      The term feminine is misleading. I definitely don’t mean it necessarily as being about women, and I think men and women both have masculine and feminine energy. Energy. Oy. SO AIRY-FAIRY!

      “Today there are so many people making so much noise online that it’s easy to get lost in the mix, and only by helping each other and encouraging the creativity and insight of each other instead of only focusing on ourselves can we really get across any message. It’s hard to drop that ego, but at the same time, you get what you give!”

      That is SO true, and such a great reminder for any of us online.

      • Abby says:

        Ha. I didn’t mean to make it a gender thing at all, although I find it interesting that it seems men are much more willing to openly share things online than women. It goes back to the “colleagues and not competition” thing and it’s a matter of seeking out the right tribe. Again, great post ;)
        Abby’s most recent post: A Light In the Dark

  3. Interesting post. I also think that we need a paradigm shift. I love the inclusion of the circle. Life is a cycle. Did you know that the circle was a very important of Native American rituals? The fire is in a circular pit. Tepees have circular bases. The dances are in a circle. The setup of the village is in a circle with the center point beint the communal meeting area. It focuses more on the group rather than the individual. Relationships are more important than individual success in my mind.
    Sebastian Aiden Daniels’s most recent post: 5 Signs that a Relationship in your Life Might Need to End

  4. I have so so many thoughts about this. Yes, we need more of The Feminine. We need more balance, more collaboration. My world (Mormon, Feminist) was rocked yesterday when it was announced that one of us is being tried for apostasy because she called for more room and recognition for The Feminine, both divine and not. It just..yes. This.

    Feisty Harriet’s most recent post: Nerdiness, reading, and lists: a small study

  5. Megan says:

    I think it is time for an approach to success (and life in general) that incorporates the feminine sensibility. I think it has the potential to work better for all of us.

    I’ve seen video of a single tiger attempting to attack an elephant. It was not successful. I’ve also seen video of a group of lionesses working together to take down a full-grown elephant (not normally a target, but a desperate situation) – they were successful.
    Megan’s most recent post: Women: We Need To Talk

  6. Debbie Mulder says:

    I totally agree with the paradigm you describe. It is a way of being in this world that is inclusive, instead of a competition based view that is naturally exclusive. What you describe is not such a new concept and is very similar to the Ubuntu philosophy. It is a concept from the Southern African region which means literally “human-ness,” and is often translated as “humanity towards others,” (I am because we are) but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.

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