This Entrepreneur Encourages You To Transform Negative Narratives And Ignite Your Inner Warrior
by Emily Sexton
It was August 26th, 1996, my first day of the most beautiful and *easy* years of any girl’s life: middle school. I was coming out of the lunch line in a cold, concrete-walled cafeteria staring down a sea of seats and people that I didn’t know.
As my eyes darted right to left, right to left, right to left, I finally spotted a few familiar faces. Two girls from my church and another girl from my old elementary school were sitting at a table full of girls, laughing together over Lunchables and Capri Suns.
There was an empty spot at the end of the table, and just as I was about to sit my tray down, I took a pause. I paused because I noticed that these girls all had two things that I didn’t:
1) tan legs and
2) GAP khaki shorts
I had somehow missed the memo about the of-the-moment clothing trend in small-town America in the late ’90s.
I don’t remember where I sat that day, but it wasn’t at that table. And that is the first time in my life that I can remember a negative monologue taking up residence inside my head about how I was doing in life.
I have to chuckle a bit when I think about that lunchroom story today because, after a crazy life’s journey, I now find myself as the owner of a women’s boutique. The irony of that is not lost on me. While we don’t sell khaki shorts, we sell all sorts of items that can easily serve as a temptation disguised as a fix-all elixir.
But when I started The Flourish Market, I knew we never wanted to be a business that implied you needed x, y, or z trend to fix your life’s problems.
Because here’s the thing: it’s never the khaki shorts that are going to protect you from experiencing hard things in life.
As I sit here typing this in April 2020, sitting behind the counter at our empty boutique that has been closed for in-person shopping for almost 6 weeks now because of COVID-19, the feelings I felt that first day of middle school feel all so real again.
What’s happening around me seems so unfamiliar. Scary, even. And it seems like everyone else around me is handling this transition so much better, showing themselves laughing over the adult versions of Capri Sun and Lunchables on social media.
Although the whole world is going through this pandemic together, I somehow feel a bit… not up for the challenge? Trapped and alone in my struggles? A wee bit EXHAUSTED? Does anyone else feel me on this?!
It’s been a long time since I’ve had to battle this much of a stronghold of negative narratives in my head.
As I look up from typing this, I’m staring at the faces of 30 courageous women whose portraits hang on the wall of our shop. Half of the portraits are of women who make our products all around the world, and the other half are women who shop with us. On the mat of each photo, I asked each woman to write a lie she tells herself, and the truth she’s striving to live out in her life. It’s really moving to read all of their beautiful words.
Here’s the thing about our boutique: the business we’re really in is that of elevating the worth of women. Our business is a bit unique in that all of the products we sell are made by — and/or support — women who have overcome. We have clothing made by sex trafficking survivors in Nepal, earrings made in Nashville by women who have bravely battled addiction, and leather bags made by once marginalized HIV positive women in Ethiopia, to name a few.
I have learned pretty much all that I know about fighting for a woman’s worth from the artisans with which we partner. Here’s why:
Despite experiencing deep pain and hard life experiences, they are courageously living out the counter-narrative in their life.
Their sex traffickers told them that they were only safe under them as their oppressors. They live out a counter-narrative that says, I’m free and I flourish without you.
Their community members told them once addicted, always addicted. There’s no hope for your future. They live out a counter-narrative that says, the old has gone, the new has come.
Their family members told them their diagnosis was all their fault, and they were no longer worthy members of society. They live out a counter-narrative that says, I am worthy of life, and watch me work to smash this stigma to save others’ lives too.
These women have been my guides and shown me how to battle against false stories, and create new ones to take their place. While the negative narratives we tell ourselves may be more subtle than the ones I’ve just described, they are still oh so powerful over our lives, especially when we reach a challenging season.
If you find yourself feeling lonely + isolated, and thinking everyone else is navigating this pandemic (or life in general) better than you, I want you to hear me speak some truth over you:
This is hard.
You’re not alone.
Somewhere in the world right now, someone is feeling just like you. And although Instagram may not show it, that someone is very likely right down the street.
But I also want you to hear this:
You are strong and capable.
As I stare at the women’s faces on the wall of our boutique, I am reminded of the shear strength of women to rise in the face of hardship. My therapist reminded me last week that this is not the first hard thing I’ve been through. And guess what? The same is true for you too.
Today, I invite you to acknowledge the negative narrative playing on repeat inside your head and to then consider how you want to courageously live out the counter-narrative to that in your life – during this challenging season, and beyond.
It’s an invitation and a summoning forth of the inner warrior inside of you.
May the women who create our products and transform their communities remind us of the woman who is inside all of us: the woman who is a fighter, and has – and will continue – to overcome.
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