Oprah fave and much-loved author Dr. Shefali Tsabary is making a case for revolutionizing the concept of "femininity."
This discussion with Dr. Shefali Tsabary was first published on KeysSoulCare.com. Republished with permission.
Columbia professor and clinical psychologist Dr. Shefali Tsabary is a best-selling author, regular on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, and an outspoken advocate for rethinking relationships through the lens of nurturing and staying divinely connected to ourselves. Her latest book, A Radical Awakening, is dedicated to liberating us from the notion that womanhood — and personhood — hinges on fitting into narrowly defined versions of ourselves.
Using the life stages that so many women move through as a framework — such as childhood, womanhood, and numerous types of relationships — Dr. Tsabary highlights women as humanity’s ultimate connectors, community builders, and healers. Here’s our chat about her book and where its ideas might take us next.
So many people admire your work around family relationships. Why do you focus on women in particular in this book?
Because [we] hold the key to the healing of our future generations. When a woman heals herself, she creates the opportunity for [healing] in and all around her. We women are the nurturers and the connectors; we are the community builders and networkers. It is imperative that we honor and claim our worth so that we can manifest these potentials to their highest levels. When we radically awaken, we challenge others to step into their own power and worth as well. In this way, our awakening sets a ripple effect for all around us.
When you refer to new ideas of femininity — you call it "awakened" — what do you mean?
Our feminine aspect, ignited to its fullest potential. To be awakened means to integrate both the masculine and the feminine [energies within us] into an integrated whole.
Too often, we women forget to incorporate the masculine aspects of our existence and this results in us entering an extreme state of what I call “toxic femininity” — just like when men forget to incorporate the feminine aspects, they are prone to a toxic masculinity. In order for our children and our planet to heal, we need to integrate both the masculine and the feminine into a whole.
Can you share how it's shown up in your own life?
In my young and unconscious years, I robotically adhered to my childhood conditioning, which prescribed that I be a “good,” and “obedient” woman. I lost my inner knowing and power [because] it was more important for me to be that “idea of a woman” than my authentic self. I lived in toxic femininity.
And how did it shift for you?
As I grew I began to shed those roles and began to occupy a more honest and real version of myself. This, of course, could only happen when I embarked on the greatest revolution of all: self-love and self-worth.
When I began to consider myself worthy enough to just be me, I stopped trying to receive accolades of validation and belonging from the external world. Who I was began to be enough.
You refer to this kind of thinking as "The Matrix" in your book. Can you give a few examples of how beliefs like these manifest throughout life?
All our ideas around love, marriage, divorce, beauty, youth, success, happiness, and being “nice” are all grounded in beliefs that come from lack and scarcity. If a belief is grounded in lack, it will not serve us, period.
We don’t realize how these institutions come with heavy mandates and prescriptions on how to be. If you follow them, you [believe you] will pass the grade. But if you dare to step out of them, you [believe that you] will be considered a failure.
From what you know of Alicia and her own journey, how does this align with how she shows up in the world?
Alicia represents the awakened woman I speak of. Her entire life’s mission is to unpeel and uncover her authentic self. She breaks cultural stereotypes through her very being: her music, her embodiment of her natural beauty, and her stances for justice.
Her quest is one of truth and transparency. She unapologetically shows up as herself: raw, original, and awakened.
What is special about this time in history that makes this new concept of femininity such a relevant conversation?
We are at the precipice of a global awakening, with the pandemic forcing us to look inward and connect to our truth like never before. Just like with the Black Lives Matter movement, women are rising up in their consciousness and stepping into their worth. The pandemic has forced us to take off our masks and veils to see reality in a way we were too distracted to observe before.
We can no longer live in distraction and denial as we used to. We can no longer pretend to be too busy or turn the other cheek. When tragedy strikes our lives, as this pandemic has stricken the globe, there is no room for artifice and guile. Suddenly, the choice is clear.
What rituals and habits can nurture and grow our own inner sense of it?
We need to take the journey toward inner growth seriously, with consistent dedication, and curate a life that places ourselves front and center. [You can] seek professional help to uncover and heal childhood wounds [or use] journaling, writing, and meditation as tools for self-compassion, worth, and empowerment.
What's your highest vision for this book?
Reading this book is like a therapeutic process, and paves the pathway for women to move from fear to courage; from lack to abundance, and from dependency to autonomy. At the end of this book, women will be more aware, empowered, and, most importantly, authentic and free.
How might this kind of awakening — for women, specifically, as well as for our world as a whole —uplift us all in the long run?
When one woman rises in her inner power, she paves the way for her sisters to do so as well. When we heal as a collective, we join together in a powerful oneness and support each other with surreal care and nourishment. When we join as one, we are a force to be reckoned with — and [we all] simply cannot be prey to the toxic patriarchy anymore.
Our solidarity and interconnection is our pathway to freedom. But, it starts with our inner solidarity and our inner connection first.
Join Alicia Keys and Deepak Chopra in the 21-Day Meditation Experience, Activating the Divine Feminine: The Path to Wholeness to bring healing to your life and our world, available now in the Chopra App.