Why Women For One Is Moving from Inclusivity to Solidarity

Inclusivity has always been a cornerstone of my work at Women For One. As anyone who’s been in my community for a significant amount of time knows, I founded Wf1 so that all women would be able to share their stories. I really do mean all women (and even a few brave men!). Our Truthtellers have ranged from young women in the Middle East sharing their experiences of self-empowerment and owning their truth, to moms in the Midwest who’ve overcome addiction and trauma by developing a relationship with a higher power. Over the last decade, I’ve published stories about everything from struggles with infertility, to being the “other woman,” to finding purpose in unexpected places, to alien abductions!

Seriously, there is no topic that is off limits when it comes to being a Wf1 Truthteller! In the past, the only requirement was that people in my community share from the heart, with vulnerability, courage, and perspective.

Why is this important to me? From the beginning, I knew that I wanted a place where I could be 100% myself, where I could share my story and the lessons I’ve learned and extend that opportunity to women all over the world. Whether I agreed with them or not, I was genuinely curious about the range of experiences that women are likely to encounter in a lifetime. I created a supportive, nonjudgmental place for our stories, where we celebrate and uplift one another’s unique wisdom while also acknowledging our common bonds and the universal spirit of the feminine that connects us all.

Practicing inclusivity is so important to me. However, I have learned that while this is a noble endeavor, it also means that the parameters of the community are not as clearly defined. After all, any solid community has a mission and vision—a code that all its participants know and can agree to. 

Over the years, I’ve talked to mentors and marketing professionals who have urged me to define the Wf1 community a little more—instead of saying, “This is for everyone,” I was asked to narrow it down and think about who I really wanted to appeal to, and why. 

I was resistant to this for a very long time. But now, with the current climate in which we find ourselves, I realize that it’s so important to create a community that really speaks to the values that my team and I hold dear.

Now, this doesn’t mean that inclusivity is no longer important to me. Of course, I will always encourage all women to express themselves, share their experiences, and learn from one another—but at the same time, if I don’t stand for specific values that I infuse into my community, I am not really standing for anything. And I’m not creating a solid container for a community that can grow, flourish, and learn with and alongside each other.

While Wf1 is still a home for all women, there are specific rules of conduct that I stand for and behind. I am committed to being on the right side of history as all of us grapple with what it means to move into the kind of world where inclusivity is not just something we pay lip service to, but that is truly practiced in our daily lives. 

Wf1 cannot be a home to moral relativism; that is, I don’t believe that all viewpoints are necessarily valid. Racism, bigotry, and other divisive and incendiary worldviews have no place in my community. Neither does well-meaning ignorance, which too often can weaponize “innocence” to deny the ways power, privilege, and inequality play out in our world on a daily basis. 

Over the years, I’ve identified four key values that have become increasingly important for me to define and to hold up as the guiding principles of Wf1.

1. Self-awareness

The reason I emphasize the power of self-awareness is that I know it’s crucial to look at my life through a lens of inquiry—What does this mean? How am I applying that meaning to my life? How can I take this experience and use it to empower myself?—instead of taking the stories I tell myself for granted.

Self-awareness enables a woman to have clarity about her story and beliefs, and to be able to articulate them to herself and others in such a way that she isn’t just regurgitating details or blaming others. Instead, she is able to extract lessons and wisdom from her experience so that she can move forward in her life and be an inspiration to those she encounters.

At times, Wf1 receives submissions and comments from people who tend to share their stories without truly analyzing or reflecting on them from a broader perspective. Often, these stories are steeped in self-victimizing language and beliefs. 

I believe that when we learn to share better stories—that is, stories that are raw and real while also providing wisdom, perspective, and valuable lessons—we shape our world in transformative and empowering ways. This is why, although I love raw honesty, I don’t publish stories whose authors are spinning in the details and view themselves as victims of circumstance. I know how powerful women are—so I challenge anyone who wants to use my forum as a place to “vent.” We can do better than telling the same old stories we’ve always told. True wisdom emerges from perspective—and when we develop the capacity to use our stories to impact our own and other people’s lives for the better.

2. Truth

At age 51, I am—pardon my French—tired of the bullshit. Let’s all cut to the chase and get our cards out on the table! 

In my personal and professional life, I do my best to practice transparency, and to “own” my shit. That said, while Wf1 is a forum for women’s voices and wisdom, it is not a place for putting on a love mask or getting on your high horse and wearing a self-professed expertise hat. My community is about truth, not perfection. There is no room here for unnecessary performances and inflated egos.

I want the women who come into the Wf1 tribe to be real and to wholeheartedly own the piece of the story or issue they are sharing with vulnerable courage. This is also about taking ownership of our words and belief systems, so that we can actively discover what our individual truth is. This is how we lead by example—not by taking a stance of moral superiority or preaching to others, but by choosing humility and honesty. 

The more transparent we become about who we truly are, the more wisdom we have to offer others. And the more we claim our own messy brilliance, the more we will authentically shine!

3. RESPECT

I simply can’t abide by story submissions and social media posts that put down other people, communities, genders, cultures—you name it. Wf1 is all about clear communication that isn’t about one-upping anyone, but about generating greater understanding and clarity. 

I may not agree with everyone I meet, but I can offer them the same respect with which I would like to be treated. Because respect is such a huge value for me, I’m not willing to passively put up with hateful rhetoric, especially the kind that is couched in personal or religious belief systems. Disagreement is completely acceptable, but ignorance, blatant blame, hateful comments, and demeaning language won’t be tolerated. 

4. Connection

I firmly believe that women across time and space are irreversibly connected by something I call the Feminine Thread—an invisible yet eternal bond teeming with vibrancy and life that we always have the option to tune into.

At the same time, connection is not the same as saying “All lives matter” and pretending that factors like racism, classism, and income inequality do not impact individuals in a wide variety of ways. Instead of being so insistent on “unity,” we must first acknowledge and understand our specific struggles—and if we happen to hold a lot of privilege, we need to be better allies to those who do not. 

We have a critical opportunity to see how our specific struggles as women connect to our universal struggles—but this isn’t about erasing our differences in the attempt to arrive at a state of peace and harmony. True connection comes from deep listening and clear communication, which can often bring us right up against conflict. But conflict doesn’t have to be scary. It can actually be the key that helps us move from apathy, denial, and “I don’t get it, so it must not matter,” to allyship and true, lasting unity.

So there you have it! I am excited to announce that Wf1 is not just a forum where “anything goes.” It is my community, and I am deeply protective of it. Being a part of it requires respect and dedication to a shared foundation that provides a safe and brave space for all of us to learn and grow. I believe that in order to build a stable community, we must honor our differences—and at the same time, we must first have this foundation and vision for how we can move forward together.

The reason it’s so important for me to state my values in a clear, coherent way is that this is the only way I will attract my true tribe—those of you who know in your hearts that this is where you belong. 

We are at a turning point in our world. Many people are beginning to question the integrity of the communities to which they belong. We are asking ourselves just how much we can depend on the people in our midst to stand up for us and be there for us when the going gets tough. We are wondering whether we are connected by virtue of mere convenience or because of values that affirm our purpose and uplift our souls.

I honor all women, as well as the potential for all of us to be sisters—across our common bonds as well as our differences. But just as we all have the people we connect with on a soul level, we also have those with whom we simply do not resonate.

I want Wf1 to resonate with as many women as possible, but I am very much aware that “as many as possible” doesn’t mean everyone. 

My community may not actually be for everybody—especially if the values that guide me and the way I practice them don’t resonate. And that’s totally okay. I am not here for a debate, or to persuade you of anything. If you’re not on board with what I’ve offered here, I wish you well and encourage you to unfollow me and spend your time in company that actually meets your needs and desires. 

In the meantime, I will continue to amplify the major issues of our time, through the lens of the diverse individual woman. I will continue to share my community with others in the name of greater self-awareness, truth, respect, and connection. 

And if you feel you can get behind that, I welcome you with open arms into my tribe.

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About the Author | Kelly McNelis

Kelly McNelis is the founder of Women For One, a global community that empowers women to embrace their voices and make life happen, on their own terms. With over 20 years of experience as a nonprofit and small-business consultant, Kelly empowers generations of women around the world to build the relationships, community, and confidence they need to achieve their wildest dreams. She travels the world as a speaker, teacher, and facilitator of workshops, helping others tap into lives powered by truth. Kelly's dedication to truthtelling helps women and men share their powerful stories with the world. She is a bestselling author whose first book, Your Messy Brilliance: 7 Tools for the Perfectly Imperfect Womanwas released in Fall 2017 by Enrealment Press. Kelly has appeared in numerous national and international publications, as well as on radio and television: she will be featured in the April 2019 issues of Entrepreneur and O! magazines. She finds daily inspiration in spending time with her husband and children in her home outside of Seattle.

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3 comments to "Why Women For One Is Moving from Inclusivity to Solidarity"

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    Peg

    Loved this blog post and definition of this community! I’m tired of the bullshit too!

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    Debbie

    Thank you for articulating your values and purpose in this blog, Kelly. It resonates right down to my core. This life each of us has been given is precious and true connection with one another is priceless to me. One of the gifts of this pandemic for me has been the gift of time to truly reflect on what is important in my life. The more clarity I gain through self-awareness, truth, & respect the better my chances are for true connection & making a difference in the world one interaction at a time. Thank you for choosing to live out loud through your work with WF1. For that I am grateful.