Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bloom Where You're Planted

I had the good fortune to live overseas in three different countries with very different cultures. In two of these countries, I helped form professional women’s groups to share information and experiences. The group in one country grew to have over 150 members from over 30 countries. Meeting all these interesting women and hearing their stories was one of the highlights of my expatriate life. Out of these stories, two themes emerged.

First, those of us who were employed had almost all gotten our jobs through networking, especially with other women. When we operated as a community, all of us were less isolated and more successful. Because of the practical and emotional support we received through networking, we made a decision to keep the group as open as possible so that we could be a resource for as many women as possible. The term “professional” was used only to distinguish the group from other women’s groups that were organized for social or charitable purposes. The door was open to any woman who wanted to participate. No one was excluded.

Looking back, that was an important lesson that shaped my future. I learned that my life is enriched when I don’t set prerequisites for who is “qualified” to be in my life. I learned that all the differences we perceive between ourselves and others (cultures, professions, faiths, experiences, opinions) expand our lives when we view each other with genuine interest and good will rather than judgment or fear. And I learned that underneath those differences, we really are all the same.

Second, almost all of us were working at things other than what we were trained to do. A scientist was an author, a nurse was a consultant, a homemaker was an expert on local crafts, and a former Playboy bunny was a antiques dealer (no kidding).

This second theme was a surprise to us, so we tried to understand why so many of us shared this common experience of working outside of our original fields. We realized that most of us came into our new environments with certain labels that were part of our self-identity. I am a businesswoman, I am a lawyer, I am a stay-at-home mom, I am a teacher. As we tried to find a place for ourselves, these labels became restrictive. When we dropped the labels and were able to focus instead on our talents and interests, our self-identities became more fluid. We were able to recognize new opportunities that had been obscured by our rigid labels.

This wasn’t always easy. Many of us had a lot invested in identities we had worked hard to establish. These labels were marks of pride and accomplishment. And security. Dropping them meant leaving our comfort zones. There was disappointment and anxiety. But there was also liberation. And growth. And new confidence. Those of us who were able to let go found that we not only thrived but were also happier.

Another important lesson. We can’t always control the circumstances we find ourselves in. But if we can let go of expectations and use the resources at hand, we can bloom where we’re planted. And if we can bloom where we’re planted, then wherever we’re planted will become our happy place.


  1. Oh dear! This one is for me. :o)

  2. I have a stone placed in my flower bet that says.....Bloom where God Plants you. ....I've always like it, and now it takes on more meaning. Thank you.


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