Women are often considered enigmatic in their ability to balance contradictions effortlessly throughout the course of the day – strength with gentleness, intelligence with creativity, and femininity with boldness. Many women accomplish incredible amounts in their daily lives, balancing work and other interests with family and home. Yet, instead of feeling happy, confident and empowered, many women feel weak, small and unhappy. At the Option Institute we help women feel good about who they are and what they offer to the world. We show them what it means to be exceptional.
What Issues are Unique to Women?
As women, we comprise 50.8% of the U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). Although we make up the majority of the people in the U.S. and, in fact, the world, we’ve had a history where we had to push to get some of the most basic rights held by men but denied to us.
And look what we’ve accomplished. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2016, 32.3% of men and 32.7% of women at age 25 had a bachelor’s degree. Now, among the youngest group of post-college adults, the gap between Men and Women attending college has been closed entirely. In fact the majority of college students are now female. Women have made other leaps as well. The U.S. Department of Labor (2017) reports 36% of all businesses are women owned with women leadership. The number of women-owned businesses has grown at nearly four times the rate of men-owned firms over the past 20 years. Women-owned businesses employ over 8.4 million workers and generate $264 billion in payroll each year!
And yet, many of us allow ourselves to feel small or weak. Others struggle to find a sense of personal power – and even outrageousness – without giving up our femininity, our nurturing and our uniqueness as women. There are powerful, successful female role models in the world who many of us look up to. How can we have what they have and still be who we are?
Personal Stories — Experiences of Woman Participants
I am writing this to express my gratitude to everyone at The Option Institute. One year ago I attended a one-week program. I came with a failing marriage, fibrocystic breast disease and battling depression like I’d never experienced before. I felt like I was reaching for a life preserver in an ocean of high waves. I left feeling like I could walk on water.
Now, almost a year later, my life has definitely changed. My marriage is more honest and accepting than it has ever been. The lumps in my breast are smaller and, at times, totally gone. The scar from the surgery (I had to remove a lump six months before coming to The Institute) had healed outwardly, but was constantly sore and large under the skin. When I dressed the morning I left The Option Institute, it was the first time it didn’t hurt to raise my arm.
As for depression, I can’t think of any reason why I would choose to feel that way again. I experience life fully now; I don’t just live it.
I’ve even started my own business! But the greatest miracle for me is that I really like myself. This is a new experience and it feels too wonderful for words! Thank you for teaching me to be good to myself. Thank you for helping me see that there is nothing wrong with me. Thank you for showing me that happiness is a choice. The Option Institute helped me find a way of living that I’d dreamed of, but believed was impossible.
Bookstore Proprietor, Texas
Although I am writing this during the Christmas season, it is not a Christmas card but a thank you note. I have just gone through the most difficult months of my life. In October I had a six hour surgery in which three cervical fusions were done, a process requiring a graft from the hip bone. What was intended to be a short hospital stay stretched into weeks. Those weeks included two allergic reactions and two major infections, necessitating dressing changes so painful that if I were to rate them on a scale of I to 10 they would be a 15. This process was done six times a day! The remarkable thing is that I got through it all happily. That is why I am thanking you. The ideas presented in Bears’ books, and that I was exposed to during programs at The Option Institute and which I continued using at home were what helped me make it.
The manner in which those ideas were presented was especially meaningful. Somehow the Institute staff members did it so that I felt I could take a tremendous risk and, at the very least, try.
Things aren’t over yet. I’m still in a brace and there is another surgery coming up. Even after that, the muscles may be permanently damaged. However I have a real sense of hope and freedom. I’ve realized that my happiness does not depend on the outcome of my medical treatment. I can choose what I want to be, how I wish to feel and what kind of life I wish to have.
Teacher of Handicapped Children, Oklahoma