Making Space for New Voices – Guest Post with Giselle Marzo Segura
I’m using my platform to highlight the work of women of color. One way to bring down the scourge of racism is to make space for other voices. To not take up all the air in the room. To listen.
Welcome to the guest post with Giselle Segura, founder and creative visionary behind Strength Clusters.
What book changed your life the most?
There are so many books that have changed my perspective; it’s so difficult to choose one.
So, here are some:
Care for the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life
Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation
The Wisdom of Not Knowing: Discovering a Life of Wonder by Embracing Uncertainty
Women who Run with the Wolves
Clarissa Pinkola Estés
What teacher or mentor changed the course of your life?
Darryl Slim is a Navajo Healer whom I now consider a mentor, dear friend, and brother.
We met in Sedona, Arizona, while I attended a writer’s retreat led by his wife, Pamela Slim, in 2015.
Back then, I was in crisis mode looking for answers to help my daughter who’s struggled with a multitude of labels and learning differences. Years of interventions and unfruitful therapies had left my husband and me without options to help her, and a strained marriage relationship. I felt we’d hit the brick wall.
Learning from Darryl through his beautiful Navajo medicine and his mentoring, helped facilitate a breakthrough revealing a deeper understanding at the level of soul, which led to a radical shift in the way I understand, experience, and relate to myself, my daughter, my family, and everyone around me.
This profound shift breathed new life and healing for all of us.
The learnings generated by our journey is the key inspiration behind the work I do with strengths and cultivating appreciation.
What belief or fear gets in your way the most often?
The fear of ‘not enough’ in many of its manifestations and worrying about what people will say.
For quite a few years now I’ve been on a conscious process of releasing that which feels inauthentic within me. Noticing belief structures, ways of being, expectations, judgments — contemplating where they come from, how I’ve come to learn or acquire them as my own.
What belief supports you to be brave and true to yourself?
Deep listening and loving awareness…
Learning to meditate has taught me how to connect with that space for deep listening and loving awareness that allows me to feel, to recognize, to accept — and with clarity, make choices for myself in ways that honor more of who I am.
What are Strength Clusters?
We have mainly two lenses through which look at life; one is a deficit lens, and, the other, is an appreciative lens.
As a society, we are conditioned and educated to find what’s wrong, and we have plenty of support systems to train that type of outlook towards what we see.
The deficit lens can often be our default setting. It is so automatic; we don’t even notice it.
Living life from a space of appreciation takes conscious practice and choice.
Inspired by my experience with my daughter and the multitude of challenges we’ve faced as a family, I developed Strength Clusters® from a desperate need to find a way to appreciate — to find and nurture what is best in each other, as opposed to trying to fix what ‘seems’ broken.
The VIA Classification of Character Strengths and the VIA Survey, considered as the backbone of the field of positive psychology, provide a powerful language for strengths and assessment that helps identify them.
To me, character strengths is a language that speaks to the soul. The soul needs a different way to learn beyond lists, numbers, and graphs.
Strength Clusters® is a holistic visual map representation of the VIA Classification and an innovative tool in the form of a mat that helps practitioners such as therapists, educators, coaches facilitate meaningful multi-sensory experiences that cultivate appreciation and nurture what is best in individuals and groups.
Practitioners use the tool in diverse settings and with different populations, such as families, students, adults, individuals with learning differences, and work teams in over 11 countries around the world.
What’s your biggest vision for your Strength Clusters work?
Our world is complex and beautiful in its diversity. Many of the conflicts I see, is that we all have a profound need to be seen, heard, and valued. And, because we cannot see, hear, or value each other, we disconnect.
Strength Clusters® provides a pathway towards connecting, respecting one another, creating understanding, honoring that unique expression of who we are. It makes it visible, and tangible.
My biggest vision for this work is that people with major differences can come together on the mat. Maybe, this can be an appreciative, safe space from which a conversation towards understanding can begin to emerge.
Each time we gather together, we heal together.
How does Strength Clusters break down barriers between people? What’s your favorite story of that happening?
There is something that feels almost magical that happens when people step onto the mat and work with their strengths. People open up, share stories, and begin to see and hear one another.
That happens because the work grounded in a universal language of appreciation, and makes this language come alive through, color, design, and meaningful experiences.
I have so many favorite stories.
One of my favorites, happened while working with a group of older adults, each person had to stand on a strength that they’d like to have more of and each participant shares a specific action to nurture more of that strength.
A woman shared, “Gratitude is the last strength on my list. I have a real hard time being grateful. Gratitude doesn’t seem possible to me.”
She, then, paused and looked at her feet. Taking a deep breath, she said, “I just realized, I am standing on gratitude. I am standing on gratitude. I am standing on gratitude. I see that gratitude is now a possibility for me.”
Another happened at a training in Colombia.
The activity focused on identifying strengths we hear in people’s stories. A woman told her story. The participants picked up cards that represented the many strengths they heard in her story. As she received and held the cards in her hand that had been offered by each participant.
With tears in her eyes, she said to the group,
“For the first time in my life, I feel seen.”
What opportunities do white women have to support women of color’s work that you don’t see being leveraged or perhaps even acknowledged?
My work with Strength Clusters® seeks to cultivate appreciation: for both what makes us different and unique. It also seeks to build connection and understanding.
In a poetic sense, we create a safe space hear and encourage the song of our souls to be released. I’d love to see more of that happening among women.
I thank you, Jennifer, for creating this series and inviting me to take part in it. I am grateful.
What makes you hopeful for our world?
Seeing the energy that the young people are bringing to call out and fight for things that matter. We, adults, have so much to learn from our youth.
Giselle Marzo Segura is the founder and creative visionary behind Strength Clusters. She is also an artist, a writer, a group facilitator, and a life coach, passionate about connecting individuals and groups with their gifts, strengths and the appreciative lens. She lives in Miami, FL, with her husband and two teens.