Syracuse’s sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta, celebrated it’s “Week of Purpose” with an opening talk about leadership, empowerment and resilience. Women from the entire campus were encouraged to attend and many did! I had the great fortune of presenting this workshop and getting to know many amazing young women, who clearly represent the leaders of tomorrow.
Exclusive Interview with Dr. Randy Kamen
There are times when the perfect opportunity actually does just fall into your lap. When Dr. Randy Kamen-Gredinger visited my sorority last week to talk about women’s empowerment and wisdom, every girl left feeling inspired. She felt better prepared to take on her day and have better relationships. That was the moment I realized I needed to share her wisdom with you, the College Lifestyles reader!
College Lifestyles: Hey Randy! What do you do and what is your outlook on empowerment for young women?
I’m a psychologist, a life coach, and a writer. I do speaking as well. But my passion is working with young women. Empowerment is so important because sadly so many young women feel a lack of self-esteem and true fulfillment. They need to self regulate, but they don’t necessarily know what to do when they’re anxious or depressed. I think once you know how to do that, really know how to do that, you can take charge of your life, in a rich way. Automatically you’re a natural leader when you love yourself and care for yourself. Once you know how to handle yourself, you’re free to live this rich life. There are strategies to improve yourself, to get to your essence. Once I learned those things personally I was free to live a life that was much more empowered than it had been. At your age this is the time to learn life skills.
CL: What’s the best way for a young woman to improve her outlook on life?
The best way is by taking very good care of yourself. Make sure you have very good friends. Not friends who are hot-cold-hot, but friends who are consistently good. Who make you feel good about yourself. If you have a girlfriend who you can call up about whatever, if you’ve fought with a guy, if you’re feeling down. It’s so good to have a friend. Having a good posse, a good team. Maybe, one you like talking to, another one for dancing, someone you like to go shopping with. If you have four or five friends you’re in amazing shape.
CL: What do you think the difference between happiness and fulfillment is?
There’s a huge difference. Happiness if a fleeting emotion. Emotions come and go, a rise and fall. You may be happy because you met the greatest person or got an internship. But fulfillment isn’t something that comes and goes. Fulfillment can endure. It’s a state of being. You have your friends, your self-esteem is in place, and you’re creating something in your life with meaning and value. It’s not fleeting. It’s not ‘yaaay!’ it’s ‘I’ve been putting together my life and I feel fulfilled.’ There’s a big payoff that no one can give to you. Giving back and helping those less fortunate is a piece of that. You feel good about yourself; you have friendships, you want to give back to the community. That’s a rich life. You don’t have to wait to start enjoying your life. That’s nonsense. Live your life now.
CL: What kind of people should young women surround themselves?
People that have positive energy. People that add value to your life. The one thing you don’t want to do is surround yourself with a bunch of Debbie Downers. People that surround themselves with people who are intellectual or cultured become more intellectual or cultured. You want to find people in your life that uplift you.
CL: How do you remove people from your life that aren’t as positive without being mean or selfish?
The best way is to not just cut them out of your life. You have to be loving and kind, but protect yourself. Just limit your time with them. You use your voice in a kind way, but an authentic way. You can say things like “I would really like you to not do that anymore.” To learn about boundaries in relationships are great.
CL: How do you create the best relationships?
The best relationships are treated like a courtship. You don’t just barrel your way into a friendship. It takes time to get to know somebody. Once you get to know people, you realize they’re holding stuff back. The best thing you can do is take your time and assume the best about someone. Make dates! The best way to get to know someone is to spend time with somebody. Make plans with someone outside of the classroom, outside the sorority house.
CL: How can a girl assert herself without thinking she’s being rude?
By being kind about it. Delivering the truth. Delivering the message in a loving, kind way. I would say something like “I’m loving talking to you, but I have a commitment in five minutes.” Saying “I have a boundary, but I care about you.” It’s very different from just saying “I can’t do that,” or “can you get out of my room?” People misconstrue assertive behavior for aggression. When you’re passive yourself esteem lowers, while when your aggressive you’re only considering your feelings. When you’re assertive you’re thinking about how the other person feels while thinking about your own needs. You’re self esteem soars; it goes way up there. It’s important to be authentic and compassionate.
CL: Why is passion important? If a girl doesn’t know what she’s passionate about how can she figure that out?
Passion is important, but I don’t think it’s the most important thing. Some people aren’t super passionate, but they like things. When you find something that keeps you engaged and gives you a sense of meaning or joy, that’s what you should go for. It’s great if you feel passion, but it’s really really good to tune into what makes you feel better about yourself.
CL: How can young women distress? What are the most important tips?
I think just having fun is good! Not just partying, because that may actually increase your stress level. But really having fun, good friends and taking time out for yourself every day. Being in nature or decompressing once a day, everyday. I know the days I don’t do that I’m not fun to be around! Meditate, take a walk, do some yoga. Ideally an hour a day, where you really take care of yourself. Maybe even do it with a friend! A dance class or a yoga class with a friend. It doesn’t have to be physical—it could be a lot of things. Julia Cameron talks about having an adventure, a new experience every week. I’m really into that too. You do something to get your brain out of its usual path, which is good for distressing. Just having some time that’s not just dedicated to parents or schoolwork or a job.
CL: What are the benefits of meditation for women?
The list is so long, we could talk about it forever. I used to do research on the benefits of meditation. Concentration, capacity for insight. Nothing helps for being in the moment more than meditation. It brings you into the right now, we’re together, this is good. It helps your immune system, your blood pressure, oxygen circulation. It’s so many things it’s crazy! You name it, I can’t think of one thing it doesn’t help! Meditators have longer, happier lives with better relationships. Everyday there is another study coming out on the benefits of meditation. If you don’t want to meditate it’s important to find another mindfulness activity.
Ariana Romero is sophomore at Syracuse University majoring in magazine journalism. She wishes you and your family a very happy holiday!