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Salsa, Surrender, and The Empowered Female

Last night I danced with a professional dancer…and I kept up.  This will be valuable information later…

{{{flashback sequence: September 2011}}}

I am at a beautiful resort in Playa Mujeres, Mexico, the only woman standing in a room of about 24 other  entrepreneurs, my mentor, Marie Forleo, and her fiance, Josh Pais who are sitting on the floor.  It is my turn for Committed Impulse (a training method Josh originally designed for actors that teaches people how to create spontaneously in the face of fear, self doubt, and discomfort).

After observing me all weekend  (and cumulatively over the last nine months) Josh suggests that I learn to “soften up” and I know he’s onto something.

My New Yorker, pound the pavement, tough girl shield has become heavy and exhausting over the years.  I can only hustle and muscle my way so far-I’d been craving an easier way and I knew this was it.

It was time to trade in my shield.

{{{flashback over}}}

This event launched my personal mission to connect with my feminine energy and live less in the masculine (aka my shield).  Almost two years later I realized that much of the approach I’d been taking to connect with my feminine energy though, had actually been masculine.  I’d been “working” too hard on it-and work is by nature very masculine.

Feminine energy is all about ease and allowing.  That doesn’t mean I should just sit back, get massages, paint my nails and wait for life to happen.  It still requires action-just a different type.

Pursuing this mission for almost two years has been frustrating and emotionally draining at times.  I deeply appreciate my progress and the process though. I needed every single experience to arrive at the perfect point to finally allow the necessary energetic changing of the guard to move on to the next level.

I am proud to announce that I have officially hung up my masculine shield and let the wild feminine within me take the lead…I have thought this in the past only to realize I wasn’t quite there yet-this time I have PROOF and I’ll tell you about it in a moment, but first you need some background info…

In my most recent post for The Daily Love, I opened up about my childhood.  I didn’t have any kind of traumatic or miserable childhood.  I was never abused or belittled and I have always felt loved and supported.  Over the last few years though, I realized I was missing a very important influence in my development-an Empowered Female Role Model.

Now, let me define Empowered Female Role Model so as not to discredit the strong, intelligent, able women in my family.

An Empowered Female Role Model spends most of her time living in her feminine energy-embracing gentleness, compassion, ease and the fluidity of life.  She allows herself to be vulnerable, loves herself and feels at home in her body regardless of the shape or size. She trusts her intuition and exudes confidence. When connected to her true self, she can even be described as magnetic.

The reason I believe an Empowered Female Role Model is critical to accessing our feminine energy is that without one-how are we supposed to know it even exists? When do we learn that there’s an easier, more natural option for us ladies, if we’ve never seen it in action?

**NOTE: I posted my definition of Empowered Female Role Model on Facebook before I posted this blog and my friend Dr. Samantha Brody made this point that I think expands beautifully on my definition:

…many of my empowered female role models have lots of yang and fire. Not necessarily living in that gentle, soft place. but for me, the ability to get there, to retreat to that place, to find balance between the yin and the yang in any given moment by choice, that’s what i look for in a role model.

I spent years believing that being a girl friggin’ sucked and being a boy would be so much easier and more fun.  I was wrong-being a woman is a privilege and can be immensely enjoyable if we let it.

In the Daily Love post I mentioned earlier I also proclaimed that I am a salsa dancer.  I didn’t say I was a pro-I just said that dancing is part of who I am and is something that helps me stay connected.

In NYC it’s easy to go dancing.  Every single night of the week there’s salsa happening in at least one club if not more in the city.  That is not the case in Orange County, CA.  Ever since I moved to Laguna Beach I was using geography as a big fat excuse for not dancing.  Who the hell wants to drive an hour and fifteen minutes to LA once or twice a week?!

I’ll tell you who-a woman with a deep desire who’s been denying part of her identity.

Salsa is the perfect pass time for a woman to step into that empowered female role I mentioned earlier-our only job is to follow.  As the leader, the man’s purpose is to protect his partner, put her on display and make her look pretty.

As you can imagine, embracing these roles this has been my greatest challenge.  Each time I go dancing I remind myself to let go a little bit more than last time.  I hear my buddy and fellow salsa dancer Lewis Howes telling me “Let a man lead you!”

So here’s what put the final crack in my shield last night…

I am loving the LA salsa scene because there are always professionals in the crowd. I usually spend just as much time watching as I do out on the floor dancing.  Normally I observe the females-their grace, styling, softness and sensuality is mesmerizing…and something I am always looking to cultivate.

Last night though there were two men who I couldn’t keep my eyes off of.  The testament of a great leader, is that he can make any partner look fantastic…and these guys were the best I’ve ever seen.  I consciously thought while watching from afar in a chair perched in my comfort zone, “I have to take a few lessons before I’d be able to dance with a partner like that.”

“Silly Liz,” The Universe replied lovingly from outside of my comfort zone, “Thoughts are powerful things when combined with desire…challenge accepted!”

It was closing in on 1am and my friend Jenny and I decided “one more song!”  As I stepped off the floor, one of the guys I’d been watching all night asked me to dance-without thinking I said, “I don’t think I can keep up with you.”

He replied, “I didn’t ask you that,” and in the split second between when he finished his sentence and grabbed my hand I made a pact with myself to surrender to the dance and let him make me look fantastic like the rest of his partners I’d been admiring all night. Deep breath. You can do this.

I did it.

Eckhart Tolle said,

“Always say “yes” to the present moment. What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to what already is? What could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now? Surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life — and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.”

At the beginning of this post I told you the first sentence “Last night I danced with a professional dancer and I kept up” would be valuable.

That dance was the proof I needed to turn in my masculine shield for good and say yes to life as an empowered female.

Surrender can be a catalyst for soul-satisfying possibility.  It’s not about keeping up, it’s about letting go. {tweet it}

 This was a long post and I feel like we have A LOT to talk about in the comments.  I want to know what you think of the Empowered Female Role Model definition and who yours are?

If it’s not dancing, what do you do to stay connected to yourself?

Are you making excuses not to engage in your passion like I was?

Have you had an experience with surrender that you can share? I want to know your story!!

Lots of love,



Salsa, Surrender, and The Empowered Female
  • Julie

    This is such an excellent post Liz…it has me thinking A LOT. In our current societal structure the idea of success seems to be dominated by the masculine (yang) energy (especially in business) – which desperately needs to be balanced. I realize that many of my successful female role models exhibit and identify with the yang (masculine energy). Myself too. I feel like the female (yin) energy is not appreciated or regarded in the same as its counterpart. We need more yin female role models? We need to reconnect with our yin. Glad you can now say you have switched categories:). Love this post.

    • Liz DiAlto

      thanks for the comment, Julie. Here’s the thing-I spent a lot of the last two years “thinking” about this also…less thinking, more feeling, helps. I agree 100% that we need more female role models, too-perhaps it’s up to us to step into the role!!

      • Steph

        Touche, Liz! That’s exactly it! Less thinking and more feeling. . .

        • Liz DiAlto

          yeesssssss 🙂

  • Elizabeth // Your Highest Self

    Liz – I love this post so much. I’m in the middle of shifting from that yang energy too and it’s a long process (which you’ve attested too). I feel that my body issues have been a force that stops me from really stepping into the yin – like I’m always trying to will and force and push my way into a better body. But I don’t think that’s the answer anymore (well, I know it’s not because my body keeps saying no to this process). I like the idea of surrendering – maybe that’s my missing link – I just need to surrender to me – in all my feminine glory. Thanks for this post Liz, oh and how amazing is dancing with a pro who makes you look good. best feeling in the world!

    • Liz DiAlto

      First of all-love your name 😉
      Second-after I wrote this post this morning I went to lunch and opened up “Women Who Run With The Wolves”-I’m in the middle of a chapter called “Joyous Body: The Wild Flesh”…this passage got me in the gut and I think you’ll feel it too-
      “The idea in our culture of body solely as sculpture is wrong. Body is not marble. That is not its purpose. Its purpose is to protect, contain, support, and fire the spirit and soul within it, to be a repository for memory, to fill us with feeling…It is to lift us and propel us, to fill us with feeling to prove that we exist, that we are here, to give us grounding, heft, weight. It is wrong to think of it as a place we leave in order to soar to the spirit. The body is the launcher of those experiences. Without body there would be no sensations of crossing thresholds, there would be no sense of lifting, no sense of height, weightlessness. All that comes from the body. The body is the rocket launcher. In its nose capsule, the soul looks out the window into the mysterious starry night and is dazzled.”

  • Alison

    Wow! I love this post. The writer in me so appreciates how you opened it up bc it felt like I was watching a movie. I was rooting for you liz! The heroes journey was so awesome in this post. I can obviously relate to shifting from masculine to feminine. I say obviously bc I feel like most women who are “business or career-minded” operate from a masculine place. Many of us are shifting. It feels good. Being pregnant, having my son and breastfeeding has really changed me to be much softer. Literally and figuratively. Lately I’ve even been enjoying my softer body. And even remarking that I look beautiful when I see myself in a reflection. I want to continue this journey and learn how to lead from the feminine. Not be passive to a point that I don’t take action. How do you balance that Liz? How do you take action from a feminine place? Interested in your thoughts.

    • Liz DiAlto

      I read this yesterday but had to simmer on it a bit, Alison-such a good question.

      I think putting trust in our intuition as our #1 business advisor and doing everything we can to cultivate it so it’s loud and clear is a great first step…and also if you follow Danielle LaPorte-I am a big fan of The Desire Map. Knowing what my Core Desired Feelings are and taking action based on how it makes me feel and whether it’s aligned with my desire to feel connected, free, wildly feminine and ease.

  • Josh Pais

    Making me proud, Liz.

    • Liz DiAlto


  • Elsie Escobar

    Brava love. Good stuff.

    I feel like you from a different perspective. Salsa for me as well is a catalyst. It is the only time that I have felt like I could melt an entire room with my presence, and I know that I have 🙂 In LA in the salsa scene, particularly on Wednesday nights at El Floridita, with all those killer professional dancers that you talk about.

    I am not a professional, but I have the music in my blood, particularly the percussion. Raw uncultured, unrefined, dancing, from deep in my loins. OH MY.

    That essence of the feminine only poured out of me when I took the stage. When I was on stage (I was an actor in a different life) I found it easy to shine out the essence.

    My favorite parts to play were those of the female archetypes, the ass kickers, the power figures, the ones you just didn’t mess with, the Lady MacBeths….oh those were the meaty ones…

    In LA I got cast as an East LA boxer (waaaay before Michelle Rodriguez in Girlfight) a super bad-ass convict that beats up Virginia Madsen and was up for the token Latina Ninja in a pilot that the amazing Eva Mendez got 🙂

    I share this, because in the ‘real world’ none of this was true. I didn’t have the masculine side so much as the little girl side of it, naive, passive, and weak.

    In my life the power that I exuded on stage and screen didn’t in any way translate. My voice was caught in my throat. I never stood in my truth. I hid behind and beneath the unbalanced masculine in my life.

    But it did change, and it’s so interesting that I blossomed aka toughened up, by softening as well, coming from the exact opposite as you, which is the weirdest paradox!

    The one that released the WOMAN? My beloved. He is a caring, TRUE man. In his power he stepped back and literally coached me to GROUND into my feminine.

    He opened the gate and I dove in.

    I haven’t danced in forever….Pittsburgh is MUCH WORSE than the OC! And motherhood beats your ass, but holy monkeys I feel more woman, full, strong and delicious than I ever have!

    Just wait sweet Liz, with age comes more deliciousness. When you hit your 40s…oh my is there another layer that rocks your world 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your voice!

    PS. The way that I sealed the deal with my beloved as we began our love affair with him in PGH and I in LA…I made him a video of me salsa dancing TO him. Full out. Me in a dance studio, my little camera, pig tails, baggy yoga shorts and yoga top. How could he pass that up 😉

    • Liz DiAlto

      so much goodness in this comment, Elsie, I can’t even begin to respond other than to just say THANK YOU…I have always loved getting older and the wisdom and discovery that comes with it.

      Appreciate your affirmation that it’s true and your beautiful shares. Love you!

  • http://www.marveo Victoria Gibson

    Great post, Liz. I aim to be that Empowered Female Role Model for my girls. Oh, how important that would be…

    • Liz DiAlto

      this is why I’m terrified to have children, V…such a HUGE responsibility to set an example and mold another life.

      • Robyn

        Don’t be afraid! OMG after reading this post and getting to know you a little better, I just know you will be a fantastic mother if/when you choose to be. If not then you are still a rockin role model to all us that read here!

        PS random side note, but I’d love to come salsa dancing with you if my dream to get back to LA happens next year. Hubs is determined to get us back on the salsa dance floor after a couple of years of hiatus with child rearing!

        • Liz DiAlto

          aw, Thanks Robyn. I trust that I’ll know if and when the time is right 🙂

  • Zsofi

    Liz, I love the depth of insight in this post. For some reason, your line: “I did it.” is reminding me of the end of Jane Eyre, where she says (spoiler alert!!!!) “Reader, I married him.” Different relationship, but same declaration of giving way to joy in union with another, once restraints have fallen off.

    This is inspiring to me because you underline the point that true growth and flow happens when we yield to the others in our life–not in passivity, but in a joyful dance of give and take, of letting others be who they are so that we can also be our best selves. It makes me think of Marianne Williamson: “every relationship is an assignment.”

    Thanks for sharing this!

    • Liz DiAlto

      love your point, Zsofi-I notice whenever I haven’t accepted other for who they are, I also wasn’t accepting myself for who I really am. It’s really is ALL connected!

  • Karie Hill

    Girl, this post made my heart so dang happy. I can’t wait to dance with you in CA when I visit. Love you!

  • Ann Finneran

    I can hear Uncle Dom, that tough New Yorker with a heart of gold grandpa of yours, laughing from above… Great going, Liz!

  • Jennifer

    Lovely post, Liz! It is amazing what engaging in the present moment will do, isn’t it?

    • Liz DiAlto

      yes! also amazing how we *know* this but it doesn’t come so easily!

  • Jill

    Liz, thank you for this post! Your definition of the empowered female is beautiful and perfect. I have been feeling complete incongruity within myself. I am a stay-at-home mom of a 9-year old boy and 6-year old girl. This summer I have felt such a giant sense of failure. That my intense love for them has been over-shadowed by this crazy person that I don’t even recognize. And my kids’ behaviors are reflecting my (lack) of parenting skills. And I have felt that I’m doing it all wrong. That deep within I know that being punitive is not the answer but in the moment, when I feel desperate for my kids to simply do what I ask of them, a time out or taking away a privilege or sadly yelling is what I fall back on. I’ve had huge nudges from the universe that I need to start meditating daily. BIG nudges for real, intense meditating! But I felt that those nudges were somehow for me on a personal level….not as mother. Your post just drove home that my incongruity is that I’ve been mothering from a masculine place and that is so far from who I am. So far removed from my essence. I am an empowered female…that is the role I am supposed to be as mother. That is the gift I am supposed to be showing my children. I read a lot…but somehow your blog just gave me the connection that I’ve been missing. I must go within, deeply, so that I can surrender and let go of the masculine parenting styles that pervade our culture and be the mommy that my kids need. The mommy that the little girl within me needs. Much love and appreciation!

    • Liz DiAlto

      I think you are super brave for admitting all of this-so many moms keep that shit in and try to appear “perfect”-I think you’ll love my Hot Seat interview with Rebekah Borucki, “How To Be A Super Mom”…she talks about taking at least 5 mins a day for herself even if she has to hide in the car or the laundry room to connect with who she is as a woman not just a mom, here’s the link-

  • Jill Tomich: Mission Mondays

    Fab post! So many times we feel like we have to put on a show in order to be accepted in certain situations: relationships, careers, mothers, leaders, etc.

    When I made the switch from being an architectural designer to pursue a career in fitness and health full-time, my first thought was my career choice wasn’t going to sound as sexy at parties and social events! It took me years to overcome insecurities about who I was and who I wanted to become.

    Now I can proudly say I’m the CEO of New England’s largest outdoor fitness company. BAM! Feels so good to wade through the struggles and realize that I have so much to offer.

    Here is a quote (I think it is Buddhist) that has helped me through some of those tough times: “Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”

    • Liz DiAlto

      My entire self went, “uuhhhhhh, yesssss!!!” When I read that quote, thank you so much, Jill! xo

  • Devani Freeman

    OMG what a great post Liz. I love how you laid it on and brought me a long in your journey. I used to do ballet and have always had an urge to dance. Just the other day I put my head phones on and just went for it, by myself in my living room! lol. There is lots of masculine energy in business and it seems like we are always having to “prove” ourselves which is tiring. You have inspired me to tap into my dancing energy again! Thank you for sharing and for being such an inspiration and great leader. It’s fun watching you blossom and grow as I too am in my journey. xo

    • Liz DiAlto

      I love that-and isn’t it funny how we still even feel self-conscious in the privacy of our own home. So happy you went for it…I bet that gorgeous blonde hair of yours makes a killer ballerina bun! xo

  • Stephenie Zamora

    I LOVE THIS POST. I’ve been working on embracing my feminine self as well. Little things like curling my hair, wearing earrings and putting on some lipstick! Approaching things with softness and ease rather than force and push, push, push! So many things in my life are really beginning to fall into place because of it. I’ve LOVED watching your growth since our time in mastermind together. You always inspire me! xo

    • Liz DiAlto

      thanks, Steph. Love Instagram for this very reason-I can see your transformation happening, too. Love you!

  • Debbie

    I really resonated with your post. I am in the process of surrendering to my true feminine, in all her glory. My masculine is putting up the fight (of course he is), but there is a soft place in there that I am sinking into. I’m taking your post as guidance to keep going. My only job on earth is to love what I love. Thanks Liz. Loving your work! x

    • Liz DiAlto

      Appreciate this comment, Debbie. Thanks! I read somewhere recently, wish I could remember where, not to totally discount the masculine, he still has a place, there is a balance you know? I feel that desire to not let him overpower the feminine though. It’s a practice just like everything else-keep going and keep me posted! xo

  • Kristy

    Lix, thank you so much for the post– I loved reading it! I started doing Zumba because, like so many others, my masculine side has, as you put it, shielded me from really getting in touch with my feminine side. I may not get every step correct, but I feel more in tune with my body when I’m shaking my money maker! Every single time I dance with a man– whether it be a salsa dance or to a slow song at a wedding, I have difficulty allowing him to lead… I need to learn to go with the flow.

    • Liz DiAlto

      I feel you Kristy. Little something that may help you out as it helped me get a little more comfortable in the surrender of being led in a dance…feeling like you have to make eye contact makes it even more intense / potentially awkward / intimate. Look at his collarbone instead. Keep me posted! xo

  • Michelle M. Stevens

    This is why I LOVE Salsa Dancing! It is where I first understood male and feminine roles. It really is a beautiful balance. I had to LEARN to follow. I know my steps, but I follow his lead (even if the timing isn’t perfect.) I completely step into my true self and it feels wonderful. This is finally carrying over to my everyday life 🙂

  • Liz Ford

    Woah. This is such a reality check. I love this post and thanks so much for sharing. Of course, outside looking in I’d tell you you could totally do it, because we are capable of more than we think … but in your shoes, I would have done the same thing. This really hit home and it’s something I admit I need to work on … surrendering to my feminine side! Such a gorgeous message!