Women Thrive Summit 2023: The Effect, by Iulia Istrati
I made the decision to put what I encountered during the summit into words, both as a permanent reminder that what I have seen will change my life forever and also because I wanted to communicate them while the memories were still recent.
This is my testimony for all the thriving women around the world who have overcome depression, heartbreak, feelings of worthlessness, health issues, and the inability to get back on their feet but have instead chosen to approach life with a resilient attitude, reclaim their power, and pursue a healing process in an effort to change their lives and others’ for the better.
Here’s to strong women:
“ May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.”
I must also tell you that this testimonial may have some affecting components that will lead you to cry, laugh, or become emotional, just as we were warned before each session that there would be elements that might affect us throughout the presentations due to their sensitive content.
The Women Thrive Summit Effect
My tale begins, as does every other’s, with the enticing “Once upon a time,” “There once was a strong, beautiful, extraordinary, and fellow Romanian woman named Nina Morariu.” Without her, I would have missed out on this fascinating experience and never met all of these strong, brave women who rose from their ashes to transform both themselves and the world.
A year ago, when I connected with Nina on LinkedIn, I had no idea how important a role she would play in my life.
Nina’s session was the first one I went to, and after that, everything just happened naturally, with me sitting there for the following three days from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. local Romanian time. I replied to her in a message to express my gratitude for the wonderful gift she gave me and to congratulate her on the outstanding presentation she just gave. A true leader, who is more concerned with the effect they have on others than on themselves, has responded to me in a way that is both touching and characteristically humble. There was no ego present; instead, I received a message filled with gratitude and appreciation asking for my consent to publicly publish some remarks that Nina said: “touched her heart.” She had no idea how she helped change my heart for the better.
‘Oh, Iulia, how privileged you have been thus far for not having to go through most of the awful experiences exposed here,’ I thought as I sat there listening to all the hardships and struggles that these great women had faced. Without a doubt, I have experienced my fair share of losses, specifically those that cannot be undone but must only be healed: losing loved ones, fearing the unknown, doubting my sense of purpose and happiness, and wondering if I am good enough, smart enough, or strong enough to handle everything life will throw at me. In a nutshell, I’ve questioned my ability to navigate life without getting lost in the process. Sometimes I thought I was lost, but I wasn’t entirely lost since I always understood that each difficulty I faced along the journey was temporary, would pass, and would teach me a lesson.
Women Thrive Sories I could Reate to:
The stories that I have found to be the most emotional were those that I could not relate to since I had never gone through what the women disclosing them had gone through. I experienced a range of feelings, including empathy, compassion, sympathy, crying, and laughing all at once. That was a lot of emotion to process in such a short amount of time.
For every woman who has endured verbal and physical abuse, been in toxic relationships, suffered as a result of toxic work environments, lost loved ones, or is currently facing illness, tears welled up in my eyes.
Out of all the tales that I will remember for the rest of my life, one message from an eight-year-old girl stood out. She is a lovely soul who shared a message that was more important than any education or lesson we may learn in our lifetimes: “Just because something bad has happened to me, it does not mean that I will have to hate myself for the rest of my life.” Helen, I appreciate you sharing both your and her experience. Your legacy will be your exceptional work.
Why I wrote this testimonial:
I was at first hesitant to write this testimonial. Still, I overcame my hesitation when I thought back to my remarks at the Summit Closing Ceremony, where I shared what a wonderful experience this has been and how, if I could manage to combine the notes that Barbara and I collected, we could publish a book about the event. More than my actual statement, Lorna’s comment in the chat, “I am awaiting the book, lol,” was what spurred me to act. As if I don’t already have enough on my plate, Lorna—just kidding, accept the challenge! Although it’s not quite a book, I think it’s a fantastic beginning. I was unable to describe everything I went through in my brief speech, so this is my chance to put my thoughts down on paper and share them with the world in an effort to thank each and every one of you for the impact you all had on me.
I wanted to warn Raimonda that she would need to extend or plan another summit for another week since I could go on for hours about what I had seen. She indicated she would love to hear from me. I didn’t choose to remain silent as a show of disobedience; rather, I wanted to pay tribute to all the voices that so graciously shared their experiences with us, not to impress us but rather to demonstrate what women are capable of when they put their minds to it. I processed the messages and connected the words with names and faces, soaking up every syllable like a sponge.
After the Women Thrive Summit Come to an End
Romanian midnight followed the event’s conclusion; happy Saturday! I rang in the new year again in March because I felt so energized and eager. That night, if there was anything I was able to thrive on, it was my lack of sleep. My thoughts were racing, and my mind was racing from the experience I had just had. I had to organize my thoughts. Although I am aware that the time is not ideal for reflection, I am open to all ideas and allow them to remain. When I realized that my body wasn’t ready for sleep after around three hours, I obtained a copy of Women Thrive Book and began reading Raimonda’s narrative in the first chapter. I started to cry once more as I thought about all the hardships she had to overcome and how she remade herself in a different country, giving herself time to recover and reevaluate her life, reuniting with her soulmate, creating the life she deserved, and succeeding in her quest.
Along with all the other ladies who were already with me because of their tales, I also had Alicia Keys, Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Sia join me so I could have some fun while succeeding at not sleeping. I begged Alicia to take the fire away from me for just a few hours and give it back to me after midday so I wouldn’t “roar” in my irritability from lack of sleep.
Work, work, work, work, work was Rihanna’s mantra. I attentively listened before responding, “I’ll get everything done after noon.” Now I only want you to make me “shine bright” when I’m sleeping.
Just as I was about to manage to go to sleep, there she is—Sia in all her beauty singing:
“ I’m unstoppable
I’m a Porsche with no brakes I’m invincible
Yeah, I win every single game I’m so powerful
I don’t need batteries to play I’m so confident
Yeah, I’m unstoppable today.”
(Sia, for the love of God, it’s 4 a.m.; I swear I’ll stop for a few hours and start being unstoppable again by noon).
By the time the tiredness set in, I was able to fall asleep and wake up at about 11 a.m. (right on time to receive my fire and awesomeness back before lunchtime), but in my struggle, I was ready to message Lorna on Instagram to schedule one of the hypnotic sessions so I could sleep while hearing her voice.
Learning to pass on our knowledge
I told my family and friends about the stories I heard from the summit and their enormous impact during the entire weekend.
I urged my lifelong best friends—who have been my adopted family for the past 17 years, as I like to refer to them—to read Majbrit’s book and consider her counsel to surround ourselves with giraffes, and I was never able to look at those turtles the same way again. I’m here to discover you, Savannah! I told them, “I’m serious; let’s get rid of those damn turtles that are holding us back and start exploring uncharted territories,” and they laughed. Majbrit, thank you for this insightful lesson and for inspiring me to keep on writing my bit. I reasoned that since it took you three years to consider and compile all the information you needed to write about in order to complete that in just three weeks, I could also write about my experience in around three days!
Not because I had lost a business due to a natural disaster or had gone through the same difficulties, but rather for two key reasons, Mary’s story struck a chord with me the most.
Our grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters, friends, teachers, and other female role models helped mold and pave the path for us to become the resilient and powerful women we are today. We also share a love for all people. My grandmother escaped from two world wars and persevered, reinvented herself in a new location, started a family, raised 7 of the 9 children she gave birth to, and endured the pain of burying two of them due to illness. Her grandmother’s story shares some similarities with the one I learned about my grandmother from my father. Without mentors or credentials then, but with the knowledge that it truly takes a village to raise a child and that the power of community is what will drive us to work hard and achieve what we want, her leadership, resiliency, strength, love, and compassion paved the way for the generations that followed.
Mary, the contributions we make to the world carry on our grandmothers’ legacies! I have a good feeling they are grinning down on us both from above!
Second, we both experienced hardship and adversity at an early age, which compelled us to enter adulthood earlier than we had intended. I could see you, clearly hear you, feel you strongly, and you struck a delicate nerve inside of me. If I could turn the clock back and speak to the anxious young me, I would reassure her and tell her not to worry since all of these challenging situations were only meant to be temporary setbacks from which we might learn. I would also tell her that in about 25 years she will be able to sit at the same table with the female role models she has always admired—the ones who will change the world not because they desire fame but rather because they have a special “gift” to share with those who are so in need of courage, self-love, compassion, and forgiveness.
My Gratitude and the Power of Our Stories
I would like to conclude my testimony by expressing my sincere gratitude for this wonderful experience, which I had the privilege of witnessing, and by assuring each of you that your legacies will endure. You should be proud of yourself for all of these accomplishments, for the challenges you have faced but also for the incredible strength you had to overcome, and despite everything, for your unwavering mission to empower women around the world to make their voices heard.
And like any good story, mine has a happy conclusion as well: words that mend broken souls; a supportive community that will give you the courage, love, and compassion you need to achieve; a place where women can connect where there isn’t room for rivalry, rumors, bad language, or anyone trying to make you feel less valuable or eager to shine more brightly than the other. I’ve witnessed women stand by each other at their darkest moments, exposing their open wounds to the world, expressing unrestrained feelings, forming enduring friendships, and exchanging motivational tales.
If anybody were to ask me to sum up what these remarkable women have in common in just one sentence, I would cite the following passage from Seth Godin’s book “Tribes.”
“Shine a light, build a tribe, and make a difference!”
These amazing women all shared the same trait: they began with the light within, recognized their gifts, created long-lasting and secure communities, or tribes, and made a difference.
I humbly submit to you, powerful, empowering ladies. I shall value your advice and hold your stories close to my heart!
Special Note for the Founder and Summit Host Raimonda
It’s your turn to accept the accolades, Raimonda. Majbrit is quite right; you will have to learn to accept them, which won’t lessen your humility.
This event would not have been possible without the heroic effort and endurance you displayed. Thank you so much on behalf of all the female beneficiaries who had the opportunity to attend this wonderful conference!
We appreciate you sharing your story and being completely open and vulnerable so that we can learn from it and reawaken every part of ourselves that has been dormant. What an inspiring experience it has been to be a part of the unleashing episode after the cameras stopped rolling. All of these things were purely contagious: your passion, the fire you carry inside, and the strong voice that confidently expressed what awaits us if we dare to believe in ourselves.
I’ll make sure to save a note to send your daughter a copy of this testimonial precisely 30 years from now so she can read all about the effects her mother has had on people and refer to it as “Your mommy’s legacy” once I know the specific date your daughter will be born in August.
In 30 years, you might be curious as to why—I assumed you would never inquire. She will have a broader range of experiences and her own tale to tell under your guidance, love, and leadership by that age, which is the most obvious reason. Imagine delivering it to her in her teenage years—a period when moms aren’t exactly cool—and receiving the response: Right, whatever!
I won’t take any chances because I can already picture her giving you the warmest hug, with tears of gratitude in her eyes, and whispering, “I’ve known for 30 years and 9 months now why I chose you to be my mom!
I fully expect some joyful tears to be shed, but that’s okay—after all, we are just humans.
By the time your daughter receives my message, I will have turned 66, be extremely wealthy, blissfully retired, and typing from a lavish spa in the Alps. Dreams are yours to pursue! (I have to leave now; my massage is about to begin!)
Even though I like a good old-fashioned cry every now and then, I’d rather conclude this on a positive note, just like the Summit did.
Starting with the song I chose to be the summit’s hymn, I’d like to suggest a few more songs that should be added to the Women Thrive Summit 2023 playlist. Which by the way you can listen to HERE.
I was here, Beyonce.
The songs that will follow only serve to further our discussion of rising and shining. Rise Up, Andra Days
Shine bright like a diamond, Rihanna (special dedication for Marina also, as I recall you praising this song!)
Finally, this is the one that sounded like a beautiful promise to make to each other since I realized the power of encouraging one another when we are feeling self-conscious. You serve as living evidence of the power of love, passion, and purpose in a woman.
May your fire and light never go out! Thick and thin, Faouzia
My dear ladies, till next time, be strong, be safe, and spread your magic! Yours,