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Chris Linnares, Published October 23 2013

Women's Wisdom: Positive mindset helps build personal strength

I am so moved by stories of women who are brave enough to break free from anything that is keeping their voice and passion captive. Stories like Malala Yousafzai, who overcame the tragedy of being shot by the Taliban for standing up for girls’ education and today is one of the youngest advocates for women’s rights.

This outstanding 16-year-old Nobel Peace Prize nominee makes me feel hopeful for the future of our world, and perhaps feel a little guilty for spending part of my own 16-year-old days chasing Backstreet Boys instead of justice.

I believe I am drawn to stories like Malala’s because deep down, I know the feeling of having my voice and passion suppressed by a dictatorial authority. In my case, this dictator is not an external force, but rather, a tyrannical voice I’ve let live inside myself.

For many years this inner dictator refused me the opportunity of expressing my voice and doing what I loved the most: writing.

I started my writing career in Brazil when I was 23 years old and was blessed at a young age to have my first book published and to write for national magazines. I didn’t know back then that I would eventually live in another country where the only way I could express my voice was by overcoming the challenges that come with speaking a second language.

“You are not good enough.”

“Forget about your passion because you don’t have the skills of an English writer.”

These were some of the rules I allowed myself to believe until the day I declared war against anything trying to put me down.

What empowered me to break free wasn’t a secret weapon I discovered in self-help book. It was connecting with an emotion bigger than my fears: my love for my daughters and my desire to inspire them to express their voice and share their passions.

That’s why I am here, on a Friday afternoon, writing this column despite my insecurities. I want them to feel inspired by girls like Malala from Pakistan and women like Mariah Prussia from Fargo – a local woman who embodies this fight and whom I am honored to interview for our Women’s Wisdom today.

This energetic and passionate advocate for women’s health and empowerment is the owner of Xtreme Measures and a single mother of two beautiful boys. She experienced the hardship and pain of an abusive relationship and knows what it’s like to be a prisoner of oppression. With that, she knows the courage it takes to stand up for oneself.

This year Prussia founded the NOW Project whose mission is to empower women and children and protect their health and well-being by educating them on how to protect themselves and how to create healthy boundaries for all types of relationships.

Another milestone for this woman warrior’s journey will take place this Saturday, when she will be the first sanctioned female MMA fighter out of Fargo.

Regardless of the results, she is already a champion whose life story shows us that no matter where we come from – Pakistan, Brazil or Fargo – we have the power to conquer anything and anyone that tries to hold us back … including ourselves.

I hope Mariah Prussia’s wisdom will storm your heart with courage. Together, let us seize the day for empowerment!

Q. In the story of your life, what was the most challenging moment you needed to overcome?

A. It was cutting the emotional ties from an unhealthy relationship. When children are involved is an extremely tough barrier to break, however it can be done! At the end of the day, it’s our children’s health and well-being that matter most. Yes, along with our own.

Q. What empowered you to overcome those challenging moments?

A. Faith, family and friends. I am very fortunate to have an absolutely phenomenal support system, however when it comes to working through emotional components in our lives, it takes a lot of work and can be frustrating, but worth it. YOU ARE WORTH IT! If you let fear control you, you will become distracted from your life’s journey.

Q. If you gave the book of your life to your teenage self, what lessons do you wish she’d learn then that you know now?

A. I wouldn’t change a thing! Each of our struggles in life helps create our story, helps us to find our strength and helps us develop into the individual we are meant to be. It may feel like you have a black cloud looming over you, however eventually the sun will shine through and you will move into a place of peace and calm; a place where YOU can make a difference not only in your life, but the life of others.

Q. What advice can you give to empower a woman’s life story?

A. First, make the time to address any personal struggles you may have endured from the past or present, wounds that lie beneath the surface are the most difficult and will inhibit you from reaching your full potential. Your potential is LIMITLESS with a POSITIVE mindset.

Have faith! Live with passion and purpose … BREATHE … you’re human, besides, without it you can’t survive.

So schedule “me-time” – do not feel guilty about taking care of yourself. If you’re a mother, you more than likely are the foundation of the house. If the foundation breaks, the house will crumble. Ask for help and incorporate regular exercise to get your heart pumping and to establish a clear mind.

Q. How can women best impact the world today?

A. Women can start uplifting each other instead of belittling one another. As women we feel like we need to be in competition with each other, when in all actuality we need to be working together as a group of strong warriors.

Chris Linnares is international author, psychotherapist and founder of Women’s Impact, formerly Diva Connection Foundation. Originally from Brazil, she lives in Fargo with her daughter and husband Bill Marcil Jr., publisher of the Forum. To suggest a woman for this column, email chris@womensimpact.org. For more information on Linnares’ work, visit www.chrislinnares.com.