Let me be crystal clear about the intention and origin of this to-don’t list: myself.
There is no better place to start a revolution than within one’s own self. These are the qualities I most fervently attempt to eradicate. They are also the actions that break my heart most when I see them performed by my peers. These are, in all truth, a call to action, from my highest self to yours, and if any finger is to be pointed, it’s at me for seeing the example I wish to no longer set.
Because feminists throughout history didn’t fight like hell to get women’s education reforms, voting rights, and health bills passed, just so we could stand against each other (and ourselves) in the simplest but most abundant ways. We’re all in this together, and we must take on the responsibility to stand up for one another.
So as we round out the year, and prepare for a winter season of hibernation, and thus self-reflection, let us vow to be better versions of ourselves, and demand that others be and offer their best to themselves as well.
Defining your success by your lack of anything
Facebook. Twitter. Celebrity gossip. There are so many outlets with so many reasons as to why we don’t have it good enough. It’s a deadly comparison game that’s ensuring we never appreciate the moment, our own lives, or the ever-evolving process of our individual existence.
Comparison of what you have to what others have is a detriment to your personal peace. Let’s be honest: there was time when women were married off, weren’t allowed to get an education, some were never even taught to read. There was a time when women couldn’t even vote. And now here you are, paying your own bills, in control of everything you eat, think, say, and believe. You have access to books to enthrall your imagination, the freedom to run around the country or even the world, the ability to vote for the first female President should you choose to. You can go to college, you can choose the industry you want to work in, and you can define your individuality and style any way you see fit.
Your feelings of lacking are only in comparison to someone else’s having. But the only way you can feel sorry for not having is if you relinquish your power to get and do what you want. Don’t give away your power. Stop looking out at what you don’t have, and start appreciating and capitalizing on what you do have. You don’t have to be content where you are to appreciate what you have; it’s possible to feel gratitude and ambition at the same, miraculous time.
Contentment has nothing to do with acquiring. It’s all about accepting the ever-present possibility of right now, right here. A wise woman starts doing what she can, with what she has, where she is.
Competing for who has the worst circumstances
Do you ever feel that conversations with your girlfriends devolve into a contest of who faces worse circumstances? One person starts the complaint thread, “I am like the dumbest person in the office, it’s a joke.” Then everyone else follows suit, first by complimenting her: “Ugh, no. You are so smart and responsible, you could find a new job in like no time” which is great feedback! Until they desecrate themselves: “I on the other hand am probably destined to be an assistant for the rest of my life. I hate my life.”
This does not count as a positive, constructive, or friendship-deepening conversation. What are we doing with our time together if all we’re doing is bidding for biggest complaint? Why isn’t our aim to praise each other individually without diminishing ourselves in the process, or by comparison?
It’s ok to admit insecurities, in fact it can be empowering, but it’s not acceptable to perpetuate a cycle of negative self-talk. If you hear your friend talk about herself like this, stop her and offer a no-strings-attached call to action: “Don’t talk about yourself like that. You are beautiful and perfect and I love you and I won’t let you diminish your worth.”
Addressing each other in uninspired ways
This is a point made known to me by Ann Friedman in her interview with the incredible women of the SheDoes podcast. Not only do we need to improve how we speak to each other in person and in online conversations, but also how we interact. This starts with the way we approach strangers especially. What do you think would happen if we start every female-to-female interaction with the assumption that – regardless of the way she dresses or carries herself – she is an intelligent and passionate individual who takes it upon herself to be informed? And then, even if we found her to have different interests or priorities than ourselves, what if we relentlessly continued to treat her with respect and with the knowledge that she is admirable and worthy of our affection? What if we stayed true to these two acting principles all the time, no matter what?
Powerful stuff, that’s what. A world where all women demand that everyone appreciate and adore each other regardless of how different they are.
“I have the worst body, everything I eat shows up on my face and ass. It’s disgusting.” There is absolutely no excusable reason to refer to your own body with words like ‘disgusting’, ‘gross’, ‘nasty’, ‘ugly’, or any other negative adjective.
In whatever way you see yourself, you teach others to see you that way. And while secretly you’re hoping that all this negative talk just comes of as humble so other people will rise to the occasion of complimenting you and reassuring your fears, it’s not working. You’re just making other people see you as an unhappy, ungrateful, insecure woman. Present them with the kind of woman you want them to see, and they’ll follow suit. Everyone else always trusts your judgment about you most, so give them something to admire.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to continually compliment yourself or praise your body mid-sentence. But refuse to say anything awful about yourself. Start there, see what miracles happen.
Being rude to each other
It’s not the men in nightclubs that are the source of women’s emotional insecurity. It’s the women. The catty way we interact with each other long before we even get in, the way we eye each other, the terrible tension of every bathroom mirror. What is that? We don’t have to be best friends to acknowledge the fact that we’re all dealing with our own fears and are all here just trying to have a good time. There is no point in furthering the kind of attitude that ensures no one has any fun. Alright yes, I’m a dork, I came to dance – really dance. But I’m lucky to survive the bathroom line before I ever get to the dance floor.
If we refused to speak to or treat other women disrespectfully, even ones that we don’t particularly like or agree with, we as a gender would eventually refuse to let any man treat any woman that way either. It’s all for one, or none for all on this one.
Diminishing your credibility with the way you speak
Have you ever heard of ‘vocal fry’? It’s the act of deepening your voice to give it a raspy, nonchalant inflection, as if you don’t care or aren’t altogether invested in what you’re speaking about. What about the reality-star upward inflection? Or using the words ‘like’ and ‘um’ and abbreviating everything to half their original length? It’s cutesy. It’s trendy. It’s pointless. And it’s making even your boss trust you less. Yes, really, read the proof here.
If you’ve fallen victim to these trends, not to worry. You have the awareness and intelligence to stop. You have the opportunity to use your voice to share your true believes. You have the knowledge, deep within you, that what you say matters and your perspective needs not be diminished. You have the resources to cultivate the kind of courage that doesn’t care if your views are accepted or popular. In fact you have the divine responsibility to speak your truth and to do it with conviction and clarity.
You want to be remembered and revered for your honesty, compassion, and intelligence, and no amount of vocal fry will ever offer you that.
Relying on other people’s opinions
This is most difficult, at least personally, in the professional sector. I rely too heavily on the approval of others, when approval is totally unnecessary to success.
It’s not anyone else’s responsibility or duty to tell you that you’re beautiful, intelligent, worthy, creative, and deserving of being cherished. It’s your responsibility. It’s your duty. Stop waiting for a man, a mentor, a boss, an icon or hero, or anyone else to tell you this. Be the one to tell you, and be the one to remind you of it when things get tough. If you do, you’ll be the one to reap the rewards, and never again be left penniless and hopeless and identity-less next time someone breaks up with you. The truth is often as harsh as it is liberating.
I realize that I’ll ruffle a lot of feathers with this post, and to be honest, I’m happy to. Because in my short life, I’ve yet to find any plausible reasons to defend these behaviors.
We’re women. We’re strong. We deserve a better world, but we must demand it of ourselves and for ourselves in order to get it.
I hope you’ll stand with me for the best year in history for women, and be part of a revolution in which women have the power and capability to be at peace and in control of their lives, actions, and fates.
photo by LPK