Breaking the boundaries of what’s expected of us is hard for everyone. Many of us realize the world needs us to ‘be the change’, but sometimes it’s damn hard to fully embrace the complexity of it all—unshackled by the conditioning that inhibits us… that also makes change so necessary. For International Women’s Day: here are the top 10 ways women hold themselves back.
Gender norms seem to be the most prevalent boundary we’re all trying to breakthrough, and although the discussion around sexism usually illustrates how it targets women, the oppressive expectations of gendered identities affect everyone. Breaking the boundaries of what’s expected of us is hard for everyone. This list affects us all, but I’m writing to the ladies.
On International Women’s Day, I mean to embrace the strength of vulnerability and to celebrate the strength of the feminine in all us, all well as shed light on our imperfections, and be totally, ironically ok with it.
Top 10 Habits Holding Most of Us Back: International Women’s Day Edition.
1. We don’t always reach out when we need someone.
It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable. Men have never been allowed this luxury, and women are praised for their new-self-sufficiency today. Men have customarily been taught they’re autonomous and their wellbeing is up to them alone. Now women are being told they have been granted the same luxury. No one is an island.It’s a challenge for too many of us to say “I need help”. Luckily some of the hills we have to climb are way too steep to surmount without the ropes of fellow climbers.
Being overwhelmed can be a good thing. Growing into surrender. We can not only be strong, independent & capable people and still need help, I don’t think we’ll ever be strong, independent, anythings without the hands of our community holding us together.
2. We hold back affection because we’re afraid of being judged.
Are we all suffering from a fear of making things awkward? Wow, am I ever afraid of that. But I feel like I’ve missed many opportunities to make a beautiful connection by being afraid someone would think I’m weird for sensing fear in them, or that they need a hug. I second guess my gut sometimes when it says “grab that person and bear-hug ’em, write that person & tell them how much they mean to you, buy her flowers, ask that person at the other table if they’re ok; tell them they’re beautiful”.
Grow in the confidence it takes to be more open and confident enough to feel that helping, digging just below the surface, is more important than the threat of awkwardness. We all need boundaries, yes, but they need to be permeable to breathe.
3. We stifle our own light to make others more comfortable.
I’m not sure if men face this challenge as much as women. I’m sure they do. I’m just not sure it’s as much of a hurdle. Women are definitely socialized to be well-liked. Everything about us is supposed to be inviting—soft skin, hair, polished, painted, smooth, fresh—and non-threatening—kind, gentle, accepting, supportive, nurturing, understanding. Nothing in this list, nothing in the gender-normative female behaviour pattern enlists any attributes that pertain to leadership in any way. I’m sure men feel social pressure not to stick out, but women are raised to think there’s something wrong with them if they do.
Be unapologetically authentic. Internalize the Marianne Williamson quote, made famous by Nelson Mandela, about letting our own authenticity shine through as a means of comforting others into doing the same. However, I’m still learning that it really doesn’t serve anyone to shrink myself.
“It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?… It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
4. We make it hard for people to change our minds.
The world is in constant exploration. Discovery is an everyday occurrence. We’re always learning. Not only are we on an adventure, and observing brand new phenomena on the regular, every person we meet is a treasure trove of potential learning. Bill Nye said everyone we meet knows something we don’t. And he knows a lot. When I choose connection over conclusion, it feels like the difference between sinking like a stone and floating, hand in hand, chilling like a platypus (or sea otter). We need new and constant discovery to address the challenges we face now. Connecting makes us far less likely to lose each other or sink.
We need to keep in contact with one another, while we swim around the river, relaying what we see from our vantage point, so we learn all about our surroundings as we drift.
5. We expect tomorrow will solve issues today; We think yesterday is some kind of projection of tomorrow.
I can’t even count the moments I’ve wasted thinking about the lovely future when I could have been embracing and grounding it in my moment. It sort of disappoints me but, what the hell, all we have is right now and I can’t cry over burnt bread: we only ever act in the ‘right now’. The only thing we have no control over is the fact that things will change. That’s a guarantee.
We have no say in the change if we wait for tomorrow to change today for us. We are alchemists; the present moment is our philosopher’s stone. We can change anything by applying that presence; it’s magic.
Even though we cannot say what will happen in the future, we can take the opportunity to be engaged in creating it in our present. Happy International Women’s Day!
Peace and so much,