There are times when I can feel myself get incredibly frustrated with the choices so many women make about what they accept in their lives. Although I realize that many women (myself included) are raised from an early age to be nice, look good, not make waves, listen to other people (parents, fathers, men, those in authority) and on and on, there comes a time when women have to learn to stop doing what we’re told. At some point women have to stop listening to others, placating others and being “nice” to others to the detriment of ourselves.
Women will benefit when we slow down and think for ourselves. We are stronger, wiser, happier and in better jobs and relationships when we ask ourselves if what’s going on feels okay to us. Too many women, instead, ask if what’s going on is a problem for the other person. Too many of us think that if our boss, boyfriend, spouse or friend is yelling at us, maybe it’s because we really did do something wrong and deserve it. Instead of trusting the voice in our head that says it’s not okay to be yelled at for any possible mistake, we start asking our friends and family if they think it was okay that the person yelled, made fun of or lied to us. We wonder if our expectations are too stringent and we begin to gradually and steadily train ourselves to doubt ourselves.
And in those moments of self-doubt and questioning, we silence, let the issue go and hope for change. And in our silence, we teach those who bully, intimidate or treat us poorly that what they do is okay. We teach them that we will go along to get along. We teach them that we understand that sometimes people get upset and do hurtful things and that we will still be there for them no matter what. We teach them that they do not have to be thoughtful or deliberate in the way they treat us because we will always be there for them. After all, women are “nice” to others.
What we, as women, forget to realize is that in our effort to be seen as “nice” or at least not mean, we end up being mean to ourselves. We teach ourselves to accept the unacceptable, question our instincts, go along to get along and to take whatever crumbs we can get. We stop listening to what we ourselves want and turn ourselves into pretzels to give those around us what they want. This process of silencing and questioning our value starts before the age of eight years. It’s no surprise then, that by the time women reach their 30s, many have lost themselves somewhere along the way.
Our culture barrages all of us with messages about women every day. Women are taught that, to be worthy, we have to be attractive to the opposite sex. We’re taught that the worst possible thing a man could be is a wuss, wimp or sissy…in other words a woman. Women are soaking in these messages everyday and believing them. If each and every one of us does not wake up and tune in to our own voices, love ourselves for who we are versus what we look like and learn to expect kind treatment from everyone in our lives rather than just give kind treatment, we will be in trouble. Many of us have sold our souls to be skinny, beautiful and in a relationship. Only women can stop this progression. Only women can decide that we matter. And only women can ensure that we are treated well.
Challenge: Stop and think. Pay attention to the messages all around you and challenge them. Don’t blindly accept them. Tune into your instincts and know that they will seldom lead you awry. Trust that if it doesn’t feel right, it’s not right for you. And, — most importantly — love yourself enough to be kind…to YOU.