I'm a fan of those little daily meditation books, the ones with a thought for the day. I'd love to have a sitting meditation practice, but not enough to actually have one. The daily readings, though, I can handle. I borrowed some of my sister's meditation books until she wants them back, including one called, "A Woman's Spirit." Sounds hokey but I really like it. Today's thought for the day included this sentiment:
"One of our worst fears was that we didn't belong. Trying to look like, act like, and think like other women - these actions made us feel safe, inconspicuous. That we were trapped by our fears never dawned on us."
These thoughts deeply capture a large portion of my life. I have spent years watching others for clues on how to respond. This helped me develop the skills that make me a great counselor and social worker, but also made me feel insecure and manipulate others in response. Over the past few years, however, I have become more accepting of myself and more authentic to that self as a result.
I also feel that this thought for the day isn't just a reflection of my individual experience, but of women in our culture as a whole. This is something I think many men, as the dominant culture, do not have to understand. (Just sayin'.) Women have to fit in with the standards for women, or face exclusion and acknowledgment. The fear of being the excluded one is what contributes to infighting among groups of women - pointing out other women's flaws and failings so no one notices our own. It is no surprise that many women, especially adolescents, prefer the company of their male peers. I definitely used that defense for a long time. When I met Brian and made a decision to commit to him, I knew I had to change who I socialized with, sort of like how it's easier to eat healthy if you don't buy junk food. I had to learn to be a woman among women, and that took time and energy and work - and continues to as well. Collaborating and connecting requires us to risk vulnerability, but the rewards (authenticity) are well worth it. Be courageous today - be yourself. If you find that you don't like yourself, you can always go back to being someone else's idea of yourself.
In closing, one person whose judgment I have feared for a long time is my little sister. It's something I'm still working on overcoming. Here's a picture of Catie, a sock, and me being my authentic crazy knitter self a few years ago, despite what Catie obviously thinks of me. It still makes me laugh now, because I can love who I am no matter what anyone else thinks of me. Work in progress.