It was recently brought to my attention that some people think that women or “girls” are less credible than their male counterparts. Wait . . . did I say recently? That wasn’t true at all. I’ve lived with the knowledge for a very long time that society often discredits or undercuts women and girls starting with the ages of 11 or 12 and continuing through to adulthood.
There are certain things that girls should do, like, say, and be and certain things they should not. My mother as a doctor was pegged as being “emotional” when she was passionate about the health of her children and patients and had research and evidence to prove her position. I as a young professional woman am often not taken seriously at first; I am often interrupted or not addressed directly. Traditional male roles, when filled by a woman, create unease and society becomes discontent with this broken boundary.
Yes, I believe it is true that men and women have different and unique strengths – but isn’t it just as true to say that people have different and unique strengths from other people? When did we decide it was ok to attack the female population during their formative years? Puberty is a difficult time for anyone where the person is building the foundation for who they will become and what life path they will follow. It is also a time where any deviation from cultural expectations is harshly punished and youth are told they must stand out, but they have to stand out within a certain set of guidelines so as to maintain the greater balance.
Really, this whole issue of “like a girl” isn’t just about critically looking at our own stereotypes and how we develop those greater ideas about what is normal and what is not. It is about celebrating each person as an individual and exploring what they are capable of. There is an awesome campaign out there that does just that. This short 3 min video does a fantastic job of explaining what this post is all about. What messages has the culture you live in pushed onto you? What boundaries are you trying to break and reshape? How are you living up to your full potential and celebrating your own abilities? Admittedly this has been a little bit of a rant, but I am too invested in my family and community to let negative phrases be thrown around so mindlessly.
Have you ever been put down with the phrase “like a girl”? Please share your experience with us!
Over the years, several clients have said to me in one way or the other “I was stupid to hope…” or “If only I didn’t hope….,” blaming themselves for believing something would get better in a bad, sometimes brutal situation. It has always amazed me that these individuals who have survived against all odds have been able to keep their light of hope on, let alone let it eventually guide them away from those situations, once they decided on a new route.
We tend to blame hope for our hurt. If only we hadn’t expected so much…..if only I had just seen the stark reality of where I was and what I was doing….if only I had believed that person to be their darker side, rather than hoping that the other side of them, a lighter, more caring side would emerge and be a permanent resident. Hope can set us up for disappointment. Urgh! Darn hope! But hope also does something else to us that is unexpected. Many who are recovering from relationships will say that they hoped during that time for peace in their relationships, healthy conflict resolution, acceptance from the other person, and a loving, kind, responsible and fun person to share their lives with. All of those are very healthy desires for a relationship, and tell us more about what we want in a relationship, the type of person we want to be with and what kind of life we want to share with the other person. Listening to that voice that tells us what we are looking for helps our brain to determine if what we are looking for fits what we have currently. And if that answer is a strong NO….then some examination may be necessary (perhaps even with a good therapist!) for change in the relationship and our lives. We may hope that the other person fits that bill very strongly, but determining that can only be answered in the very deepest part of our being, that nagging voice that says, “Is this right?” or “Is this really a good fit?”
In those dark moments where we are hoping that things will get better, we are holding on to hope as one would cling to the last candle in a cave. We hope while we are in the cave that the candle will help us survive the cave, but we are also looking to the candle as a way to lead us out. In the same way, the strong hope that a situation will get better will also be the same strength and skill set that leads us out. Out of the darkness into a place that is more authentic to who we are and what kind of relationship we want to be in.
Please Note: If you are currently in a relationship that is emotionally, physically or sexually abusive, it can be very dangerous to leave right away without a plan or other people knowing. If this is your situation, and you want information on how to safely leave, please call the National Abuse Hotline at 1800-799-SAFE (7233) or if you are in Louisville or the surrounding areas call Center for Women and Families 24 hour crisis line at (502) 581-7222. You can find resources at the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association (KDVA) at http://www.kdva.org/victim_services/kydvcenter.html , however please delete this website from your browser after viewing for your safety.
When I am working with a client for the first time one of two things happens. Either they can link their current level of stress and anxiety to one particular event or time in their life or they say, “I have always been really anxious.” Well that raises a pretty important question: What is anxiety?
Dictionary.com says anxiety is: “distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune.”
When we move a bit deeper than that we find that anxiety is rooted in the past or in the future. The mind is racing over something that has already happened, worried about what that means for the future or the brain is worried about what might happen in the future. An anxious brain is a brain that lives in the past or lives in the future, but never in the present.
Anxiety is also learned. Did you know that? People are only born with two fears:
Both of those are biological instincts designed to keep you alive. Imagine modern society’s primitive ancestors – loud noises could be a predator or some other red flag for imminent doom. Not good for the caveman = natural fear. Falling could also mean certain death. Also, not good for the caveman = natural fear.
So why is there this intense fear and anxiety over things like being late on a deadline? Over not having the perfect dinner prepared? Over having open conversations with the people around us? We all learn our fears. To this day you will not, and I mean never in any circumstance, convince me to put my body in water where I cannot touch the bottom. Will never happen. I was not born with the fear of water but somewhere along the line (or maybe with one too many Jaws movies) I learned that water meant certain death.
What are your learned fears? Learned expressions of anxiety? (Hint: anything you fear that is not falling or a loud noise) Please know that I am not saying that many of our fears are not in some way designed to protect us. All of our stress responses served a legitimate, positive purpose at one time, but somewhere along the line the stress and fear overwhelmed the brain and the nervous system and became anxiety instead of being that live-savor. More on that later, but for now, know your stressor, the triggers for you anxiety and start making a plan for how to regain control over your stress!
What fears did you learn and how are you conquering them today?