Day 20: The Big Chill

Time to embrace who we really are, ladies.  Consider this post this evening:

13. Trying to be “chill.” Maybe you truly are the “cool girl” who loves nothing more than kicking back with a six-pack and a movie. But for those of us who don’t possess the “chill” gene, let’s stop trying. Striving to be the mellow girl at all times keeps us from expressing our needs, desires and opinions.

Look – I get it.  You meet new people – you want to be the “best you” you can be.  So you start to gloss over things that bother you.  You overlook things you normally wouldn’t.  You go along with the group to do something that you normally would immediately say “no” to.  If you’re in a new relationship – magnify this times about a thousand.  I know some of you out there don’t do this – but the reality is that most women do.

We’ve been socialized our whole lives to be what others want us to be.  When we were small, we lived for the “good girl” moments – those times when we were praised for doing exactly what our parents or other authority figures wanted us to do.  These rewards sustained us – and for many of us – they still do.  Many times, we go along with what is expected out of fear.  “Will I ever find another (job, partner, opportunity) like this again?  If I don’t – what will I do?  It would be better to just go along with it – it’ll all work out better this way.”

Sound familiar?

I fall victim to this all too often – and when I do, it really makes me angry.  Just today, I actually asked my husband for permission to buy something.  For those of you who know me – you know this is NOT normal – but it just fell out of my mouth like I was asking about the weather.  I fell into that damned people-pleasing trap that I had been encouraged to stay in my entire life.  Blissfully my husband gave me this incredulous look like, “Who are you and what have you done with my wife?!?”  I immediately realized what I had done, and it left me cold.

I can tell you for a fact the primary reason that my first marriage did not work is because I played the “chill” or “good” girl. I followed what I thought I was supposed to be, liked what others liked, did what I thought my first partner expected, shut my opinion down, and  as a result I completely lost sight of myself, my needs and what I really wanted.  I talked a great talk (I seriously should have gone into acting) – I said I wanted kids, that I wanted a house, that I wanted all of the “normal” things every woman “should want” in a marriage, family, community, etc.  For a while, I thought I was supposed to want these things – and so I began to believe that I truly did.  But something was always wrong for me.  And finally, one day I figured it out.

I was trying so hard to fit the definition of what others wanted me to be, that I completely lost sight of myself.

It was a chilling moment for me – and one that I still fight every day to not repeat – at work, at home, and with friends.  It’s a tough fight.  I have very specific and divisive opinions – and I know that I run the risk of alienating others when I express them.  However, at the end of the day, I realize that if I don’t give voice to my voice – I am not being authentic.  I am not being me.

So make a commitment with me – keep trying to fight off the urge to follow what others want for you instead of what you truly want for yourself. You will face this often – but remember, you are in ultimate control of how you respond and what you choose. You have to be honest with yourself in these moments.  But when they come – if you feel uneasy – step away.  Take time to consider your response.  Search who you are and what you believe and then answer and/or make a decision.

Perhaps then you will rediscover yourself, and when you do, keep her close – she’s ridiculously valuable.

Until tomorrow,

JPK

Advertisements

Day: Off

This Christmas – I elect to spend time with my family and not post. For those who celebrate – enjoy this time with family and those you love. If you don’t celebrate – do something that uplifts you in some meaningful way.

Enjoy the day – and we’ll be back tomorrow.

JPK

Day 18.5 and 19.5: The (se)X Factor

We have one more thing to cover regarding the two previous posts, hence the next .5 entries. There’s a third party at play when it comes to the sexualization of women. There’s you, there’s other people, and then there’s the (se)X Factor – the media.

It is no secret that girls are sexualized at a very young age. Don’t believe me? Check out this report from the American Psychological Association on the sexualization of girls. The report clearly shows how the over-sexualized images in the media, marketing, advertising and entertainment venues – including toys and toy distributors – causes negative consequences in the following ways:

* Cognitive and Emotional Consequences
* Mental and Physical Health
* Sexuality
* Attitudes and Beliefs, and
* Impact on Others and on Society

So what can we do about it? The media, fashion, entertainment and marketing industries are so huge – and any change to their winning formula will meet with significant resistance. Remember the following quote:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

With this in mind – the first thing you can do is boycott any product or service that sexualized girls. Stop buying the Barbies. Don’t watch “Dance Moms” and boycott any items that advertise on this or other shows like it. These small steps send a message and hit these industries where it hurts. Secondly – take a public stand whenever you can against this practice – at your kids’ schools, locally or even on the national or international stage. Third – examine your own practices and check your language, attitudes and behaviors to ensure you aren’t perpetuating any stereotypes on your own.

We have to stop this cycle, or this will continue to oppress, stereotype and hold back our girls. I’m not willing to sit back and let that happen without a fight.

Are you?

Day 19: It’s My Business

Yep – it’s time to look at yourself again.  Here we go:

12. Judging your own sex life. No one needs to know your “number.” And honestly, you probably care a whole lot more about what the sex you’re having (or not having) supposedly says about you than anyone else does.

Yesterday, I discussed the post about judging other people’s sex lives.  Now we’ll talk about judging our own.  

Remember high school (okay – for those of you for whom high school was a traumatic experience, we’ll wait for you to climb out from underneath your couch)?  Remember all of the judging of others’ intimate activities?  Did she or didn’t she?  Words like, “slut”, “prude”, “whore”, “tease”, “goody two shoes”, and far more slanderous terms were thrown around to describe classmates’ sexual activity.

Remember the toll all of this gossip and back-biting took on you, and how you began to view your own intimate or sexual (or lack thereof) activity?  Think about the endless amount of worrying you did about whether or not you were “on par” with other girls in your school.  Think about the questions you would ask yourself (or secretly talk to your best friend about) concerning whether or not you “should or you shouldn’t”.  And remember the embarrassment your would feel when others at school would start to call you names, or tease you?

I bet you felt less-than.  I bet you felt confused.  I bet you felt as if you were doing something wrong, even if you weren’t doing anything at all.  And I bet you thought there was something wrong with you.  I know I did.

I remember a time when a group of girls in high school were asking me about my “first time”.  I didn’t know what to say.  I hadn’t had a “first time” yet, but was scared to say so for fear of being made fun of.  So I used my typical defense mechanism – I made some wise crack and deflected the conversation away from me and on to something else.  Later on that night, I remember feeling self-conscious, confused, and really badly about myself – and I had absolutely no reason to.

First of all – there wasn’t anything wrong with me then – and there’s nothing wrong with me now.  Women tend to get hit with this “pressure” and “double standard” throughout their lives, and we are judged more severely for our intimate activities than our male colleagues.  While men are pressured to talk about their sexual encounters – women are negatively perceived should we choose to have them.  

I think this post on the list truly is one of empowerment.  The business of your sex life is just that – YOURS.  If you choose to share – then that’s your choice.  If you choose not to – that’s your choice, too.  We make our choices, and reach our own comfort level with intimacy when we want to.  If you really think there’s a problem, then you reach that conclusion and there are others who can help you.  But at the end of the day – it’s your life.  You are empowered to be who you want to be – both in and outside of the proverbial bedroom.  

On that last note, if your own personal Regina George has an issue with it – hit her with a bus (just make it a small, Tonka-toy-sized bus.  That’s less lethal).  Just make sure to have big hair – so you can keep your secrets in it.

Until tomorrow,

JPK

Day 18: Let’s Talk About Sex

Time for a little Salt-n-Pepa moment:

11. Judging other women’s sex lives. No woman deserves to be put down for who she sleeps with, how many people she sleeps with or how she chooses to express her sexuality. Next time you’re about to call another woman a “prude” or a “slut” just zip your lips. Even Miley Cyrus and her twerking shouldn’t be slut-shamed.

When it comes to the subject of sex – we are often simultaneously self-righteous and self-conscious.  On the one hand, we won’t talk about sex because it makes us feel uncomfortable. “That’s a private matter” we say in our own heads, all the while squirming in our chairs and outwardly giggling like goofballs.  On the other hand, when we look at other people being sexual in a manner that is different from our own, or talking about their own sex lives, or acting out their own sensuality in their own way, we default to judgement mode, at which point we begin censoring people and intentionally trying to make them feel as if they are doing something “wrong”.

Wrong according to whom?  You?  Some general “moral code” out there?  For those of you unfamiliar with slut-shaming – check out this link.  In general, slut-shaming is the act of making anyone feel guilty or inferior for having certain sexual desires or behaviors that differ from traditional gender expectations.  I don’t know about you, but that seems pretty subjective to me.  What is traditional?  How is your sexual behavior or desire any “better” or “more right” than mine?  And whose morals are we talking about ?

I’m right there with you.  This is not a subject that is comfortable to discuss, and anything that seems strange or weird makes me feel weird and sometimes uncomfortable.  But guess what?  That’s my issue – not anyone else’s.  Miley Cyrus?  Yep – that business on the MTV Video Music Awards was really uncomfortable for me to watch.  So was Robin Thicke’s performance – but if I’m being honest – I was more uncomfortable watching Miley.  The difference is that Miley’s a woman – so she gets held to a different standard that Robin, who continues to sing about women in his misogynistic, sexist way – and unfortunately I fall victim to the double-standard as it’s been reinforced in me for a very long time (thanks so much, society).  It’s something I have to continually work on – and it’s not easy.

Long story short – if you find yourself feeling this way – it’s more about you than it is about them.  Stop for a moment and think about the why behind your reaction.  Are you uncomfortable?  Think about the “why” behind your comfort level.  Are you angry?  Try and think about why you might be angry.  Are you with your child and she’s asking questions about something she sees?  Chances are you’re probably anxious.  Simply by pausing before responding, and reflecting on why you feel the way you do, might help stop you from saying something you may later regret.

Everybody has different sexual desires – and who are we to judge if they are “right” or “moral” or “appropriate”?  I doubt you want someone judging your own behaviors – I know I wouldn’t.

Day 17: Albatross or Songbird

ImageAuthors Note:  This is the 17th entry in a 23 part series – my reactions to each item on the post 23 Things Every Woman Should Stop Doing.  Please join the conversation.

It’s time to talk about relationships that run the course, cycle out, or simply fade away.   Consider this post today:

20. Holding on to toxic friendships. Banish any Regina George-like frenemies from your life ASAP. Life is too short to waste time with people who make you feel like crap.

Let’s start with this.  You are important.  Your opinions and values are important.  And your self-worth and self-concept are important.

Now – let’s move on to this.  You are a person.  People grow and change as they mature.  Think about yourself at age 10.  Were you the same at 10 as you were at 16?  Did you need the same things, like the same things, or have the same self-concept at 10 as you did 16?  What about at age 25?  30?  35?  50?  60?  Do you have the same skills? Are your interests the same?  Do you need to be challenged in the same way?

And finally – are you different now than you were then?

I’m going to guess that the answer to these questions moves in the direction that you are different now than you were when you were younger.  I bet you like some different things, and that you live in a different way.  I’m also going to guess that you would really like to surround yourself with people who make you better, and stronger, and more fulfilled.

However, I’m also going to guess that you have at least one relationship you may be hanging on to purely out of obligation, out of habit, or possibly out of fear.

Please know, I’m not talking about those people that you cherish and that you’ve known since childhood.  Many of these folks in our lives help keep us grounded in a way that connects us to our youth and our beginning.  My sisters and some key friends from high school and college are prime examples of this (Cherie, Stephanie, Sarah, Renee, Tiffany, Shannon, Ed, Alison, Sue, and many others play this role for me).  They knew me when I was very young, and they know me now.  They know my core – and they know when I’m not being true to that core.

However, there are those in our lives that we simply outgrow.  You know who I mean – and I bet you have a few in your lives now.  These are the people that when you interact with them leave you drained and exhausted.  These are the people you have to gear yourself up to talk to, instead of being excited about hearing their voices.  These are the people that when you are in town, you secretly hope won’t find out you’re around so you don’t “have to see them”.  These are also the people you stay connected with on social media that do not add value to your experience; rather, they detract and frustrate you (beyond academic or cognitive discourse) and make your life a more negative space.  Finally, these are often the people who are not supportive, and who passive-aggresively (or sometimes overtly) tear you down in order to make themselves feel better.

I’m telling you to let them go – and let them go now.

You may know the saying – “People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.”  What I take from this quote is that each relationship is different – and has a different purpose.  You will always have people who stay with you for a long time – for a lifetime, even.  You will also have people who stay with you (and with whom you stay) for a short while, or a season.  And you will have still others who are part of your life for some purpose – to teach you something, for you to assist, or for you to better understand – and then this relationship is over.  The season and reason category sometimes are the ones we hang onto far too long.

Remember that we learn about ourselves through all relationships – positive and negative.  If we hold onto those negative relationships – we do nothing but stunt our own growth and close ourselves off from new, more nurturing and possibly the life-long relationships we crave (and need).  So think about your current relationships.  Are there ones that need to go?  Let them go.  Are there ones that need to be nourished because they really are for a lifetime?  Feed them.  And are there ones that have simply run the course of a season?  Then acknowledge the gift of their time and their lessons, and move on.

As I said in the beginning, you are important.  Your opinions and values are important.  Your self-worth and self-concept are important.  And you deserve to be surrounded by those who understand this – and to whom you give this same gift of understanding.

Release the albatrosses, and live with the songbirds, for these are the friends who truly make your heart sing.

Day 16: Making God Laugh

You know the old saying – if you want to make God laugh – have a plan.

Here’s our post for today:

23. Setting deadlines for major life events. Don’t try to meticulously plan out when you should find love or have babies or get that dream job or buy that amazing brownstone. Enjoy the uncertainty of life and allow yourself to be overjoyed when you hit those milestones or pleasantly surprised when you realize you want to skip out on some of them altogether.

I mean, really.  When do our lives really run like clockwork?  I know – some days it all seems to work out beautifully.  Even when you drop a dish, you catch it with your foot effortlessly.  But we all know those days are few and far between.

I’m a planner – almost to a fault.  And almost without fail, life’s little speed bumps get in the way.  Here’s a prime example.  Many of you know I’ve started running again.  My goal was to run the marathon this past October in Chicago.  I started running again this past April.

I hadn’t run in a long time.

Well – what a shock – my 42-year-old body had other ideas.  I pushed it too hard to meet my deadline, and I hurt myself.  Tendonitis in my feet, IT band issues, calf problems, lower back issues, etc., all resulted from my irrational need to “meet that deadline”.  It was ridiculous!

I made a decision in July to just stop it, and slow it back down.  I started to build back up to an appropriate pace, reached out to others for advice, and ran a 10K in September with Amber Garrison-Duncan and Valerie Heruska (which was wicked-fun, I might add).  I did well – finished the race – but I listened to my body during training and actually dropped down from a half-marathon to the 10K for that race because I wasn’t ready.  My body was telling me to slow down, so I did.  I may never finish that marathon – but I’ll keep running (well, once my stress fracture in my toe heals, I’ll keep running!).  If I stop – then I know I’ll never get there.

I see this as a metaphor for planning out your life.  No one has the same time table, just like nobody has the same training schedule.  You can’t know when you’ll have a baby (if you want to), when you’ll find that dream job (if you want them), or when that SUPER AWESOME AMAZING THING will come your way.  The best we can do is prepare ourselves for the opportunity, and enjoy the journey.  Becoming okay with the unknown will make that journey truly fabulous – and you’ll discover some hidden gem experiences along the way.

What are your thoughts?  How do you balance planning with life’s journey and the discovery of amazing unknowns?