Day 23: Stone Cold Crazy

Authors Note:  This is the 23rd and final 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.

I think that most of you who know me even a little bit could have called that this would be the one I addressed last in the series.  Here’s the entry:

14. Fearing the label “crazy.” There is no easier way to discredit a woman’s opinion or feelings than to accuse her of being overly emotional. “I don’t think this idea that women are ‘crazy,’ is based in some sort of massive conspiracy,” wrote author Yashar Ali in a blog for The Huffington Post in 2011. “Rather, I believe it’s connected to the slow and steady drumbeat of women being undermined and dismissed, on a daily basis.” Being scared of the label only encourages women to silence themselves. Plus, everyone has a little bit of crazy inside of them — regardless of gender.

You know we’ve all faced that moment.  You are passionate about a subject.  In fact, it’s one that you truly champion and feel is part of your value system.  And then, you’re in a debate where you have to defend your opinion about the subject.  You become either direct or animated in your respond, and then – you hear this:

“Geez.  Calm down.  You don’t have to freak out about it.  You know I’m just teasing you.  No need to get crazy.”

In that one moment – you have been devalued, belittled and dismissed.  I don’t care what that person says – they are shutting you down.  You’ve been labeled as crazy.

No matter how you slice it, the term “crazy” is never used in a positive light.  Even if you’re talking about someone who is the life of the party and you say, “Wow, that Sarah, she’s just crazy!”, you’re still expressing concern or confusion about Sarah’s antics and/or behavior.  Take this into the professional realm, and when others in a meeting or on a project team call your ideas “crazy”, they’re labeling you as well.

“Crazy” means your ideas don’t matter.  “Crazy” means you are “less than” others in the group.  “Crazy” means you are too emotional, too irrational, or that someone simply doesn’t like your ideas, so you are dismissed.  “Crazy” means you are not normal.

Take this entry from Harris O’Malley’s blog entitled “On Labeling Women ‘Crazy’“:

“Crazy” Women

The association between women’s behavior and being labeled “crazy” has a long and infamous history in Western culture. The word “hysteria” — defined as “behavior exhibiting excessive or uncontrollable emotion, such as fear or panic” — is derived from the ancient Greek word “hystera,” meaning uterus. Until the early 20th century, female hysteria was the official medical diagnosis for a truly massive array of symptoms in women including but not limited to: loss of appetite, nervousness, irritability, fluid retention, emotional excitability, outbursts of negativity, excessive sexual desire and “a tendency to cause trouble.”

(Worth noting: much of the blame for “female hysteria” was placed on “wandering uterus syndrome” or other sexual “dysfunctions.” While this did eventually lead to the invention of the vibrator, one of the common cures was a clitorectomy.)

While some of the symptoms of “female hysteria” could be signs of legitimate (if misdiagnosed) mental health issues, most of it described male (as the medical field was a men-only profession up until the mid-19th century) discomfort with women’s behavior and sexuality. Calling it a medical issue meant that men didn’t have to respond to behavior that challenged male sensibilities or belief structures. Instead, labeling women as “hysterical” made it much easier to diminish women’s concerns and issues without having to pause to consider them as possibly being valid.

At it’s core, this term – “crazy” – is used to put women in our historic place – as hysterical, irrational “things” that are beneath the majority.  Men often throw this word around, as O’Malley states, without thinking about the consequences.  And women who have been socialized to internalize this type of “opinion shaming”, all too frequently dismiss the label as “no big deal”.

Well – it is a big deal.  How many of us would want our daughters/sisters/mothers/aunts/nieces/friends labeled as “crazy” simply for stating their opinions or expressing their ideas?  I know I wouldn’t, and I certainly don’t appreciate being dismissed in the fashion I describe above.  The sad thing is, that it continues to happen to this day – and it’s not simply other men that are brandishing the label.  Rather, other WOMEN are using this to describe their colleagues – largely out of insecurity and/or fear.

Stop it.

The next time you are tempted to call another woman crazy – stop.  It’s damaging, and it’s no less hurtful than calling her stupid, unworthy, or ignorant.  We cannot allow ourselves to damage each other in this way.  Men – call us out when we do it – but hold yourselves accountable, too.  If you are tempted to call a woman crazy – consider the why behind it.  Try and think of another – more accurate way – to describe the statement and/or idea.  Perhaps, “I’m not comfortable with your idea there.  Can you explain it a bit more?” is a better approach than simply saying, “You’re crazy.  You have no idea what you are talking about.”  The first approach is more inquisitive and invites debate.  The second shuts the person down, and labels them as stupid.

In the end – it’s no contest.  Kill the crazy label – end of discussion.  Use your words – but use the right ones.

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Day 10: You > Me?

Authors Note:  This is the tenth 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.

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Comparison is a killer – and when we compare our own real lives to someone else’s life on social media, we will always lose.  Consider this entry from the post:

8. Comparing your real life to someone else’s virtual one. Spending a ton of time obsessing over your own online life can be anxiety-provoking — but so can obsessing over other peoples’ virtual personas. Research has shown that Facebook addiction is correlated with lower self-esteem. And who wouldn’t feel bad sitting in bed on a Monday night scrolling through your ex’s vacation photo album or the enthusiastic statuses your friend in the fashion industry posted during a celeb-filled party? Instead of playing a constant game of comparison, which studies have shown can actually magnify feelings of depression, just close your laptop and enjoy the present. At least it’s real.

What a powerful message – and one that (again) women largely ignore.  You know what I mean – you look at some of your friends Facebook or Twitter feeds – and its full of amazing pictures of them doing amazing things, talking about their latest promotion, their kids awards, their family traditions, their fitness triumphs and their amazing new publication/car/award/outfit/etc.  Immediately you begin to feel bad.  Little messages begin to play in your head, “Why can’t I get (insert thing or honor here)?”,  “Is my job good enough? Shouldn’t I have a different role by now?”, “Their family looks so happy, how come mine isn’t that happy?” and even “I wish my (job, life, career, friends, kids, house, personal record, etc.) was as good as (insert name of amazingly perfect friend).” 

Here’s the bad news – by comparing yourself to others, you classify your life and yourself as “less than”.

Keep this thought close to your heart – just because someone didn’t tweet about something negative, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It doesn’t make them better than you, or you worse than them.  Maybe they are having a hard time dealing with a situation, and choose to keep that private.  Perhaps they are in denial about hardships in their own lives, and are using social media as a way to keep an image of their lives they truly want.  Or maybe still, they simply want to share joyful moments to keep things in a positive frame.

I get it, I really do. I don’t really have the luxury to shut off social media at some points during the year, so there are times that I will do things for my own psychological self-preservation.  I have some friends on social media who enjoy sharing about their accomplishments and successes.  I do celebrate them – I love it when people succeed and are excited about it – but I’m also a realist.  Sometimes, I have to own that I am simply not in the headspace to see/hear/read the Facebook announcement – and then get notified every single time someone likes and/or comments about it – and react positively.  I am human, after all.

Blissfully, there are tools on social media that can help.  I have hidden specific posts before, turned off additional notifications, or blocked someone’s feed for a short time.  These actions allow me to come to grips with my own demons (and we all have them) before I jump back in and publicly embrace their success.  Perhaps you feel this is petty; perhaps you don’t. However, it’s worked wonders for me, and allows me to be a better friend, family member and colleague.  I love my peeps – but I love my own wellbeing, too.  By using these tools I’ve found ways to be peaceful, supportive and celebrative of both others and of me.

To sum it up – continually comparing yourself to others is emotional and psychological death.  Enjoy who you are, celebrate your successes, deal with your crap, get to know yourself again, and celebrate the success of others in ways that are meaningful (and healthy) for you.

Now go post your success on Facebook!  Trust me – you’re pretty cool. 🙂