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You may have noticed I've been on a bit of a mission lately. I'm determined to help women get out of their own way by encouraging them to discover, appreciate, and celebrate their own greatness. And what makes a great woman, exactly? A great woman, to me, is a woman with more dimension than the typical female character in a low-fat yogurt commercial. You know the character I'm talking about, right? She is obsessed with her body and weight. She and her friends act like a pie-flavored yogurt is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to them. They are very concerned about the way the men in their lives perceive them: Does he think she's thin enough? Does eating this yogurt make her look sexy? They seem to have no goals beyond consuming yogurt in 100-calorie controlled portions and they equate a lithe body with life satisfaction.
Meanwhile, in the real world ...
Last night my husband and I watched a movie that was beautifully acted about a woman trying to convince her coworkers to vote to keep her position at work, knowing they all have the option of letting her go and receiving a bonus instead. The character is coming out of a deep depression and she's clearly exhausted. She can't muster the energy to stand up and fight for herself, so throughout the movie her husband gives her pep talks and tries to convince her that this is a cause worth fighting for. She spends large chunks of the movie balled up in the fetal position or timidly stating her case to her coworkers and quickly taking their "Nope, sorry" responses as the final answer, apologizing for bothering to fight for her own job when of course, of course they'd want the bonus instead.
Man, this was a painful movie to watch. This was a clearly bright woman. Beautiful. She had the supportive of a loving husband. She was raising two healthy children. Her friends rallied around her. She was obviously capable of performing her job. And yet, she was so willing and ready to accept the story that she was worthless. She was so ready to give up the fight without even trying. She assumed everyone pitied her and so she viewed herself as pathetic, too. At some point in her life she heard a story about herself and the story went that she was a bad wife, mother, and employee. She chose to believe in this story even when everyone around her was telling her she was worth more.
I've been there, guys. I really have. I've been through years upon years of thinking I was less-than. But now that I'm on the other side of that, it exhausts me to see people still going through it. I felt physically drained by the end of the movie.
"Stand up and fight for yourself!" I wanted to scream.
But I couldn't scream because it was a movie and she was a character and that would be ridiculous. Also, screaming never works. So here's what I'm doing instead: In the gentlest, most loving way possible, I'm trying to remind women every day that they are worth something. They are strong. They are capable. They are beautiful. They are resilient. They are worthy of love. They are worthy of satisfaction. They are worthy of joy. They are worthy of everything.
YOU ARE WORTHY OF EVERYTHING. I don't mean that you WILL be worthy of everything once you lose ten pounds or get a job. I mean that you are worthy of everything right now, no matter what size your body, no matter what you look like, no matter what skill sets you bring to the table, no matter your circumstances. YOU ARE WORTHY OF EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW.
You, low-fat yogurt commercial lady. You deserve to experience true joy. Not I-Just-Ate-Cherry-Flavored-Yogurt-And-It-Only-Cost-Me-100-Calories joy. True joy. I'm talking about the kind of joy you feel when you love the person you're with so much, you kiss him on a crowded street and feel like you're the only people there. I'm talking about the kind of joy you feel when you read a passage in a book and feel like it was written just for you. The kind of joy you feel when you see a painting that takes your breath away or a baby cradles his head against your chest or you take your shoes off on the first sunny day of the year and feel the blades of grass against your toes. I'm talking about the kind of joy you can only experience when you're really living a life — not a screen life, not a social media life, but a life. You're worth so much more than a 100-calorie cup of yogurt, I promise you.
You, lady too tired to fight for her job. You deserve joy, too. So stand up. Take a hot shower. Get dressed. Write yourself a new story. Tell all those men and women that you understand they'll lose their bonuses but they'll survive; meanwhile you're not asking for a bonus but just the job itself. Appeal to their sense of humanity. Let them know you're willing to fight. Fight to be alive. Refuse to go through life numb.
You, woman who hates her body. You, lady who's constantly apologizing for everything at work. You, woman who screwed up AGAIN — you just have no self-control, do you? You, lady who's afraid of her own ambition and you, woman who assumes she'll never be able to accomplish her goals. All of you, all of you: Listen. You're worthy of everything. Not IF you ... Not WHEN you ... You're worthy of everything right now. You're not worthless. The story you're telling yourself about being worthless is worthless. Write a new damn story.
Decide today — not tomorrow and not next week, but to-fucking-day — to become a badass lady. Stop assuming only other ladies can be badass ladies. Stop assuming anything at all. Instead believe this: You already have everything you need. Maybe for good measure, say it one more time: You already have everything you need. JUST TO CLARIFY: YOU ALREADY HAVE EVERYTHING YOU NEED. You don't need to look different. You don't need to be different. You just need to believe in yourself. Stop apologizing for yourself. You don't owe anyone anything. Refuse to believe any of the weird societal stories we're told about how women are supposed to look and behave. Women can look and behave ANY way they want to. We are not confined to a cup of yogurt as our primary source of joy. We are not required to look in the mirror and hate what we see. It is not a prerequisite for womanhood that we devote a certain amount of time to talking about all the things about us that are bad or wrong, whether it was eating too many cookies last night or being too ambitious at work. We're allowed to toss all that bullshit aside and concentrate our energy instead on cultivating and appreciating our own fabulousness.
Here's what I want to lay to rest: the story of the weak woman. The story of the bodily obsessed woman. The story of the woman who aspires for nothing that isn't related to a man in her life. The story of women as inferior. The story of women as passive. The story of women letting their lives happen to them instead of deciding to have a say.
Here's what I'm interested in instead: the story of the badass woman. The one who gets up in the morning and says, "Yup, I've got this." The one who's probably been told by either real people or voices in her head that she won't accomplish her goals but opts to say screw it and chase after them anyway. The one who's not making excuses. The one who's not making apologies. The one who refuses to be anything but authentic. The one who knows that striving for perfection is boring and chooses instead to strive for whatever goals happen to make her particular heart sing.
I don't think I can sit through another two-hour movie of a woman curled up in a ball, afraid of life. I don't think I can even sit through another 30-second commercial of a woman pretending the discovery of a container of yogurt at the back of the fridge is the best thing that will happen all week. I've been watching this movie, seeing this commercial, and hearing this story for too long. It's no longer interesting to me. The story of the badass woman, however, will never cease to be interesting.
Coming soon on this blog, I'm going to be featuring some badass ladies who inspire the crap out of me. I hope you'll join me because I know you'll be inspired, too. Until then, while you're waiting, do me a favor and do something to inspire yourself. Don't wait for someone to do it for you. In fact, just don't wait for anything ever again. Waiting is such an old tale, but we've got a new story to tell.