1. Stop the shit-talking.
Is it really necessary to bash other women? Don’t we have it hard enough as females on this earth? It is so easy to say mean, spiteful things about other women who have done us wrong, who have hurt us, or are even just walking down the street. Why do we do this? I know you have done it. I have done it too. We see a woman running down the street and we find something terrible to say about her form, her body, her anything. In reality, we should be saying, “Damn girl. Keep running.” As women, we must begin to empower the other women around us. We really are in this together and we have fought long and hard for our place in this world. Let’s make our foremothers proud. We don’t need to be holding picket signs protesting for our rights to be a woman who is fighting for the strength of the next generation. So from now on, when you see a woman off her ass and running, don’t be jealous because you didn’t make it to the gym that day, send her good energy and be proud of her.
2. Be a woman young girls can look up to.
Ever since my two little (not so little any more) cousins were born, I always think about what they would think or feel about whatever action I take. How I would feel if they did the very same. I am lucky to have quite a few younger women in my life that I value and respect and I want them to know I have my shit together and I am proud of the choices I have made. I want the young girls who take the train with me in the morning to see me and know that I am respectable and dress appropriately for a 27-year-old. I want them to see that I talk to the people I am riding with and those around me with respect using language that is suitable for being in a public place. I want young women to see me and know that I am proud of myself, proud of being a woman and that they can come talk to me about the crap we go through in life as women. I want to radiate the powerful knowledge that integrity and authenticity always win. I want to help younger women remember that we have to earn the respect we get from others. We can start earning that any time now.
3. Respect where other women are on their own journey.
I recently found myself comparing my path to the path of a woman with whom I went to undergrad six years ago. We have the same undergraduate degree and I even went to grad school. Yet, she is working in a corporate office logging 60+ hours a week and making more money than I have seen in my life. Is she happy? Maybe. I hope so. But I wouldn’t be happy there. I know where I am right now is where I am supposed to be. I know that I am developing and growing in ways at 27 that I have never even believed could happen before. I know I am happy each day and ready for any challenges that come my way. This goes tenfold for comparing your relationships to those of other women. Relationships are a significant part of our journey. By this time in my life, I have recognized and realized that no relationship will be the same as the last and I am in no place to judge someone else’s relationship either. Your relationship with your partner is yours and yours alone. Where you are is right where you need to be with the one you love. And where that woman over there is in her relationship, even if you think it’s wrong, is perfectly right for her. Let’s be clear here however, when you see something actually not okay, something that hurts your gut or you know is dangerous or unhealthy, speak up. That, my friends, is a whole different ball game.
4. Understand what it means to be a feminist.
Part of my undergraduate education was focused on women’s studies. This was one of the best choices I ever made. I learned a lot about myself in these classes. Thanks to a lot of stellar female colleagues and incredible professors, I also learned a lot about feminism, where it came from and where feminist theory is headed. Feminists don’t hate men. In fact, it is just the opposite. Feminism defined is the belief that women and men should have equal rights. Powerful women like Mary Wollstonecraft, Audre Lorde (not the singer, damn it), Gloria Steinem and on and on were crusaders in the fight for equal rights for women. Yet women and men alike have challenged this and made feminism a negative word that puts feminists in this group of women who are anti-men, anti-shaving, pants-wearing, unattractive humans that no one can connect to on a neutral plane. This is full of inaccuracies. I am a self declared feminist. I want equal rights for women on all kinds of levels, but I also love my boyfriend, enjoy the results of regular waxing, rock dresses whenever I can and surely appreciate both inner and outer beauty. Feminists want more. They don’t want gender roles to define what we can and cannot do as women. We want more for everyone, not just women.
5. Really love your body.
I remember so many mean things that were said to me about my body when I was younger. They stick with you and torment you. Girls are so vulnerable for so many of their formative years. At 27, I am in the best shape of my life. I practice yoga more days than not, I eat healthy (I definitely cheat, no one is perfect and no one can take away my cravings for fries and sweets) and I love my body. Yet I still struggle. I still find myself comparing my curves to the curves of other women, the size on my dress to the size on hers. I still find myself talking poorly about my body. You get the point. However, I also know the importance of taking care of myself and I know this outweighs the aforementioned negative crap talk. I know that when I am practicing yoga multiple days a week, I need to eat more. I know that when I don’t make it to a practice, I am still okay. It is time for us, as women, to take control of our bodies. Be proud of what you have. Take care of it. Feed it when it is hungry and work it hard when you can. Most of all, love it wholly, every part of it.
6. Learn how to be alone.
This is a tough one. We all struggle with this. But we hear about it all the time. This does not mean constantly keeping people on the back burner, holding old flames around for the hell of it, or sort-of-dating people. It means being alone, really unattached. We all need to do this. We need to freshly go into any new relationship. Not go from one relationship to the next. There is not a set time on how long this has to last. Once you are there, you will know how much time you need. But give yourself time. I know lots of women who have never had this. Women who have never genuinely been alone. Women who when asked if they were single nodded their heads sharing a timid yes, but knew they could contact any number of men to keep them company later that night. I valued this time as a woman deeply. I went into my current, strongest relationship with a clean slate. One that had just been whitewashed with new hobbies, old friends, new friends, travel, and a lot of books. One that did not involve men, especially did not involve boys and absolutely did not involve wasted time on people who did not deserve me. It was during this time that I found out what I was actually waiting for, what was going to be worthwhile, and what I deeply desired. It was here that I learned how to dive into a new space and person will a full heart ready to love and be loved. It was here I truly found me.
7. Be direct and clear.
We typically know what we want. So say it. You are asked what is wrong. You respond with, “Nothing.” You are asked again. Again, you say, “Nothing.” Then you are an outright asshole because your significant other or anyone else in your life for that matter can’t read your mind. How is this fair to that other person? If you want something to be different, say what you want. This has to be, by far, the most frustrating thing to watch in my own life and in the lives of my other female friends. At some point in our lives we were shut down by someone or something and stopped being honest about what we wanted. There is, however, a disclaimer here. If you aren’t ready to say what you need to say, take a breather. Walk away for a minute until you are ready. Don’t put people through hell being in your presence because you aren’t ready to share what is on your mind. I promise the person you choose to be honest with will get it and will respect that honesty, no matter how long it takes to get out. Occasionally, it takes me quite some time to really figure out what is messing with my head. That’s okay. If honesty pisses someone off, tell them to take a hike.
8. Know how to take a compliment.
When someone says you are beautiful, believe it. When someone tells you that you succeeded at work or in some other endeavor, believe it. None of this bullshit, “No, no, it wasn’t that good” or any of the other crap I hear women say. I am sure you kicked ass and don’t feel comfortable saying how great you were. Get comfortable. Somewhere in the past whatever number of years, women lost some of their confidence. Who knows what happened? I have some ideas, for sure. That’s beside the point. The real point to take away with this one is that we, as women, need to learn to believe kind people when they hand us a compliment, really and truly believe it and thank that person for reminding us how awesome we are.
9. Be proud of yourself.
Understand that it is really cool to be an intellectual. It is pretty fabulous to be really great at something that you do. It is wonderful to succeed in something new you have attempted. You got a new job? Go celebrate. You got into a crazy, bendy new yoga pose? Own it and share it with those you care about. And when someone praises you for that very thing you did great, thank them and keep kicking ass. It is okay to be excited for ourselves. In fact, it is necessary for us to celebrate our own accomplishments. At the end of the day we have to go to bed with ourselves and in the morning it is only us. Be good to yourself and happy for yourself. That is what it’s all about.