As children, we come into this crazy, chaotic and inherently wonderful world as clean slates. Unless we are born into abusive circumstances, alcoholism, etc., we start out with a pretty good opinion of ourselves. We’re willing to try things. If we’re readers, we develop an imagination that can take us to fabulous places. The one thing we lack is the ability to interpret events and remarks made by other people. How could we know that interpretation is subjective, when we haven’t had time to build the psychological underpinnings that will allow us to fly our personal magic carpets competently, and in the directions we want to go?
Then, one pivotal day, somebody does or says something that shakes our heretofore supreme confidence in our right to inhabit this body, this space, this time and place. Maybe it’s Mom–we have no way of knowing that she’s suffering from PMS, or can’t see how she’s going to pay the light bill. We’re too noisy, or too something, and she says, “You’re a bad girl.” She doesn’t mean it, but we’re small and our slate is bare and we’re so very literal, being children. So we pick up an internal piece of chalk and write, “Bad Girl.” You see where I’m going with this. We start recording impressions like this, good and bad, garnered from parents, teachers, siblings, playmates and our religious training. (Lots of us write “Born Sinner” here.) Not to mention the inevitable comparisons we make between ourselves and others, as the perception of ourselves as separate human beings takes hold. And the process really picks up speed when we hit adolescence. We inscribe words like “Smart”, then, and “Funny”. But we also write, “Fat.” “Stupid”. “Confused.”
In time, the process becomes almost totally unconscious. We really believe what’s written on that internal blackboard.
That’s the bad news. Here’s the good:
WE CAN CHANGE IT.
We can look at that blackboard and erase the bad stuff. Pick up a fresh piece of chalk, in whatever color we choose, and write something new.
I hear you. “But it’s true!” you cry. “I AM fat, stupid, confused—” (You fill in the blanks.)
Is it? Or are you still believing an interpretation you made when you were seven, or thirteen, or thirty-two? And if you are, for instance, fat, is it because you’re cursed, or because you wrote that on your blackboard and lived by the choice? And who gets to decide how a body should be shaped, anyway? The media? Fashion designers? The patriarchy? (Oh, the suspects are legion, but only YOU have the right to define your body or your personhood. Don’t give it away.)
Take a look at that blackboard.
Take a very good look. It’s a template for your entire life. It’s the rulebook you’ve been living by, and it might be time to change the rules.
Let’s make them up as we go along, just for fun. Just because they’re OUR rules, and we can if we want to.
We DO want to, don’t we?
We do want to take back our power. We do want to plant our feet and say, “This is who I am. This is where I stand, and what I stand for. Deal with it, World. We women are SO back.”