It’s exhausting and confusing to be a modern woman. We get lifestyle imperatives hurled at us from every direction — telling us we’re not living our lives correctly, that media outlets are poisoning us and that we need to strike a balance of perfectly chaotic and chaotically perfect at every moment.
But, you know what? We don’t need those little “tips and tricks,” those “perfections every woman should conquer.” Those principles are just repackaged social norms we fight to dismantle anyway.
We are not those women. We don’t need another installment of “how to give him the best sex he’s ever had” — I mean, who are we kidding? Most of those “secret techniques” are just variations of alarming gymnastic poses that should only be attempted by trained professional acrobats. We don’t need more “you’re not beautiful unless you’ve perfected these three entirely irrelevant beauty tricks that will make you look exactly the same.”
We need to learn how to become individuals who live life as we want.
In short, we need to make our own standards. Consider the following five short affirmations to strap on your back and take with you, wherever you go. They’re yours to interpret, to mold, to love, to breathe and to internalize.
It is my decision.
Enough of “I need to do this” and “I need to be that.” That’s not how people operate — independent people, at least. To be a functional, healthy, fulfilled adult, you need to decide what “this” is and what “that” is. That means that you need to develop your own vocabulary to express who you are and who you want to be and then devise your own strategy to become that person.
You’re allowed to make out with someone but not to sleep with him.
You’re allowed to change your mind.
You’re allowed to wear what you want and look how you want.
You’re allowed to decide if you want to take a gap year, go to law school, learn how to make cheesecake for no reason, become a vegetarian or migrate south for the winter (and who doesn’t want to do that?).
The ultimate mark of independence is an acknowledgement of your own self-supportability and your courageous assumption of that responsibility. It’s a chore sometimes — and scary as hell — but it allows you to decide what “this” is. That’s the beauty of independence — it’s your decision.
My body is not a coat hanger.
Stop looking at your legs and only looking for a “thigh gap” or “cankles.” Your body is not a toy — your body is your physical instrument. How could you walk down the street without your boyfriend if you had legs that couldn’t hold you up? How could you breathe in and watch the sunset from a hilltop if your body was too weak to climb to the top of the hill? How could you dance in the moonlight if you weren’t strong enough to stand?
Your body is not a game piece. It’s how you move in the world. Your legs aren’t horrible trunks, they’re the motors propelling you forward, full of muscle and energy and movement. Your body is a miraculously complex composition of muscles and bones. Clothes go on it — they’re not supposed to wither it.
I am not what I eat.
It is never the wrong time of day for chocolate. Or muffins. Or a burger. You’ll be okay.
Other women aren’t objects just as I am not an object.
Stop woman-hate. Period.
Emotions aren’t hysteria.
Last fall, I was diagnosed as Bipolar Type II, meaning that I experience exaggerated emotional undulations that I can neither control nor escape. When I was younger, I’d always assumed that I was crazy, but it turns out, that wasn’t true. I had an illness and I needed to get healthy.
So I began to research emotions and found that they’re not bad — actually, they’re really good because feeling, genuinely feeling, is a beautiful gift. Positive emotions are contagious and allow you to feel life when it’s going well. Negative emotions are crucial, because they are signals that something is wrong.
As I began to work toward understanding my illness, I realized something that changed everything. Eventually, I figured out that the emotions weren’t the problem; the problem was that I hated myself for my emotions. I felt stupid, silly and weak. I was so afraid of becoming "the psycho" that I stuffed my emotions away, refused to assert myself and let myself be mistreated. I thought that my emotions were just hysterical responses to petty provocation, so I ended up in a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship that tore away at my self-respect.
When I emerged from my tiny bubble of self-suppression, I realized how important communication is. And to communicate, I needed to be honest with myself about how I felt and acknowledge when I felt angry, hurt, neglected or offended — even when I felt ridiculous — because otherwise, I'd never be able to be honest. If I had started earlier, I could have saved myself a lot of pain.
You’re not silly because you have emotions and they don’t make you less adequate, dumb or unreliable. Whether it's feeling neglected by a friend with a new boyfriend, feeling threatened by your boyfriend's pretty female friend, feeling angry at your over-protective parents or feeling lost in a brand new world — your emotions are your guide to discovering what's wrong and then fixing it.
Take this from someone who struggles because she has too many emotions — I would not trade them for any kind of intelligence you could offer me. My emotions led me to identify what was wrong — a chemical imbalance in my physical body. And now, I can work on it. The human heart is a source for inexplicable knowledge, the likes of which we cannot fathom with our rational organs; the capacity for feeling is not a shameful weakness, but a magnificent strength that we need to nurture, not suppress.