Are You Your Sisters Keeper?
"Friendship between women is different than friendship between men. ... It’s my women friends that keep starch in my spine and without them, I don’t know where I would be."
— Jane Fonda
I had a moment of serious realization this week. Sitting, having deep conversations with good people, late into the night, after The Kickback Show came to a close. This is not an anomaly, on the contrary, it’s quite the norm, but I engaged in a side conversation that literally altered the perception I have of myself and woke me up with a different mindset.
Let me first say, I am not a boastful person, by any means. Tooting my own horn has never been my jam. I have always maintained an air of humility in everything from my appearance to my work, for better or for worse. I often refer to myself as, “slightly above average,” and I have fully embraced that notion for most of my life. That is, until recently.
I do not take compliments well, in fact, they make me uncomfortable to a certain degree and I often silently question the sincerity behind them. Call me a pessimist, but that is, and has always been, my default. So, when the friend with whom this side conversation occurred began to tell me that she thought I was, “amazing,” I smiled, while internally recoiling, at her words. My mouth said, “thank you,” but my mind said, “she’s just being nice.”
Apparently, my facial expression at that moment matched the thoughts in my head rather than the words coming out of my mouth. She shot me a look that clearly asserted, she wasn’t convinced that I was buying what she was selling. She leaned in, placed her hands firmly on her lap, and said, “you have no idea how incredible you really are, do you?” The quiet intensity behind her words left me without a response. I didn’t know what to say, and my silence answered her question in a way that an audible reply never could. “Wow! You really don’t know!” She said with a significant amount of surprise in her voice and began to run down a list of things she admired about me and told me precisely how and why, she put me on a pedestal. I’ll spare you the details but apparently, I’m pretty damn awesome.
Hearing this, blew me away. I never sat down, especially with another woman (outside of therapy), and discussed…me…especially not how great I am (full disclosure, that feels absurd to even type).
She told me, “you need to know, on a scale of 1 - 10, you START at 10 and just go up from there.” I sat there, in awe, and often disbelief, of what she was saying. My hand clasped over my mouth as if I was watching a horror film and lacked the ability to look away. The whole experience was eye opening. It was a 15-minute conversation that may have just changed my life.
As women, our perceptions of ourselves are often warped, dummied down reflections of what we really are. We are forever our own worst critics.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie famously said, “We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful…We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men.”
This very true, and very poignant statement, is such an amazing summation of where and how female self-esteem issues begin. We are so bombarded with expectations, forced to compare ourselves to other women while shrinking ourselves in relation to men, that we focus on our shortcomings rather than our strengths or accomplishments. Sadly, this begins for many of us as early as 8-years-old.
Personally, my mindset has consistently been, “I can do better.” Although striving to be the best version of yourself is a healthy mindset to have, I only ever focused on what I was not without ever thinking about what I AM, right now, today; and today, I’m pretty damn good! I have always failed to stop and acknowledge that right now, I am better, stronger, and wiser than I was yesterday; yesterday, I was better than I was last week and last week I was better than I was last year, and so on. Yes, we all have set backs but as long as we strive towards the future with healthy, open minds while appreciating who we are at present, we will stay on an upward trajectory.
We, ALL WOMEN, need to find that woman in our lives that inspires us, makes us think “wow, she’s doing it,” and tell her about all the ways she moves us. Tell her about her beauty, inside and out. Not with just a simple, passing compliment, LET HER KNOW YOU SEE HER. Tell her you think she’s amazing and then tell her WHY you feel that way. In doing so, we will humble ourselves as the giver, and stand up taller as the receiver, of this news.
This woman’s words made me feel differently about how I think about myself. I walked taller this week than I have in a really long time because of her and I owe her a debt of gratitude.
So, thank you, Brandi, for being a beautiful soul and uplifting me the way you did. You gave me something that I didn’t know I needed, and for that, I’m truly grateful. I can only repay you by paying it forward, and I promise to do exactly that.