A Girl Should Be Two Things

A girl should be two things, what and who she wants to be.

Coco Chanel

This needed to be written for nearly two months now, perhaps even a lifetime. I’ve been avoiding it. I don’t like controversy (believe it); it’s so much easier when people just agree with me (insert: wide eyes emoji). I want people to like my business, the people I employ, my partners and collaborators. I don’t want to make people mad. I don’t want to disappoint anyone. I want people to like me. And why not? If we get down to the nitty-gritty, isn’t that what everyone deeply craves; to be understood, accepted and loved? Most of all, I just want me to like me, unconditionally.

Yet, I get derailed. My favorite Buddhist mantra, just as a solid rock is unshaken by the wind, so are the wise, unshaken by praise nor blame is more of an ideal than a practice at times.

This thing that’s gotten me a little prickly in the pants and warm around the collar, I’ll get to that. Criticism, feedback, other’s opinions don’t need to make or break us and they can proactively inform us, if we can take it in. But sometimes we conceal our most authentic and creative selves for fear of recrimination, or worse, rejection. We just do. I do.

I’ve been hiding.

And I realize that hiding is costing me creativity. How many of us are avoiding what we really want to say for fear of rejection, not being liked or being found out for who we really are?

My guess is a lot of us.

Who of you are suffering because of it?

I recently read somewhere that it’s better to be unpopular for who we truly are than be liked for who we are not.

Now, that’s what I am talking about!

The problem is, it’s not just me in this world. I have two kids, a spouse, my business and have been the member of a non-profit board for more than seven years. I am the CEO and board president of a non-profit I founded. There are actually rules about certain statements that I am not allowed to make. I have recently drafted posts, and then promptly got that intuition-tickle telling me to remove it. While I am implored to be politically correct and socially neutral as a board member, because our non-profit works directly with girls, I must also be a role model to the young girls we serve.

BUT, there are days I don’t want to be polite and neutral–a lot of days–and I want to be the role model that is the who and what I want to be, not the who and what society thinks I should be.

Getting closer to the thing…

I had received feedback from a dear friend who informed me that some people (it’s always the nameless, faceless in these cases) had something to say about one of my travel-focused blogs. Ok, it wasn’t exactly the outdoor shower blog. That is what I am now calling it, The (OMG, did you see that ?!&$#) Outdoor Shower blog. It was the photo of me in the outdoor shower.

One of the things said is that this image didn’t seem in “alignment” with Wellfit Girls. I journaled, mused and wandered my mind in circles wondering what was bothering me about this. Was it was reminiscent of a scene from Mean Girls or those quintessential 80’s valley girls saying “Oh my God, Becky. Look at her butt?” (in this case, bare shoulders, the horror)!

As a therapist and wilderness medical first responder, I abide by the Hippocratic oath, do no further harm.

As a liver of life, I adhere to a bigger mission: do my best to help people make their lives better. I decided to take this opportunity to examine myself; and where I might be missing the mark.

But before I got to the business of writing, and amongst the self-examination, I did what all decent attention deficit-afflicted do, I started writing three other gentler, safer blogs, watched five documentaries, read four books about other people’s lives and now finally, I got to the truth telling of mine.

As I was running today, I kept hearing this mantra in my mind, be bold, and don’t apologize for your boldness.

Then the little me voice popped up, “unless, of course people have something to say about you and then let self-recrimination creep all over you”. But how do I deal with the judgment, criticism and feedback? Usually, well. I am quite coachable and approachable. But I hide behind composure, too.

I forgot to tell you.

I’m not perfect.

Does that come as a surprise to you? No, I didn’t think so, because no one is.

Yet we’re socialized from an early age to save face and avoid letting people see us less than perfect. Never let ‘em see you sweat. (Amazing how advertising jingles from the 80’s still stick in my head). What we learned from this, aside from the importance of concealing our utterly offensive human stank with Dry Idea deodorant (go Gillette), was that we never wanted the world see us squirm or be our truly flawed, authentic selves. Be cool, calm and collected, that’s what the world is attracted to…

So, I’ve been sweatin’ a bit because…and while I am still not sure myself how I feel about the controversy of the photo, I felt a stronger, more intuitive urge NOT to remove it…I cropped it, god forbid my waistline was showing, because I do care about offending others that may not understand my intention.

Perhaps this image does not appear to be in line with my overall mission–girls’ empowerment, including not using the female image to sell a message, sexualized or not, but it is exactly in alignment with our message; that a girl can express herself how she wants.

I waited a long time to come out of the safety of my own mind and share my feelings, thoughts, dreams and visions with the world. Sometimes it feels amazing and deeply connective, other times, exposed.

I felt vulnerable following the feedback I received, but decided in this day of the female voice rising, not to shrink back into the cocoon of safety and smallness.

I ended the Shower Blog with this final sentiment…

“The more smiles I greet, the happier I feel. The simpler the experiences, the richer I am. The more opportunities I accept, the more free I feel. The freer I feel, the less I worry.” I was referring to the simple pleasure and freedom of traveling and the bliss-inducing, carefree lifestyle that includes outdoor showers.

I have dissolved the fear and disappointment of not being gotten, to compassion, love and acceptance–of myself, and others. Not everyone has to like it and I don’t need everyone’s approval.

What if we can teach our sons and daughters to be the most authentic and free versions of them selves regardless of peer pressure? I wonder if I would be out of a job.

While I might have let the criticism linger in my mind longer than necessary, I do value the opportunity for self-examination and contemplation.

Women have been shaming each other for years. I have judged and otherwise opined on other women more than my fair share. I am not proud to admit that.

I have been jealous of others and talked some smack to avoid the feelings of damn, I wish that were me, but no longer. We must stand in solidarity with our sisters of all ages. When the tides rise, all our paddleboards, boats and kayaks are lifted. We must first begin to validate ourselves, then we won’t have the time or interest in invalidating others.

So, for now, I am going for truth. Mine. I am asking for yours, directly, to any and every one with whom you may have something to say. First, ask yourself deeply, from where is the judgment coming? Take a minute and connect to that source. Everyday we have an opportunity to be more connected to ourselves, and others, when we accept ourselves and speak our deepest, messy truth.

This is mine. Here I am.

Happy New Life.

In loving-kindness,

Jill

4 Comments
  • Christine
    Reply

    Jill, I have said this before and I willingly say it again – you are an inspiration. For me, the way you lead your life, your passion for what you do, and your authenticity, are inspiring. For the girls that you work with, you are a positive role model of a woman who decided to “go for it” and live life on your own terms. Keep up the spirit of you and the work you do. Some may not get it, and that is a shame for them. As for the rest of us, you represent a vision of how we would like our lives to be.

    January 21, 2016 at 4:25 pm
  • There are people who come & go in all our lives. We forget most of them. I’ve always felt a kindred spirit in you, Jill, and now I know I always will. This article is a must-read for all young girls and especially grown women. How dare we be anything than Who and What we want to be. (you had me a Coco Chanel!) It’s a shame that we fear the criticism of other women most. For they are the people we desperately need to buoy us during troubled times and celebrate us in our brightest days.

    January 23, 2016 at 9:51 pm

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