Tag Archives: self esteem

Blow Me Away

imagesPeanut butter on crackers was the closest I came to meditating today. Sometimes just chewing and daydreaming does the trick. Today’s chewing found me pondering the perils of marketing my workshops.

I’m going to be a little lazy here and lean on generalizations, but having heralded from a British mother and an American father and having lived in both countries, I began to wonder if 50% of my cells are programmed for polite modesty, while the remaining half are bursting with bravado?

And if that really is the case, then how do I convey my authentic message humbly without sounding arrogant or too loud?

And then suddenly a memory popped into my head… something I hadn’t thought about in a long while, but was obviously still loitering in my psyche waiting to pounce.

I was on a job interview for a position in the counselling department of a university in London, just a few months after completing my psychotherapy training. The man who was interviewing me was wearing a waistcoat and jeans. I can picture him now. He looked gentle and approachable, and I was sitting opposite him when he asked,

“So Rory, what are the strengths you will bring to this job?”

I liked the question. It was both direct and relevant, and I begin to list some of what I considered to be my most effective counselling attributes. I had just completed a rigorous training and was finally learning how to ‘own my strengths’ rather than consistently denigrate myself.

And then this happened.

I paused, and the man held up his hand. Like a stop sign.

“Right, well I get the idea, you wouldn’t want to blow your own trumpet now would you?”

I recall feeling stunned by his statement and blanketed in shame. I looked down at my black lace-up boots. They certainly didn’t appear too small for me, in fact I thought they fit very comfortably, but in a short and sharp second this man had reminded me otherwise. His words struck a familiar yet muted chord and it sounded something like this: Don’t get too big for those boots, missy. Don’t be TOO much. Shrink. Blend. Don’t call attention to yourself. Shhhh. Leave it up to others more capable. Sit back.

In therapy we talk about clients being influenced by their unconscious. Looking back, I wonder if that so called ‘enlightened’ male therapist in the waistcoat and jeans, was actually being driven that morning by a wayward force out of his awareness; a rusty paradigm that for years has kept women ‘in their rightful place’.

I am the daughter of a powerful mother who fought in the 1970’s to carve out a successful niche for herself in the then male dominated world of fiction, and remains there forty years later. I come from determined creative stock, and yet on the day that I was told to keep my trumpet quiet, it was the reverberations of my grandmothers’ struggles that I recognized in the quickened pace of my heart.

I felt a sudden kinship with the previous generations of women in my family who had been shaped by a patriarchal society – an environment where women’s strengths were swept under the carpets they were cleaning, and trumpet blowing was definitely out of the question.

So what did I learn from being baited to brag, only to be painfully hooked for my boldness?

I learned that trumpet blowing, tempered with humility, is essential – for women and men alike.

Not the ‘look at me on Instagram!” mode of trumpet blowing. Nor the Facebook friend foraging frenzy. But the kind of trumpet blowing which requires true introspection and self reflection. The kind of trumpet blowing which takes time and patience and commitment, until it becomes lucid and clear. The kind of trumpet blowing which might involve sitting still with ourselves after the peanut butter crackers and hearing our own repetitive tunes, and then finding the courage to write some new notes.

My trumpet sings: I am a really really good listener. I’m very intuitive and I’m excellent at encouraging people. I also have this special knack for helping others unthread tangles. And I’m NOT afraid to say it!

I guess that’s the only ‘marketing campaign’ I need after all. A united front. The British and American parts of me meeting over the ocean on a starry ship’s deck, soaking up a unique jazz blend. My own fusion of truths.

It doesn’t really matter what any of our trumpets sound like. What matters is that we are brave enough to play them, even in the face of those who tell us not to. What matters is that we polish them until they shine, and we make a sturdy case to protect our precious instruments. What matters is that we reveal our treasures, rather than toss them overboard where they will sink, never to be found.

So imagine that I’m interviewing you now and I ask YOU what your strengths are. But before you answer, I pass you a permission slip. The letters are LARGE and colourful. The words release you.

PLAY YOUR TRUMPET AS LOUDLY AS YOU WISH! BLOW ME AWAY

 

Writing Prompt: Ten minutes on your strengths. If you’ve never done this before, reflect on why it feels so hard. Whose voice is holding a finger to your lips quieting you down?  Be tender with yourself. Care for your strengths and be curious as to where they can lead you. Stay aware of your surroundings. Listen to your tune…what’s stuck? Where does your rhythm need to change?

 

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Braking Habits

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I have a vivid memory of sitting in a café with a trusted friend, many moons ago, lamenting my then relationship.

I had quite the shopping list. Why couldn’t my ‘other half’ be different? Why couldn’t all my love and input make things ‘better’ for us?  Couldn’t he see how hard I was working to try and help? This particular friend doesn’t cake decorate her words. She’s direct. Focused. She knows how to intercept tears.

Here’s what she said:

“Picture this – two broken down cars parked on the same street. One of them belongs to you and one of them belongs to him. You have all the tools you need to fix your own car, but for some inexplicable reason you are spending all your time attempting to fix him first, even though your own rent-a-wreck won’t start. You are NOT equipped to fix his car – only he can do that! Newsflash – you ARE qualified to work on your own misfires, and if he sees you revving your engine, polishing your rims, changing your oil – there’s a good chance he’ll be inspired to do the same.”

Okay – so I might have embellished her metaphor slightly, but the wisdom remains. At the time, I felt defeated. Why wasn’t I ‘enough’ to tune him up? Surely he wanted to ‘improve’ in order to make me happier?

Before long, I realized my sage confidante was a pretty astute psychological mechanic, and I embarked on a mission to service my own ailing parts, instead of wasting my precious energy using a rusty unsuitable spanner on his.

In essence, I began to be kinder and more attentive to myself, and as a result, less critical towards him. It seems to me, we are often drawn towards being our own worst enemy, rather than our own dear friend.

With this insight, I felt more effective and less of a victim of my circumstances. Bitterness receded and I became easier to relate to, while he, miraculously, began to find it easier to relate.

Not so miraculous really, it makes a lot of sense.

The most effective method of change is modelling the behaviour you hope to see in others.

A very simple example is one that parents encounter frequently. They yell at their kids in a vain attempt to stop their kids from yelling. It never appears obvious at the time, but if we could watch ourselves on video flailing around in these chaotic moments, the picture would be absurdly clear.

Ghandi might not have been berating a six year old or fuming at his partner when he said

Be the change you want to see in the world…

 but the most poignant mantras can be applied in many circumstances.

So if you’re investing all your efforts into solving someone else’s problems with the intent of  increasing their worth, put the brakes on. While you’re at it, listen for a squeak – a sure indication of where your own work needs to begin…

Did this post resonate with you?

WRITING PROMPT: Take ten minutes and jump off from the quote “Be the change you want to see in the world…” what meaning do these words currently hold in your life? OR Write about a relationship where you feel stuck in ‘fixing’ mode. Explore options. How can you take your tools and turn them towards self development?

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Every Person’s Life

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In 1987 renowned Gestalt psychotherapist, Erving Polster, wrote a book called “Every Person’s Life is Worth a Novel”.  In this book he writes:

Stories must not only be told, but also heard. What is said gains value from the listeners understanding…

He goes on to write:

We also use stories to join our lives with those of other people…

I recently had the pleasure of meeting some of the founders of a remarkable and powerful new venture called Narrative 4 begun by writers, artists and educators who are passionate about ‘hearing’ and ‘joining’. Narrative 4 aims to enable teenagers globally to come together to exchange stories as a tool for social change. The exchange is intended to be literal – an ultimate act of reflection. The idea is for the young people to swap stories and then read each other’s stories aloud to one another – to allow words to transcend all differences and thread together human experience.  The stated ethos of Narrative 4 is: 

We believe sharing stories is the key to opening the world. We call it ‘Fearless hope through radical empathy’

I call it inspired.

We all crave an attuned listener. We carry our stories with us deep in our pockets, etched on our hearts, buried in hidden places. Sometimes our stories are legible, easy to read, but sometimes it is as if they are written on the wet wall of a dark cave and we spend years waiting for someone to strike a match.

And when the day finally comes, the sudden exposure can be glaring. The attention can call forth panic, anxiety, shame, trepidation, but ultimately relief. We want to be heard. We need to be seen. And even the small flickering flame from a single match can shed enough light for us to look around and realize that we are not alone with our stories. Sharing our truths is an act of healing.

I’ve experienced this firsthand both as a client and a therapist. Every week in my workshop I listen intently as participants grow brave enough to write their stories and offer them up to the group. We are not there to assess or critique or shape or edit. We are there to listen. People come to Write To Be You to be seen and heard, and to see and hear. I am humbled by the courage of my participants and I am witness to the bonds that powerfully and delicately ‘join’ us through story, encouraging self worth, enabling understanding, embracing recovery.

I am often amazed at how few questions people ask in social situations. Is it that we are bound by decorum not wanting to appear nosey? Or is it that so many people are wrapped  tightly in their own inward facing cocoon that it doesn’t occur to them to reach beyond that and explore another’s landscape?

Questions are essential to social interactions, and yet contemporary technology encourages a ‘me’ centred paradigm where our young people are at risk of becoming voyeurs and not listeners. Let’s encourage curiosity in ourselves and younger generations. Next time you meet someone you don’t know, practice drawing out their story. Be interested. See what you can learn about yourself by listening to someone else.

And while you’re at it, please join me in exploring and supporting Narrative 4 as a dedicated group of individuals step up to link our ever divided world. Personal narratives are thirsty for oxygen, buried within us they can fester and wilt. Now more than ever we need to return to the ancient arts and allow them to work their communal magic alongside technology.

It is not only in recent years that the most essential tales told have gone ‘viral’…  the passage and momentum of storytelling has been with us from the beginning of time. We just need to keep breathing fresh air into stale corners and lighting that match in the darkest of caves.

Read about the origins of Narrative 4 by clicking HERE and visit their website HERE

A writing prompt inspired by Narrative 4: Write about discovering a story on the wall of a cave. Who has been there before you? What is the writing on the wall? Imagine you are illuminated by the light of the match. Tell both of your stories. Give yourself permission to write in fragments, dream images, floating words. Feel your way…

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If Only Shmonly…

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I started wearing glasses when I was two. Horn-rimmed frames with magnifying lenses that made my eyes look like marbles. Top that with a frizzy bonnet of mad hair and I resembled a miniature version of Garth from Wayne’s World.

I didn’t realize the glasses would present a problem for me until I grew up and began listening to the chatter around me. The reason I wore them, among other things, was because I had lazy muscles in both of my eyes, causing a wayward drift. Even though I might have been looking directly at you, my eyes betrayed me, giving the impression that I was looking both left and right at the same time. I don’t call that lazy – I call that highly motivated!

The chatter I began to absorb, mostly at school, was a variation on a theme “If only her eyes were straight, she would be so pretty…”

I’m not certain if I ever heard someone say these exact words, but I might have done, because that is the story I began to tell myself.

“If only my eyes were straight…”

“If only I didn’t wear glasses…”

That soon translated into my adolescence, fuelled by the images and articles young girls and women are flooded by, “If only my breasts were bigger, my hair silkier, my posture more poised, my skin clearer, my confidence higher, my grades better, my nose smaller, my thighs thinner…” and on and on and on…

It’s a relentless barrage of ‘if onlys’ which many girls start to digest from an early age becoming so full of self-doubt and self-hate and self-consciousness that they feel like bursting or cracking or choking or hiding.

We all know girls that have succumbed to the above list in one form or another, and the saddest part is that our society is hell bent on reinforcing the ‘if only’ mentality, praying on our prediliction to feel shame over pride.

Images of how our lives could be better ‘if only’ we bought these clothes, or that make-up, or subscribed to that magazine, or sprayed that perfume, or dated that boy, or lost that weight, are shoved down our throats incessantly. Girls are being fed on a diet of inadequacies, supplied by companies recently in the media, like Abercrombie & Fitch, Victoria’s Secret and Disney to name a few.

These corporations, with such great sway, choose to promote a warped mirror to women and men alike – offering reduced, dumbed down, one size fits all versions of ourselves. It’s tragic really, when they have the opportunity to reflect the wonderful truth to women of all ages – that we are dimensional, complex, diverse, beautiful – as is.

If only someone would teach us to believe that…

It took me many years and corrective surgery to overcome my insecurities about my ‘defective’ eyes and my chunky glasses. Ironically I am now the epitome of geek chic. What I wasn’t factoring on was the onset of vitiligo when I was in my early thirties – a skin condition, affecting thousands globally, which results in the loss of pigment from random places on your face and body. I look like an atlas, mapped with islands of white, my skin an ever-changing patchwork of pigment.

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Vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder that has always fascinated me because in autoimmune disease the body essentially turns on itself. The immune system mistakes healthy cells as the enemy and launches an attack. And I wonder if that is in fact what our society and media and advertising has subliminally encouraged women to do, disguised as self improvement,  enhancement, entertainment?

Have we been brainwashed to ‘battle’ ourselves – to turn away from self-love towards self-hate?

Are men being influenced also?  Consider the statistics of violence against women. This is a bigger, complicated picture and I am merely examining fragments of a broken mirror here, but surely it is worth our reflection?

And as for me. I’m over it. I still have wonky eyes and thick glasses and patterned skin that draws unwanted attention and occasional questions, but I’m healthy otherwise. I embrace my quirks, my unique aspects of self. My issues are ‘cosmetic’ but we’ve been conditioned to allow ‘cosmetic’ to win.

I want to wage another war – a war against this absurdity. And I want to wage it peacefully by offering up thinking points and a compassionate dialogue. I’m raising a boy and a girl, and I know that one size does not fit all. They both need to be part of this movement.

We all do.

If only shmonly…

 

If you are interested in exploring more of the issues I have raised here, visit www.missrepresentation.org and join the conversation!

 

TEN MINUTE PROMPT!

Where do the words ‘if only’ take you? Explore the paths you travel and pause to consider what needs challenging?

I’d love to hear your responses to this post or your responses to the prompt. Let them go. Here. Now.

Here’s thanks for reading and hopes for writing!

 

 

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Get It Write

I’ve never abseiled off the side of a building or walked a tightrope, but I’ve bared my soul in writing and thrown it with abandon into the world. I’ve taken emotional risks with my words that can feel as petrifying and as dangerous as taking similar risks with my body.

And I’ve survived.

I’m privileged to watch people in my workshops week in and week out access the deep courage it requires to take those very same risks. To become vulnerable. To try things out. To expose their fears of shame and failure.

Why is writing so terrifying? In this post from last year, I begin to unpack that question. I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject when you have finished reading…

Enjoy  GET IT WRITE

“I’m interested in doing your workshop but the idea of writing intimidates me…” 

I’ve heard this often. It seems the very act of picking up a pen and relaying thoughts and feelings can become burly & threatening, like a school bully who syphons power by frightening others. Sadly, very often that ‘bully’ has been frightened themselves and when they can access help or understanding, there is the potential to deactivate the charge.

So how do we make sense of why the idea of writing is scaring so many people?

Here lies my answer. For many years, traditional western education has hijacked writing and twisted it into something unnecessarily menacing. Something that needs to be done ‘correctly’. Something that will result in a mark or grade that is judged by an outsider – a source of authority. This leaves very little room to embrace the wayward and unruly workings of our human minds. This leaves absolutely no room to celebrate unconventional structures such as:

Outside. Bounce. Bounce. That ball doesn’t never ever stop. STOP. bounce. Bounce.  In my brain. Slam dunking my words away from the train of thought I am riding. With my head out the window. Like a dog. Sniffing. Ears flapping, listening. Absorbing worlds of. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.

In recent years the foundations have been shifting, but in 1979 that wouldn’t have earned me an ‘A’ anywhere, especially not in England. In my early education, creativity was shackled with strict limitations.  Apparently we were only allowed to light up the right side of our brains (the creative centre) in nursery school or art class. Even then I have recollections of the teacher removing the brush from my hand and painting over my canvas, in a concerted effort to show me how to ‘improve’.

It’s not a shocker that twenty or thirty years later many people cower from the prospect of trying something just for the hell of it. Letting words out of the enclosure. Giving sentences permission to roam lawlessly. To soar high. To float gently.

In reality, it is not the act of writing that scares us but the external judge, who currently occupies our inner landscapes, ruling the domain with unmerciful glee.

What do I say to those prospective participants – the ones who are drawn towards the workshops but who feel intimidated?

Face the bully! 
Straighten your shoulders! 
Stick your tongue out! 
Hold up a shameless finger and kick the gate open!

There are acres of gorgeous ground to cover. Wasted wooly woodlands filled with creative possibility. Magical truth tunnels. Whispering story trees. And the written word is waiting to lead you on your own guided tour.

So don’t write to please ‘them’ – they have their own issues to tackle. Don’t try and get it ‘right’ because ‘right’ is a moveable feast.

The solution is delightfully simple.
You guessed it… Write To Be You.

Start here! Start Now! Share a spontaneous response to this post. Can be anything… a personal account, a fictional story, a tangled net of words. Share anonymously if that feels safer. Work up to declaring your name. Reinvent or reconnect. Find freedom through your words…

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Giving it Grantham

If you’re not watching Downtown Abbey, you might snooze through this post. But my guess is that you are watching Downtown Abbey because almost EVERYONE I know is. Across the board. Transcending gender, race and age. Downton appears to span every dividing line with a compulsive finesse. Many of us wait with a hungry anticipation for Sunday night, so we can lose ourselves in a world that is completely different from ours in every way imaginable.

Or is it?

Why do we have such a craving for this show? For these characters?  Because at the core of each episode is a web of tangled roots consisting of age old themes of which we are all familiar: family, relationships, sibling rivalry, love, lust, money, shame, humour, hierarchy, transformation, grief, rebellion, prejudice, power, conflict, loyalty.

Downton Abbey may be set in the early 1900’s in an exclusively white community, but in fact it provides us with an uncanny mirror to our very own existences. Strip us of our smart phones and our laptops and I reckon any one of us will find a character or a scenario in Downton that we see ourselves reflected in. Edith’s struggle to individuate. Thomas grappling with his sexuality. Mrs Hughs confronting her mortality. Lady Grantham questioning her marriage. Mary facing issues of infertility. Lord Grantham resisting change and feeling redundant in his 50’s.  Daisy dealing with her low self esteem. A family in grief.

We may not be wearing corsets and crinoline, but it is the common humanity displayed in these characters that draws us to them – that compels us to fall into their world and long for it again when the credits have rolled.

This week my husband was having a bit of a sulk because he felt that the kids and I were ganging up on him over something. He was ‘giving it Grantham’ – big time. When I pointed this out to him, he laughed, recognizing how true my observation was. It’s a relief to be taken back to a simpler age, but also a relief to feel while we are watching, that we have a shared understanding – a heart and soul connection with life as it was lived almost a hundred years ago.

Downton’s popularity may well be a knee jerk reaction to the excesses in our culture – over sexualisation saturating the media, celebrity worship, shrinking attention spans, mindless violence sold as entertainment and mind numbing reality TV.

Call me old fashioned, but whatever the origin of our fixation – I personally think it is a welcome and soothing balm.

And it appears that many of you do too.

I only have to see the backside of that lolloping Labrador and my pulse begins to regulate. I know I am in for a treat. A window to a world long gone, and yet one that is still strangely very present.

Question: Are you watching Downton? Which character can you relate to?

Writing prompt: Choose one of the broad Downton themes from the list above and write into it. Narrow it down, starting with a wide angle lens and zeroing in. This is an excellent writing practice – finding a rhythm between the universal and the personal.

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The Reveal

I’ve been caught up in the sparkle this week. After so many months of toiling the soil and tending the garden, I had the pleasure of the reveal on the weekend. I published my book,Playing Along! And for a few days I feel like I have been whisked into the blossoming limelight – emails, facebook posts, tweets galore.

Affirmation and interest from others can be so seductive… pulling you towards the heat like a moth to the flame.

But the truth is, I was one of those brides at my wedding that didn’t love the attention. I felt a bit awkward.  A little bit out of my skin in a sleek silk gown with yellow freesias in my hair. And I guess I’m confronting that same feeling now.

There’s been much written on the nuances of being an introvert vs. an extrovert, but I am beginning to understand that I am both. I walk a fine line between the two – needing and wanting to be ‘seen’ and ‘heard’ and validated, and then soon after confronting spiky emotions: self doubt, anxiety, the dreaded shame.

In fact one of the main characters in my novel, George, walks that same fragile line. Maybe that is why I was able to write him with such clarity, because he reflects the parts of myself that I grapple with.

Every week in my workshop I see people who take a similar journey. Exploring the relationship between stepping ‘out’ of themselves in order to connect with something deeper… something ‘in’.

So this week I am learning to enjoy the sparkle and glide with the glimmer, but I am also learning that it can be superficial. The attention will die down. The emails will stop coming. The sales will slow, and my task will be to continue to write and rediscover the shimmer below the surface.

Resilience.

Self-acceptance.

Vulnerability.

The treasures that are less obviously opulent, and yet worth so much more.

(If you’d like to read about the birth of ‘Playing Along’ you can do so by clicking here.)

Take a moment to think about how you feel about being in the ‘limelight’. Do you crave attention or does it unsettle you? What is your definition of ‘success’? Take ten minutes and write about the line you walk between being an extrovert and being an introvert.

Do you need or want more or less of one or the other?

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Beware the Slippery Slope

I have imperfection on the mind. We could all benefit from opening our arms wide to the flaws, the crinkles and wrinkles, the messy, nubby bits of life that tempt us to smooth everything out so we can see our reflection in a shiny sheen.

My 12 year old daughter brought an order form home from school this week, sent out by the company that took her yearbook photo. I was horrified to see on this form a prominent ad offering retouching of our children’s photographs to ‘Save the Day!’

“This service reduces any blemishes and lines that might take away attention from how great you look! We can do braces too…”

Just to make sure we ‘get’ it – there are before and after shots. A teenager with some acne and then – hey presto – acne gone! A mouth with braces and then – abracadabra – no braces!

God forbid when my daughter looks back as an adult at her yearbook, she should remember she was a ‘normal’ pre teen. Apparently  it is far preferable that I PAY to ensure that she appears ‘perfect’. Glossed over. False.

It’s a slippery slope and one that we now seem to be dragging our children down. Grabbing their hands and pulling them head first into the pitiful pit of ‘you could look better’ / ‘we all need improvements.’ Where might this company draw the line? Would they suggest slimming hips, augmenting breasts, shaping noses to ‘save the day’?

I know I live in LA, but for once that is no excuse!

Sending this kind of a message to children is inexcusable, especially under the guise of offering a service to ‘enhance’ our kids’ appearance .

This is not a service. This is clearly a disservice. Most especially for young people who are struggling with self esteem, feeling self conscious, longing for a transformation. By providing them with the digital magic to ‘fix’ things – we are drastically letting them down. Surely the transformation needs to come from within? A gentle and affirming path to acceptance. A slow and curious climb up, rather than that slippery downhill run.

I think society’s quest for perfection is especially confounding for creative people, because it is at odds with the true nature of expression.

At the core of creativity lies imperfection. Cracks and dents. Bumps and bulges. The endless act of trying something out and then trying it again- not necessarily to arrive at an ‘immaculate’ final product – but to remain playful with the process. 

This tenant lies at the foundation of my workshops and drives my own creative ethos.

Like an adolescence wrestling with their identity – creativity needs time to evolve and grow and articulate. Embrace the braces! Don’t airbrush out all the blemishes. Explore them. They will tell you a far more soulful story.

Take ten minutes and write about ‘transformation’, creative or otherwise. Reflect on your own life experiences as well as intentions for the year ahead.

Are their ‘blemishes’ that you might benefit from exploring? Are you too quick to retouch the undesirable pieces of your puzzle?

Write in your notebook or journal, or share on the blog.

Thank you for being part of The Write To Be You community! I am extremely grateful…

 

 

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A Really Scary Story

Remember this 90s classic by World Party?

Put the message in the box, Put the box into the car, Drive the car around the world, Until you get heard

I love that song. Whenever I hear it I want to sing the chorus loudly. And there is no better time than now, when the election is around the corner and there are many messages fighting to be heard – wrestling for our attention.

In the midst of election mania I was lucky enough to be invited by a friend to see a screening of a documentary this week.

The film, Miss Representation, made by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, exposes how mainstream media offers young girls an extremely narrow, often over-sexualized view of who they ‘should’ be in the world. Jennifer believes this limited portrayal has contributed to the lack of women seeking positions of leadership and power, and sabotages the developing self-esteem of many young girls, bombarded constantly by a barrage of distorted images and messages.

I couldn’t agree more.

I felt extremely emotional watching the film, which is intelligently narrated and edited and includes fascinating interviews with women who have held influential positions, like Condoleeza Rice and Nancy Pelosi, as well as teenagers on the frontline.

The film is relevant to me because I am raising a 12-year-old daughter who is lodged firmly in the demographic much of this advertising and programming is aimed at. But I am also raising a 14-year-old boy, who is vulnerable because his responses and ideas of women are potentially being shaped by this insidious onslaught.

Let’s face it – this film is relevant to everyone.

Magazines are plastered with pictures of young girls draped in women’s clothing, often sickly thin and posed provocatively. Girls and women are still frequently depicted in advertising, mainstream films, TV, and music videos as sexual objects whose primary purpose is to attract men. Overweight girls and women are continually mocked and reduced to caricatures.

Reality TV pits women against one another encouraging ‘cat fights’ and  ‘bitch bashing’. And entertainment shows and magazines exert excessive amounts of time and energy into picking apart celebrity’s bodies and fashion sense – including women in politics – the small minority of females who actually do hold leadership positions in government.

This documentary is a bright red flag. A piercing siren. A disturbing alarm. And one that should be heard by everyone. I commend Jennifer for challenging the system and asking us to pay attention. She really is putting the message in the box and driving the car around the world.

I am concerned that girls are being dislocated from their sexuality as an instinctual sense of self, and relocating their sexual identity solely in how they are perceived by men. This has massive consequences for both genders, and is being fuelled by many media avenues. The results are widespread and devastating contributing to bullying, depression, under achieving, eating disorders, addiction – the list goes on.

There are people responsible for making these decisions based on revenue rather than ethics. We do need to take a stand. This could be a boldly brazen soapbox – let’s step up – join forces – gather momentum!

Miss Representation has not had a cinematic release, but you can contact Jennifer and arrange for a screening. She also runs educational programs for middle and high schools. Recently she has spearheaded a campaign on Twitter #notbuyingit, targeting companies who are using sexualized images of women/girls to sell products. Spirit Halloween is one of the companies she outed for promoting seductive costumes for ‘tween’ girls, suggesting that wearing the tiny ensembles will make them more attractive to boys.

It’s human nature isn’t it?  When the time is right, boys and girls will get crushes on either gender. Trying to accelerate the process by dressing girls up as little seductresses is the scariest Halloween story yet.

Get involved: http://www.missrepresentation.org

 

Today I’m asking you to take a few minutes to visit the Miss Representation website, watch the trailer and notice how you feel.

Write down your response. Whether you are male or female, gay or straight, I want to hear how you are impacted by some of the issues raised in the film.

What’s your take? Were you affected by these issues growing up? How have times changed? Are you a parent watching your children affected now? Are you a teenager becoming aware of the impact?

Write about it. Crystalize your thoughts. Rant or reflect. Join me in this important dialogue…

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Something New

I learned something new last week. Stand-up paddleboarding. It’s one of those beguiling activities I’ve admired from afar and thought to myself that it looked simple enough. Not much to it. Stand. Paddle. Glide across the surface of the water looking elegant. Engage your core. Appear serene, cool and unruffled. It was catalogued in my brain as one of those things I might try one day. When I had the time.

And then suddenly I had the time. Or should I say the time had me.

Saying no to the invitation to learn would have been a red flag. Flapping in the wind. Reminding me that I’m not taking as many risks as I am continually urging my readers to take. Expose your self! Write when you don’t feel like it! Be honest! Stop waiting! Be spontaneous! Try something that makes you sweat!

PADDLEBOARD!

And so I pull on my board shorts and I follow my eleven year old daughter down the dock at the marina (“If I’m  trying it, Mum – you’re trying it too!)

I listen attentively as the super chilled out instructor talks us through positions, launching and how to hold your paddle. I feel momentarily confident. What’s the worst thing that can happen? I fall in?  I get wet? Big deal.  All great lessons involve failed attempts.

And then my husband makes a crack about teaching me to ride a bike when I was twenty. The instructor probably thinks he’s joking.

He’s not.

I laugh along, but inside I cower.

Inside I’m fourteen again. Freshman year school trip in Yosemite National Park. Surrounded by 80 new faces. The first activity of the week is a cycle ride across the valley. The humiliating memory washes over me like a polluted wave. How do I explain that I’ve reached the 9th grade and I  still don’t know how to ride a bike? How do I make adequate excuses for my uncoordinated body? My fear of falling? My stubborn certainty that I am weird? Incapable?

I try and kick the memory to the curb. I try to forget my fourteen year old self who couldn’t cycle, and my twenty year old self who struggled trying. But even as I crawl tenatatively onto the board from the dock, my younger selves sit on the side in the sunshine, their legs dangling in the water. They’re not going anywhere. They look concerned because they know today I am a mother. Today I need to be a role model.

I glance at my daughter who is also floating on her knees, silently trying to summon her brave self. Her father and her cousin, seasoned boarders, are offering advice, but I have a feeling she is waiting for me.

It’s time to stand up. It’s time to balance. It’s time to try something new.

At this point my head is determined to be a grown-up, but my knees are stuck in the past. My knees refuse to cooperate as I ease myself into a standing position. They wobble. They tremble. They violently shake. If they had words, they would be yelling “Go back to solid ground. This is not for you. You’re going to make a fool of yourself!”

I look over at my daughter, who is looking over at me.

“I can’t stand up!” she says. But behind her I see my younger selves who are now standing up, cheering me on, willing me to succeed. “You don’t have to be like us!” they say. ‘You don’t have to stay the same forever.”

And I hear them.

And I begin to calm down.

And I listen to the instructor who seems to have been born gliding on the water. And his voice makes me feel safe. And my knees get with the program. And eventually I stand with more stability. And I paddle. And I’m still shaking but he tells me that’s normal. And in this moment I like the word normal, even though I have recently been wrestling with it.

And when I look over at my daughter she is standing too. Paddling with magical ease. Smiling at a sea lion.

I turn to thank my younger selves but they have disappeared.  I guess they knew their job was done.

So I just keep paddling. Feeling serene, cool, unruffled. Enjoying the light glinting on the water. Marvelling at how poessesive our pasts can be if we allow them to grip us too tightly, and celebrating the joys of learning something new.

Write for ten minutes using the words Something New as a springboard.

or

Reflect on past experiences that hinder your present. Can you loosen your grip on the past and keep growing? Keep going…

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