October 23, 2014

To All the Ladies: Thank you for Helping me Find Myself.

DJeff Act/Pixoto

I believe we are born whole; the journey is looking within and finding the courage to embrace who we find.

I, like many women, started my adolescence learning that girls and friendships would be tough.

By 20, I used words like catty, b*tch, sneaky, jealous and, like most people, had just a couple girls I called my real friends.

Women couldn’t be trusted; they will talk behind your back, steal your boyfriend and step on your back to get ahead.

I believed that friendships and relationships with men were easier and I moved though my 20’s with this unjust notion. Eventually, I paid less attention to my relationships with women and focused more on finding a mate and starting a family.

This mate would celebrate me, love me and make me feel pretty. He would validate my parenting, heal my hurts and make me whole.

That’s a tall (impossible) order.

To my surprise, after marrying I still felt unsure, insecure and definitely not whole.

I questioned everything.

Am I a good enough mom or wife?  Am I kind enough? Is my PMS just an excuse for being downright naughty? Am I carrying more weight than I should? Do I call my mom enough? Why can’t I keep up with my laundry, exercise, organic living, flossing, recycling? Should I be writing a novel, traveling to far away places? Should I have less or try to get more?

For God’s sake, am I whole yet?

Fast forward a few years (and kids) later.

My husband and I had a thoughtful discussion that we were simply outnumbered and it made sense that we would alternate and give each other more breaks outside of just our date night.

Consequently, I began spending more time with my girlfriends, joined a book club, ran a mud race with a group of girls I barely knew and ultimately embraced new friendships and fed the older ones.

Ironically, it occurred to me that many of the doubts, insecurities and relentless self-critiquing were dissipating. I approached my relationships differently than when I was younger. I didn’t allow the stereotypical rhetoric about women play in my mind.

I listened. I didn’t judge. I was real and open and in turn my women friends reciprocated.

I didn’t look for motives. I didn’t worry about whether or not I was talked about when I left the room, or how I ranked in comparison.

I let all the clichés about women fall to the wayside. Instead, I looked deeper, saw their imperfections, but found them utterly beautiful and perfect in their own right.

Some made their homes showcases, others decided it’s just a place to sleep.

Some are funny.

Some are deep and introspective.

Some prefer to read on a Friday night while others dance and drink.

My light bulb moment was discovering that every woman I know is far closer to beauty and perfection than she realizes and if it’s true for her, it could be true for me.

It occurred to me that as women, we are obsessively looking in the funhouse mirror trying to find ourselves. These false illusions feed the beast and have distorted the truth.

There is no need for mirrors. We inherently reflect everything we put out.

By loving those around me, I started observing moments that supported my new discovery.

For instance, I loved the wrinkle between her brow, the one she hated the most on her face. I found it to be charming.

When a friend utters those dreadful words I’ve heard and said a thousand times, “I look fat,” I just think how pretty she looks today.

When she critiques her mothering, instead I see every beautiful thing that she does right and I quietly try to learn from her.

The constant self-scrutiny we as women create, is denying ourselves to be complete. It builds walls that distances us from getting closer to each other and we intrinsically fall victim to the beliefs that we were taught as young girls that women are catty, bitchy, too fat, too thin, too tough, too soft.

We have to understand that by accepting and loving the women around us, we will find that we can finally love ourselves.

In my journey, I have found that every line on the outside and inside is beautiful. Even the deepest hurts and scars make us better friends and more able to share, understand and listen.

My relationships with women have elevated me more than most things in life.

I didn’t become whole by becoming a wife or a mother. I’ve become whole by learning to love women, therefore learning to love myself.

My relationships have humbled me. I honor each and every one. I can only hope it doesn’t take my daughter 40 years to come to this place. With her, I will try to share and more importantly, lead by example.

I won’t raise my daughter with the misconceptions that girls are dramatic, catty or jealous. Instead, I will say they are beautiful and emotional creatures just like her.

If they’re mad, they’re probably hurt.

If they’re mean, they’re defensive and probably feeling threatened or scared.

If they’re acting jealous, we need to lift them up and show them their beauty and worth.

In the end, it all starts with our first love, the woman that holds you first. The grandmother that teaches you more than you can ever pass on. The sister with whom you shared your room and youth. That best friend that kept all your secrets.

It’s apropos that after all these years of relationships with women, I finally realize that I’ve learned the most (and find myself the most) when I’m amongst them.

For all the women reading this, through you, I found me.

Have you found you?


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Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: DJeff Act/Pixoto

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