Katherine Scott, M.Ed/Ed.S, LMFT
It’s difficult to conceptualize what being a woman means to me. As most things, I shift perspectives on different topics between my clinical experience and my personal experience. So, here I sit, pondering how the embracing of my womanhood has impacted my human experiences, as well as those around me.
I want to recognize my privilege in this moment as well. Being as I identify as a cisgender white woman, my life experiences have reflected my privilege. My experiences in no way color anyone else’s but my own. Perhaps there will be some who can resonate with the peculiarities of my perceptions as a woman, however that is not up to me.
As a young woman, I have found I have to hoist myself up any ladder toward positions of power. No matter how tall I attempt to present myself, i cannot outrun the notion of being looked down upon when brief judgements are first made. These judgements have followed me throughout life. I have lost peer relationships, because my arms were “too hairy”. I have been overlooked by strength-seekers in sports. or competitive realms because I appeared “too dainty”. I have lost clientele merely because I “looked too young” to be a therapist. The list is disappointingly lengthy.
Women are born into this world with the narrative of “too much” or “not enough” that unabatingly slams into our unconscious at an age, that is much too young to know the difference. Different demographics, meticulously nitpick us, so we can guarantee there will be an internal battle, that ensues within us in the pursuit of everyone else’s happiness, but our own. God forbid the love we feel for ourselves, include our hairy bodies, our fluctuating figures, and the absence of make-up or high heels.
As a clinician, i find that most of the women who grace the therapy room are fed up with the constant race toward the satisfaction of gender norms and conformity thrust upon them by their environments. Their self-confidence cannot decipher what is up from down, the pace of which their narratives blast on repeat that they have to maintain in order to be a “good” or “successful” woman is exhausting, and they have lost sight of who they crave to be. It never gets easier seeing a fellow warrior painfully tired from the unrelenting quest to fulfill everyone else’s life but their own.
Personally, I believe other’s bully for two reasons. Either they have a weakness they desire to cover up by distracting someone with derogatory antagonization, or they crave to offset their own internal pain by subconsciously attempting to share the burden with others. Unfortunately, women have been on the receiving end of this dynamic for generations. While we cannot swiftly win at an arm-wrestling match with a gentleman, we can cultivate and birth living beings into this world. If you ask me, that’s a more realistic representation of strength and resiliency. Without comparison.
Society has bullied women into survival by submission. There continues to be a raging gender pay gap, a lack of societal respect for the necessity of maternity leave, an overall underrepresentation of women in power, and yet here we are. As a woman, I always stand back up. This culture of suppression has instilled in me the brilliance of my resiliency if nothing else. The strength of women has seemingly intimidated those who are fixated on the comparison of differences for decades. Regardless of the many tactics those in power have attempted to bind women to gender norms, we subtly and fiercely advocate for our own voices. Femininity is ours to define, not those who have yet to experience life from our perspectives. Femininity holds space for each and every unique definition for what it means to identify as a woman. And yes, each definition is meant to differ. My womanhood does not look like anyone else’s femininity. At first, this bothered me as I was told by my environment to bend and stretch to meet certain criteria to be a “proper” woman. For years I have been bothered by the nagging to pierce my ears, don skirts, and illustrate proficiency in the kitchen. I felt I was not a “good enough” woman for not caring about things dangling from my ears, having twig-legs that seemed to stick out of skirts like awkward rods, and having a pile of cookbooks collecting dust on the top-shelf everyone forgets about. I had to wear high heels, wear dark eye makeup, and pop the red lipstick to unsteadily embrace the confidence I craved to embrace from the women in power I admired.
I’m only a few years into my soulful growth-spirt, and there’s something I’ve come to know as my truth on both sides of the therapist chair.
I’ve been discovering that confidence and worth are two phrases utilized interchangeably within our worlds. Two words referred to as synonyms, however they’re actually quite different.
Let’s take worth for example. We have a tendency to put our worth into the hands of others or into the places we cherish. Tying our worthiness to the temporary sensations of validation from others, or the goals we set that are influenced by many aspects largely outside of our control. There is a roadblock with this framework for one’s worth because we are viewing it as something that is transient. Where in reality, our worth is constant. Grounded. Anchored to the uniqueness each soul holds within themselves. Our worth is tied to our voice, our values, and our resiliency just to name a few.
Switching gears to confidence, and this is where the fluidity we experience comes in. Confidence is a wave that is notorious for waxing and waning throughout our lives. Some days, we are rocking our favorite heels paired with that blouse that lays just as we want, and we walk down the sidewalk to that meeting we know we will crush. Confidence oozes from us as we feel as if we could conquer the world. Then, we have days where all our clothes feel frumpy, our hair is doing that weird flippy-thing, and all we want to do is curl up on the couch with our cat and lock away the world. Confidence level those days could be close to zero.
Confidence is a product of our humanness; worth is inherent of our being.
Our worth demands to be respected and runs deeper than the materialistic contributions that may boost our confidence. Our confidence deserves compassion for its fluidity as a part of the human condition. It’s OK to feel “extra human” sometimes, however our worth is unwavering during these experiences. If anything, our worth is highlighted during our “frumpy” days because when our vulnerability is showing, our worth glistens from our persistence and resiliency traveling along our journeys embracing the beautiful, messy, imperfect, feeling souls that we are.
I am proud of the woman I am and continuously am growing into. Sure, I have my extra-human days, who doesn’t? Yet, I treasure the resiliency that lay deep within my soul. Despite the judgement, and the looming narratives of “too much” or “not enough”, I know I have the right to my own definition of femininity. I am deeply proud of my sisters and the ways they continue to advocate for equality and the freedom to pave their own paths into the authentic style of living they crave to embrace. Cheer’s ladies, we’re rewriting the patriarchy as we know it!