What did your mother teach you (directly or indirectly) about choices? Her own, yours, other women’s?
Directly mine taught me that I could be and do anything. She modeled it (not 100% of time, and that’s okay…she’s a human, not a robot).
Indirectly, I learned that I could be and do anything (as long as she approved).
Both directly and indirectly I learned that other women’s choices were to be judged.
Women share with me that it took them well into their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s…before they were able to do what they wanted with their lives, rather than what their mothers (or fathers) wanted them to do.
It took me until well into my 40s and even then it’s been a years-long journey.
There’s a pull inside to prove that what I want for my life is valid. Valuable. Serious enough. Not silly. Worthy of respect.
The day after the Super Bowl my social media feed blew up with posts and memes about the half-time show:
#1: “that was disgusting…those women with their junk in my face…disgraceful…too sexual…I couldn’t let my kids watch it, etc.”
#2: “they shouldn’t objectify themselves that way…it’s disempowering…an exploitation…a disservice to feminism…this leads to sex trafficking, etc.”
#3: “JLo and Shakira are powerful, strong, and talented women who put on an amazing, multi-faceted show that included thematically and culturally important messages, they show us that at any age we can be and do what we want, etc.”
After watching it for myself I thought about what it’s like to have other women, starting with my own mother, not support me in expressing myself. To have my choices derided, dismissed, questioned, and shot down.
I thought about the times *I* was the one deriding, dismissing, questioning, and shooting down.
And the impact doing that had on me.
Whom does it serve when women deride, dismiss, question, and shoot down each other’s ability and opportunity to express themselves? Whom does it serve when women tear each other down?
It serves those who don’t want women to vote or have jobs or have certain jobs or credit cards or protected sex or abortions or dress the way they want or have sex with whom they want or not have sex at all or play the sports they want to play or have children or not have children or breast feed in public or wear makeup or not wear makeup or dye their hair or not dye their hair or wear their hair blue with yellow stripes or express themselves they want to or be as strong as they want or move their bodies in ways that are natural and feel good. Or or or.
As I have healed my relationship with my mother, I have become a woman who not only doesn’t want to deride, dismiss, question, and shoot down other women, but a woman who actively wants to support women in their choices…in expressing themselves authentically.
In HAVING choices.
In exercising those choices.
“We can’t get free unless we’re all free.” ~ Desiree Lynn Adaway
Because our mothers did not necessarily have those choices. And their mothers had even fewer. Depending on how old you are or the circumstances you were raised in, you might not have had them either. I know I didn’t. But you can be sure as hell that I want the women who come after me to have them.
ALL women and those who identify as such or who identify as non-binary. I can’t write this post and not point out that, as a cis-gendered heterosexual white woman, I’ve had more choices precisely because I am a cis-gendered heterosexual white woman.
At the heart of difficult mother-daughter relationships is this dynamic:
Fear: “If she makes that choice she will be cast out, shamed, not marriageable (yes even now), hurt in some way, and maybe even die.”
Jealousy: “I didn’t get to make the choices I wanted so she shouldn’t either.”
This runs deep in our DNA. And it infects our relationships with other women.
But when we police other women’s choices we hold OURSELVES back from what is possible for us.
And isn’t that interesting?
What if supporting other women on (whether you do it in obvious, public way, or it’s in the quiet energy with which you show up), even if they’re making a choice you wouldn’t make for yourself, is tied to being able to freely express yourself and make the choices you desire?
When I posted about this on Facebook, my friend Helen Tremethick replied: “If we love on other women’s choices, if we support even when it wouldn’t be our own path, we then give ourselves permission to show up as we are, even when our desires are unexpected.”
Another friend wrote: “My mom had my whole life planned out. She wanted me to be like her. A woman who waited ’til marriage and lived her whole life to work, be a wife, and mom. I didn’t live up to her standards and I felt it, for years. There’s something about sticking up for yourself and showing them who you are and how powerful you can be in whatever circumstance you’re given or decision you make. I’m a single mom who had kids before I finished college and did everything backwards. I guess you’d say I was a disappointment and I felt that. My sister lives up to my mother’s standards. I felt as though I let her down. Then I realized I was letting myself down allowing her opinion and ideas of what my life should look like control me. I forgave us both and I stand in who I am. I will tell you this though…she recognizes my strength and how hard I’ve worked. She once said to me ‘I could never be as strong as you.’ I’m so glad I decided to live my own life out from under my mom.”
My work has evolved from being about navigating difficult mother-daughter relationships to navigating the relationship you have with yourself and your choices and creative expression. And funnily enough, it’s still about setting boundaries and it’s also about feeling free to express yourself in whatever way suits you. Lights you up. Makes your heart sing.
Whatever it is you decide you want to do with your life is as valid as what the next woman decides to do with hers. You are not less than or better than if you want to be a singer, poet, or artist. You are not less than or better than if you decide you want to be an engineer, journalist, or banker. A sex worker, pole dancer, or movie star. If you wear a skimpy outfit or a burqua or a business suit or sweats and a tank top.
“Women who don’t support other women probably really need the support of other women.” ~ Randi Buckley
Much, much love,
Reveal patterns. Heal shame. Express Yourself. Transform legacies.
Stay tuned because in a few weeks I am announcing an opportunity to do this work with me in a whole new way. In the meantime if you’re curious and would like to chat about it…or anything at all, schedule a time to say hello. www.ohhikaren.com