I’ve always believed and said that womanhood is a self-definitive process.
But even within my own process I have struggled to find the words and meanings to the many feelings, thoughts and experiences I’ve had to deal with as woman. At 21, idealistically, most would say I have yet to learn what it is to be woman; I have not yet bared a child, raised a family, committed to my own solitude and taken full responsibility for my own self, or even learned to cook a pot roast.
And although all of that may hold some truth, there are things that women endure throughout their process, of which they shamefully ignore; tucking away our true selves like unwanted pairs of shoes.
As a young girl, I would observe my mother and admire how poise and strongminded she carried herself, especially through all the adversity she dealt with as both a mother and wife.
There were very few times when I would witness my mother step out of bound from her stern demeanor or merely see her shed a tear. But as most children do, intuitively I felt the tension she carried. I could feel the weight that burden her. And it wasn’t just my mother who I began to intuitively witness this type of tucked away pain. As my grandmother became progressively ill, I was the first to notice her disconnect from the world she loved so much. When my aunt, whom I’d idolized as a beauty queen, for she was the kind of women who would lighten up a room with her contagious laughter and bubbly personality, I quickly noticed the dullness in her smile after her separation from her husband. Although too young to understand the depths of what these women were dealing with, I knew something wasn’t right.
At face value, despite the difficulties they went through, these woman had it all. We all have problems, no one’s life is perfect, right?
Yet, what I found particularly interesting was how shocking it was for everyone else, when these women acted out of their “body”. When for one moment these women would lashed out all their internalized hate, as a consequence, eyes of shame would deem them or soft whispers of judgment would linger throughout family functions.
As I got older, I became a trapped inside the paradox of what I was told by women on how to become the proper lady and the misery that we all shared in following those jurisdictions.
Both mother and aunt introduced me to vanity, because to them presenting yourself in a pleasurable manner will indicate to others that you are mannered, amicable, and even intelligent. My grandmother introduced to me unconditional dependency, because she naively believed expanding yourself to the needs of others will make you feel fulfilling and people would repay you for all that you’ve done for them. Unconsciously I was taught that if I followed this path into womanhood, I would find true happiness, love and success. But within this paradox, I was foolishly taught to envy other women and compete with other women. Never was I taught to love other women especially under times of hardship. I was never taught to uplift other women and congratulate them for their accomplishments. And I was especially never taught to empower another women for her exploration of sexuality, but instead I was taught to deem them as less than for even remotely expressing any type of sexual liberty.
And growing up in a digital world only made it more difficult to feel satisfied with myself, for I saw what was alluded in women and what wasn’t. Very recently, I experience all of this at first hand when my partner become interested in a much older woman. I felt less than and emotionally I was crushed, but I tried to work it away, to tuck away the pain I was feeling. And when that didn’t work I foolishly believed that by following the guidelines to “How to keep a Man” provided by past women in my life, that it would make my relationship stronger.
So I did as instructed. I became dependable to all of my friends and family. Surrendering my true emotions, and naively believed that what people wanted was what they needed. I strived to always look my best, even when I was at my worst. And I believed that by maintaining those looks, someone would then love me for who I was internally and protect my well-being. I did everything I was supposed to do. But I was never truly happy. And my relationship dismantled before me.
I had reached a point where I desperately wanted to be as poised as my mother, as beautiful as my aunt and as loving as my grandmother. I just didn’t understand why it felt like I was chasing after something unreachable.
Feminist author Ariel Gore writes in her novel Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness, “Our bodies and our imagination and our sleep patterns rebel when we try to trick ourselves into lives we don’t really want.” In her book, Ariel talks about the things that we all feel but have been shamed to say. She examines the contradictions of womanhood and how society infringes on a woman’s happiness.
As I read this book, I felt more in connection to the experiences that past women in my life endured and the outcome of it all.
“We’re made to feel selfish for making choices based on our own happiness instead of on other people or on our career. Sometimes I have to shake myself and say, “I’m not selfish! This is my life,” writes Ariel in Bluebird.
Following your happiness essentially is what womanhood should be about. I say it is self-definitive because we must follow our own paths to satisfy our happiness. There is no guideline to how to be a woman. But a true woman will understand to respect other women and their journey. Womanhood is such a beautiful journey. It took me sometime to realize that we all flourish different, but I’ve embraced mine & I am beginning to feel free.
And if there is any take away that I want you all to have from this is there’s nothing more beautiful or more powerful than the confident woman. Take the time to understand what makes you happy, your own values and goals. And embrace yourself, even when no one is there to applaud you for your accomplishments.
And remember to always Stay Golden.