Tag Archive: Strength


Flipping the Narrative

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I was attending a meeting with a bunch of amazing women whose goal is to improve conditions for other women in the workplace. Yes, it is very union driven, yes, we advocate for equality, no we don’t man bash or burn our bras. Anyway, one of the women was sharing a story and in its telling she was using a word that for some reason was bothering me. Sometimes when this happens it’s more of a Princess Bride thing ‘You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.’

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This wasn’t one of those situations, it was more that she was using the word because we are so used to it being used to describe women dealing with things emotionally. The word she was using was ‘weak’.

Before going further let’s look at the definition of that word:

  1. Lacking the power to perform physically demanding tasks, having little physical strength or energy.
  2. Liable to break or give way under pressure, easily damaged.

Now let’s hit the thesaurus: delicate, puny, flabby, flaccid, debilitated, feeble, frail, sickly – you get the idea.

Why the English lesson you ask? Simple, this woman was talking about women and using weak as the descriptor, ‘women should be allowed to be weak, have weak moments.’ Being puny, flabby, frail and easily damaged is not at all what she meant. (OMG it is a Princess Bride thing.) She was talking about visibly expressing emotions. In the course of what she said she unwittingly changed ‘weak’ to ‘vulnerable’ and I thought that was a better word:

Vulnerable – exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally. Coming from the Latin vulnus – wound; vulnerare – to       wound.

So then again maybe not.

Expressing emotions, being emotional doesn’t mean easily damaged or weak. I think it is time we start changing the words we use, especially the ones we use unconsciously.

Women are not the weaker sex!

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Yes, I said it. Oh, I’m not going to deny that generally men are physically stronger, but we all know that’s not what we are actually talking about. It is entirely possible that is where the phrase started from, a general physical descriptor, somewhere along the way though it came to mean so much more.

It became a way to limit woman’s participation in society. We weren’t allowed to learn on an equal footing and so we were considered intellectually inferior. We were restricted in the types of employment we could get, limiting our independence, meaning we were rather dependant on men for financial survival – therefore less capable which meant weaker. Women process things differently – there are research papers and books galore proving this – but because a lot of that processing involves emotions, men say we are weaker.

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I know I am not the only one who cries at really irritating moments. There was this one time I was sparring with this guy and he clocked me one in the head. I freaking belted him till I was pulled out. I was fine until someone asked me if I was okay and I burst into tears. I wasn’t hurt, I hadn’t lost – not that it was a fight, I was just processing and the adrenaline and frustration of him not being censured for breaking the rules resulted in me losing it momentarily. Which just made it all worse because I came down on myself for being weak. I say again, I wasn’t hurt and I’d gone hard at the guy after – there is nothing weak about that. Perception is though that tears equals weakness.

What a crock of shit. Emotions are powerful and can be overwhelming. What they are not, is a weakness. So how about we consider that women have inherent strength due to the fact we were created to process the full tsunami impact of emotions (oh and go through childbirth) and men were not. In fact, that men have determinedly refused to allow emotions a place has been proved to be damaging, hence the push in recent years to say it’s okay to get in touch with what is going on inside.

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Women have been restricted, persecuted, belittled, abused and debased and we still keep pushing forward. We then get back on our feet and take the next step towards where we want to be, with tear tracks marking our faces as we do so. This is strength. The ability to endure, to overcome. To keep raising our voices even whilst being told to hold our tongues, or just plain ignored.

So let us go forward now, no longer saying women need to be allowed moments of weakness or vulnerability when what we are referring to are periods of assessment, processing and growth.

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Embrace all the differences, all the moments and reach out a hand when you need to, knowing it isn’t weakness, it is simply understanding what it is you need as you journey through life.

Women are resilient, determined, creative, instinctive, smart, driven and powerful, and we can do all of it whilst laughing, crying and experiencing every emotion in between.

 

When It All Gets To You

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Today isn’t the best of days, mostly it was fine, then some news came that kind of threw me, but then I’m kind of used to life throwing me curveballs. I had a few moments of fuck it all! I’m done, I’m sick of putting myself out there and getting slapped down. It doesn’t matter if these things are public or been kept quiet enough that the only people who know about it are me and hubby, they still hurt. That is life though, isn’t it, I mean if we’re honest about it all. Sure some people seem to have it all but for most of us life is just a bit of a rollercoaster. I know I will be fine, I may want to give up but in all likelyhood I won’t, I’ll just pick myself up and throw myself back into things. All things considered though, it feels as though today is a good day to share the following that I wrote a little while ago.

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So for consideration…

Not that long ago I was involved in a thing at work that messed me up pretty bad, not physically but mentally. I thought at the time that I was dealing with it fine, I took a mental health day to process it all and then went back to work for the next regular shift 2 days later. Then it all fell apart. I was asked a few questions, received unexpected support and saw anger on my behalf and that shattered through the walls I had put up around my mind. We compartmentalise, it is one of the ways we survive.

I admitted I wasn’t coping, no easy thing even when I’m balling my eyes out at work still trying to protest that there is nothing wrong and with just a few hours off I’d be fine to get back into it. I was lucky, I had support. More than that I had understanding, more than I realised. I work with a lot of really tough people, we have to be to do our job. It’s hard for strong people to admit they need time, help or have cracked, but we need to if we want to do the job for a long time.

I realised very quickly I needed to allow myself the time to work through everything related to the incident and a few other things that had contributed to my mental health issues. I saw a Dr and then booked in my first appointment with a psych. 

There were moments I was fine with the path I was taking but there were also moments when I felt bad, like I was letting people down because I was taking time off work. I needed it. Without question I know I needed it. It took several weeks, Dr’s appointments and a couple of psych sessions. Time is a great healer, but it wasn’t just time, it was also the support I had. 

So here’s what I learnt from this experience: It doesn’t matter how strong we are mentally, it doesn’t make us impervious; admitting we need help is hard but doesn’t make us any less in any way; talking about it to outside people helps with processing that which needs to be worked through; having a support network is important – know who you can reach out to and allow them to come alongside you, support you and make you accountable.

I took my time, then I took my normal leave and did what I do on leave – reading, writing and conventions. Now I feel like I’m about ready to get back into things, except for the part of me that wishes writing could be my normal job, you know the one that pays my bills.

That all aside, the whole point of this is to let you know that sometimes it is hard to ask for help or even accept it but take it from someone who’s been there, do it! It’s not a failing, not a weakness, in fact view it as a strength, because sometimes other people’s strength is just what we need. Sometimes time and help is what gets you back to where you need to be to do that which you are meant to do.

The world needs more of you, just sometimes you don’t need to it alone.

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