There a lot of little compromises we feel like we need to make.
And I just don't think we should.
That's the word I've been chewing over lately. Sometimes literally.
When expressing myself and thinking about what I want in the world, stifled feels like a fitting word. My experience is not that different from others. This feeling of being stifled is especially true for women.
We're often told we're too much of something. Too bossy. Too fat. Too serious. Too emotional. Too silly. Too flighty. Too vapid. Walking the delicate line between being too cold and too emotional is impossible.
Because it's impossible, we stop. We barely walk at all actually because each step could make us fall.
Women learn at a young age to limit themselves. This often starts with food.
One obvious way we learn to limit ourselves is through dieting. Our daily walk on eggshells starts with each morsel of food that passes our lips.
At age 15, I have a distinct memory of enjoying a cookie. Some man noted, "A moment on the lips, forever on the hips" while he proceeded to eat his own cookie.
Because I was not an adult woman with the ovaries to say "fuck off," I nibbled slowly at the rest of the cookie. I promised myself it would be my last for a while. And that was when I learned that having what I wanted wasn't acceptable and it was okay for dudes to police my eating.
Years and years of this feeling of being watched every time you eat slowly wears down your psyche.
We learn by living this not to trust our bodies. Over time, we unlearn how to trust ourselves. We look outward to others to answer our questions. Or at least that was my story.
Years of ignoring hunger culminated in a total lack of attunement with my own needs and desires. Each calorie skipped was a daily reminder that my most basic instincts were incorrect.
As a young woman trying to navigate the world, I've been thinking a lot about what it means to have agency. What does it mean to ask for what you want?
It might start with asking for what you want to eat.
I'm not going to lie. The news has been getting me down.
Planned Parenthood is close to being defunded. A pro-life judge was appointed to the Supreme Court. Bombs are exploding on the Russian subway system. Someone is attacking Syrian children with nerve gas. For me, feminism and activism have a large role in helping the world. It's been exciting to see how active and involved people have been since the election of Donald Trump.
Instead of actually doing the work of activism, a lot of us are caught up in commodified feminism.
A lot of women have a perfect Instagram-style way of looking really feminist. Their haircuts are cool. They have that perfect Rosie the Riveter red lipstick on. Their tattoos and piercings seem to flaunt their totally bad-ass rebel lifestyle.
Cool hair and tattoos don't tell me that they're ready to write to their senators. All these rebellious fashion allusions point to is a well-curated social media account.
This article by Aminatou Sow on Racked explains this idea really well. Buying a t-shirt is way different from real political action. She writes:
" 'Capitalist investors' use feminism to sell us clothes! Because feminism is cool now! We are told that everything from “period panties” to “granny panties” to high-end couture most of us cannot afford can be feminist. Don’t let all this canny marketing distract you from the fact that wearing high-waisted underwear is not in fact liberation work."
Feminism is cool. It's something we want to buy. It's something we can buy. But, don't get it twisted (especially not your period panties.. hehehe). Wearing period panties is different than volunteering to provide period supplies to homeless women.
I want more unshaven "ugly" intellectual activist friends than I want beautiful Instagram friends.
I keep looking for my tribe out here. I want to hang out with smart feminist ladies who are trying to make the world a better place.
I want them to challenge me to not give a fuck. I want them to help me lean in or tell bosses that their attitudes are patriarchal. I want them to invite me to the rally or the march or the letter-writing campaign.
I think the world needs it.
When I used to have water polo practice from 9pm-11pm at night in college, I would get home at midnight. I just played 2 hours of water polo, so I was pretty friggin' hungry.
But..... I was on diet.
I was carefully counting calories. I was purposefully not buying things from the grocery store. Most importantly, I heard from Oprah or someone that you shouldn't eat after 7 PM.
Sometimes, I would successfully eschew the fridge. Other times, I would try to just have one tablespoon of peanut butter.
But more often than not, I ate a lot of tablespoons of peanut butter. Like sometimes I would pull a muscle in my mouth voraciously scooping peanut butter.
I felt out of control. I was so frustrated and ashamed.
Isabel Foxen Duke, founder of Stop Fighting Food, calls this “feeling crazy around food.”
Isabel Foxen Duke is one fabulous babe. In fact, a lot of her work was really critical to me healing my relationship with food. I've listed her as a reference for like a million blog posts.
I'm not the only one. Isabel is one of the most well-respected coaches in the emotional eating world. Her approach is about changing your mindset around food.
If I had these videos when I was binging on peanut butter, I would have realized that I needed food. Eating peanut butter was actually a pretty good choice.
If you're tired of swinging between "this time I've got it," and "what the hell is wrong with me? Why can't I get my hand out of this peanut butter jar?" I encourage you to check her out.
Isabel’s offering a free video training series. The series unpacks the emotional and psychological components to changing your relationship with food.
If this is a topic that speaks to you, I highly recommend you sign up to get her free vids.
PS: I am a paid affiliate for Isabel's program. She still does a kick-ass job though. Even Ricki Lake likes her. If you sign up using my link, you can help me pay my squarespace rent.
Here is a confession: I'm looking for a job.
As some of you may know, this experience is excruciating. It's filled with a lot of emotional ups & downs.
I find myself obsessed with dotting is and crossing ts. Or, nowadays, checking punctuation and removing the passive voice. Does my resume just not have enough action verbs? Maybe it's my formatting? Maybe I need another certification? Should I go back to school? Maybe I'm being too ambitious?
It reminds me of dieting.
This was how I thought of myself when dieting: I was doing everything just a little bit off. That was the reason why I "wasn't losing weight." I ate 12 too many crackers. Or maybe I'll add an extra mile to my run. It's because I ate 4 servings of vegetables instead of 5.
All the skinny women in New York City seemed like living proof that being skinny was an achievable goal. I felt like it was my fault that that I wasn't skinny. I was in control. It seemed like it was achievable.
Sometimes the truth is that we are not in control.
The mechanism through which most people apply to jobs is pretty broken. It's the farthest thing from meritocracy. It's usually nepotism or something like that. It's not about my action verbs or my certifications. So far, I've only been able to get interviews at companies where I know someone.
Diet's don't work either.
They don't take you where they promise they will take you.
It's not your fault that you haven't lost those 10 pounds. It's not something you did. It's not because you skipped the MCT oil. It's not because you ate 12 crackers instead of 6.
Just like it's not women's fault that they're not in C-level suites. It's not because we say "like too much." It's not like ALL WOMEN lack professionalism. It's not as if women leaned in enough, we wouldn't have a pay gap anymore.
If you're still stuck in diet mode, you can stop blaming yourself too.