How many times a day do we guess, then second guess, then third guess, fourth guess, fifth guess ourselves?
And when we are not playing second-guessing games, how many of us play equally dangerous games of self-criticism and self-attack?
And what does all that guessing do to a woman’s fragrant, vibrant, delicious, intuitive, poetic soul?
How much of our very precious potent energy are we wasting on negative thoughts, self-doubt, and self-criticism?
We all suffer according to the level of bullsh*t-self-loathing-stories we run every day.
And we’ve got to turn it around.
I work with thousands of women at the School of Womanly Arts.
And we all have the same thing in common – we grew up in a culture that teaches us to doubt ourselves.
That’s right; doubt must be taught, just the same as confidence must be taught.
We were not born with all of this negativity inside ourselves.
An unsurprising, but deeply unsettling, comprehensive new study released last week finds that girls all over the world are fed a steady diet of thinking less of themselves, compared to boys.
“In every single place, girls are given the message that they are weak, that they are vulnerable. That their bodies are a target,” said Robert Blum, who chairs the department of population, family and reproductive health at Johns Hopkins and led the study.
Can you see how this would contribute to sowing the seeds of doubt inside the body and mind of a young girl – that might sprout into an ongoing minefield of doubt by the time she was a young woman?
“Unrelenting self-criticism often goes hand in hand with depression and anxiety, and it may even predict depression,” reports the Wall Street Journal, citing a study that found those who were most self-critical were more likely to be depressed and have difficulties in relationships. “Self-criticism is also a factor in eating disorders, self-mutilation and body dysmorphic disorder – that is, preoccupation with one’s perceived physical flaws,” the less-than-happy round-up of the scientific consensus on self-criticism adds.
One of my students, Lisa, a graphic designer, wrote me the following question on a Facebook live we had recently:
Mama. I don’t know when it started, but I have lived my entire life not feeling good enough. Depending on the day and who I am with, I might feel anything from not pretty enough, to not smart enough, not funny enough, or maybe my hair is too wild, my clothes are frumpy, my thighs are too fat, my breasts are too small, I’m clumsy on the dance floor, and no matter how I look at it – I’m simply not enough. I spend so much time in my head worrying about what people are thinking about me that it is absolutely exhausting. I am an emotional train wreck. I try to imagine what people will think: do I look ok in this? Will they think I’m pretty? Will they like me? Is this cool enough? To be honest, I drive myself CRAZY.
Every woman I know finds herself chronically criticizing one or more huge areas of her life. Some of the more popular targets are:
2. Comparing ourselves to others
7. Sex life
In other words, we are critical in every area that truly matters.
And when we are in the act of criticizing ourselves, we are in a state of true insanity, as Lisa so rightly observed. We can’t create, we can’t relax, we can’t connect with ourselves or others. We are life’s victim.
Can you imagine? The world actually teaches us to be victims.
But we can teach ourselves another path. Another way. The way of the feminine.
Where instead of spending all of our precious life force turning away from ourselves, we choose instead to turn on to ourselves.
When we live in a world that cannot even comprehend its own inherent bigotry against
women—and thus cannot step forward to honor or support the women and girls who have been devastated by it—what is the recourse? How do we stand up to an invisible assault that does not want to be made visible? How does a woman weather—let alone triumph over—such a global denial of her experience?
How does she turn on when she has been systematically denied, passed over, and subjugated? Where is the opportunity in this storyline for the victim to become the heroine?
The solution for the epidemic of powerlessness among women, which neither great success nor higher education is able to solve, is simple: reconnecting a woman to her turn on.
Turn on is the source of each woman’s connection to her own life force, her voice, and her sense of internal power. When a woman turns on, she is actually turning on her vitality and connecting to her divinity.
Breaking down a legacy of self-doubt, and then replacing it with a legacy of radical, outrageous and raw self-celebration . . . well, that’s a lifelong road for most of us.
Waking up to the mini-patriarchy inside each of our heads takes some vigilance.
Yet, you will be surprised how little it can take to wake a woman up to her rightness. Just as you learned to chronically doubt yourself, you can learn to chronically celebrate yourself.
Here are 3 Antidotes to Self-Doubt:
1. Dance. No, I mean it. Really. Try it. Right now. Even if you are kind of a klutz like me. Even if there is no music. Or no privacy. The answer to this dilemma is not going to come from your very overworked-overused-overactive brain. It will come from your brilliant, alive, radiant body. Remember: the antidote to insanity is to find a way to turn on. And none of us have been encouraged to turn on – rather, quite the opposite. We have been taught to turn ourselves off. When we are in a state of self-doubt and self-criticism, we are more than likely to allow others to determine our fate. Rather than take our own destiny in our own hands, and become an outrageous outspoken gang of ‘nasty women’. Which is what the world actually needs.
2. Look in the mirror. Wink at your reflection. Accuse that woman you see in the mirror of being a hot sexy wildcat. Tell her that she’s hot. Really. Not at all kidding. It will change your chemistry. Instantly. And it’s true. Try it. Look at your reflection and say out loud: “You are a hot sexy wildcat!” Wink at her. She will instantly wink back.
3. Say outrageously nice things to yourself. Walk down the street and practice replacing all of those second-guessy-self-doubty-not-good-enough-insane thoughts, with turned on thoughts. Try creating a hot little womantra for yourself. The one I have been using today is: “I am the hottest pussy on the Upper West Side”. It instantly makes me sane and fabulous. (Don’t knock it ’til you try it, okay?)
Try them on. Make a habit of them. I guarantee you will start to shift the stories in your head, and your life will follow suit.
In the comments below, I want to know:
• Where are you going to call ceasefire on yourself? Where have you had enough with self-doubt and self-criticism?
• What’s one radical step you can take in the direction of self-celebration?
Sisters, we are simply too valuable to waste on self-doubt. It is up to us. I’m so honored to be on this ride with you, and can’t wait to continue the conversation.
Regena Thomashauer, aka “Mama Gena”
Founder of The School of Womanly Arts