Today on International Women’s Day, we’re reflecting on what it means that we are ‘enough’ just because of who we are, not because of what we do or what our history dictates.
“Be the kind of woman who makes other girls step up their game.”
This is a quote which, seemingly unperturbed by the implied lack of sisterhood, has been trailing around my Pinterest feed lately. Less offensive, but still mildly hectoring, are quotes such as this, and this.
Pinterest really seems to be honing in on the self-flagellation front lately. Or maybe it’s just my feed in particular. These days, I come away from my regular morning browsing sessions faintly bruised by the constant, brutal admonishments to not bother getting up today if I’m going to be mediocre and the decisive command to enjoy life because I might just die today. OK then.
This is generally the moment when I want to throw my Kinfolk magazine collection out the window, screaming: “Is this really what fourth-wave feminism is meant to look like?“
How did we end up here?
I find this vision of a brave new world filled with visions of a stellar start-up career with a book deal on the side, a perfectly minimalist wardrobe, a tastefully hygge-d apartment and enough energy to start my own Tracy Anderson-inspired Instagram equal parts compelling and nauseating.
I’ve often wondered if the key to happiness is setting the bar low, ambition-wise. When I was a kid, my answer to what I wanted to be when I grew up was: “Rich enough so I can eat chocolate bars every day.”
This is the voice of a (poor) child forced by her hippy parents to drink shots of green barley juice every morning, and encouraged to nibble on Brazil nuts and dried banana as a treat. TAKE NOTE, future parents. To this day I sigh with joy at the fact I get to live out my consumeristic childhood ambitions every time I unwrap a Snickers bar.
Now, of course I want to live a meaningful life. Of course – despite all declarations to the contrary – I’d like to be fit and healthy and occasionally wear an ironed shirt. Of course I have goals and aspirations. But when these goals start becoming a rod for my own back, when the line between inspiration and castigation gets blurred, as it so often does, I think there’s a problem.
I get that these Pinterest quotes are just trying to be helpful – and they often are (well, maybe not the one about women stepping up their game – that just still seems horrible). But in moments of weakness it’s so tempting to use the world of “inspo” as a stick to beat yourself with, as you imagine a perfect, essential-oil-scented world where you’re never overstretched or stressed, perfectly at one with yourself and everything around you.
And it would all be just so achievable if you would stop. Being. So. LAZY.
Because that’s the essential message here, isn’t it? Behind all these Pinterest quotes, magazine editorials and perfect blog posts is a call to striving. To working hard for everything. To never letting go of the perfect Pinterest vision that your life could be, even if it’s killing you.
So then, what does it mean to be ‘enough’ as a modern woman, especially when our history tells us something different, when the world around us now tells us something different (because our life isn’t looking exactly how society (or Pinterest) tells us it’s supposed to look? What is the key to making the most of ourselves, reaching for our dreams while also being happy in our own skin and comfortable with where we are at right now?
As an integral part of our confidence, resilience and employability programme Day 46 at the Sophie Hayes Foundation, while we coach survivors of trafficking to discover their purpose and support them to reach for their dreams and aspirations, we focus on building each woman’s sense of their own intrinsic value and worth, their own unique beauty and strengths, and what they bring to the world. We come with the message that, no matter what has happened to you, no matter what your life looks like right now, you are of incredible value and bring something to the world that is unique and so needed. In that way, we hope to contribute towards that building of a solid foundation from which everything else flows. In essence, it is ‘being’ that is important, much more than ‘doing’.
This day, as we celebrate women all over the world, where are you at with this? Are you frustrated, disappointed, even angry with yourself because you feel you don’t measure up or your life isn’t looking like how you thought it would? Or can you appreciate all the amazing traits that make you, you, stand tall and know that you are powerful, beautiful, strong and resilient with something wonderful to contribute every day, right here, right now? How can you help the women around you to be the best versions of themselves and to spread the message that there’s room for everyone in this world?
Today, make a special effort to encourage someone who most needs it and let’s all celebrate ourselves and our sisters around the world today! I’ll drink to that – Happy International Women’s Day! Cheers!
by Christine Gilland and Lorraine McIntyre