Chapter Two of my new book “You Don’t Need a Prince to Lead a Charming Life.”
To reclaim your power, it is important to appreciate and be grateful for yourself.
Many years ago I was whining about my life to a woman I knew, and she reframed what I was saying into a positive idea. She interrupted me and said, “It is amazing that you don’t seem to realize all that you have accomplished in life.” It took me off guard and I stopped to think for a minute. “What do you mean?” She started to mention all the things I had done so far in my life that I had seen as negative rather than positive. It was quite amazing to me. I was only focusing on how these things had gotten in the way and brought me down. When she reframed my way of looking at it, I saw how it really was great that I had accomplished what most people would have had a hard time with. I felt pretty wonderful that another woman had seen these things, as it is always important that our own gender give us feedback about what they see, to help us grow as women. A woman-to-woman experience of selves strengthens our gender as a whole. Later on, a teacher at my college noted one day that she was glad to hear me saying that I was a survivor instead of a victim. The words we use in reference to ourselves go a long way in reclaiming our power.
When I speak with women in my practice I see that they all do the same thing: beat themselves up. They grow up in homes that teach them to be second-class citizens. They are not taught to set boundaries or to ask for what they want. Instead, they are supposed to put their own needs aside and focus on the others around them. The Calvinist motto is “Children are to be seen and not heard,” and in this respect it can apply to boys as well as girls, though girls are pushed aside much more than boys are in the household. Girls are meant to be the caretakers. They are raised to believe they will get married one day and their husbands will look after them (this still happens as I still see young girls chasing boys the same way I did in my day).
I don’t mean to pick on single parents but unfortunately, young girls who aren’t raised with a father figure need one. They need to feel admired by a man (unless they are a lesbian, though even for this sexual preference, I still see a need for a father figure). It is human nature, yin/yang, and a balance of male/female. If there is no male figure in a young woman’s life (for men this is still important but a different book to write), she has no one to teach her about boys and men and how to be in a relationship with them. Thus it will create havoc when she tries to have a relationship with a male. I have found in my own family, with clients I have served in private practice and while working for social services that these girls try too quickly and it amounts to sex (which they idealize means he loves me) and since so many are not using birth control (a frequent comment is that it makes them look fat or they don’t like the side effects) the end result of course is babies. This desperate need for attention (love) is recreated in the false belief that the boy will stick around for the child, and if not, what fun it will be to have a baby. Of course they later learn those ideas are most definitely untrue, especially when people begin to focus more attention on the baby instead of the mother and suddenly she finds herself alone once more. The Morehouse Research Institute and the Institute for American Values, (1999. Turning the corner on father absence in black America, A statement from the Morehouse conference on African-American fathers.), stated that when children are abandoned by their fathers, the girls are most likely to end up with early pregnancies and the boys are most likely to end up behind bars.
When I point out to my female clients that it is important to have self-respect, they nod their heads. I then tell them that they can’t expect a man to give them happiness, or to give them what they want in life and this causes confusion. How can I say such a thing and completely wipe away everything they have ever come to learn or expect in their lives? It really throws people into a mess philosophically. Sometimes women say yes, they realize that [intellectually] but to put it in practice is another thing all together. We can’t just stop time and turn ourselves from caretakers into independent women who set boundaries. There are steps to take as we begin to grow from fragile human beings into more evolved ones.
To have pride in yourself starts from the head and goes down to your toes quite literally. The way you present yourself says a lot to the world and a feeling of pride is external as well as internal. All senses are taken into account here. The way you dress – visual, the way you smell – pheromones, the way you talk – hearing and speaking, or how you are heard and how you talk. Taste would even come into play in the way you take care of your body. Let’s look at some of these things individually.
Visual: A woman who has reclaimed her power is going to be a person who is confident in herself and shows this in the way she walks and dresses in public. Look at a woman like Taylor Swift. She is in the same entertainment business as Britney Spears, though she was raised differently and so instead of seeking the sexual route, she is modest and careful in the clothing she chooses. She has a more mature look rather than a childish (little girl) look that excites sexual predators. She even makes fun of the racier styles in her videos as if to say, “Yes, I acknowledge the world around me, but I don’t need to be a part of this.” She is strong, confident, young, and willing to take risks but not to the point of ruining her reputation. Another young role model Jennifer Hudson, conveys a sophisticated, elegant woman with an amazing voice. Listening to the passion in the lyrics she belted out while she sang in Dreamgirls, I felt such a heavy weight on my chest. Older women such as Helen Mirren and Judi Dench astonish us all wearing clothing that makes them look beautiful and intelligent. It is horrifying to see women who have had plastic surgery wearing dresses that a twenty-year-old would wear or exposing their bodies. After you turn fifty, you really need to rethink how you dress in public. It is about looking attractive, intelligent, confident, and comfortable in your skin—because you know you have made it in the world.
When you walk, you need to do so like a woman who is dressed for success, not like a woman who is wearing clothing. Six-inch heels do not make you seem confident, nor does it demand respect. It makes you look ridiculous. They are not practical shoes for the boardroom or for going out at night. Stilts are for clowns in the circus or ladies of the evening who are selling sex. If you want to get ahead in life and in your career and want people to take you seriously, don’t wear this type of clothing.
Smell: Pheromones are subtle signals that we both emanate and pick up from others. There are some people who repel us for obvious reasons such as wearing too much perfume or cologne, and there are people who attract us for unknown reasons, but it is really the pheromones, which are our body scent, our energy, the aura that we have around us. A confident woman who is a good person will attract people because they are eager to hear what she has to say, to see what she is wearing, and see what she is like in person. They want to get to know her. A woman who pretends to be confident may come across as bitchy or insecure; she dresses in a desperate fashion focusing on her sexuality to attract people rather than acknowledging that she is a good person who does not need this attention. If you are intelligent and talented, you will get across the message you want to your audience; you don’t need to cater to people’s negative expectations. Modesty is always the best policy. It makes people want to know you more. Suddenly you are mysterious rather than obvious, and people love suspense.
Taste: what you eat says a lot about you. Our country has turned upside down with Walmarts ruining our communities, and this has also created a junk-food culture. Since Main Street is gone, so has our need to preserve and protect it. Our society has begun to want the predictable and it is expected wherever we go. You can find McDonalds in almost any country and a variety of nationwide franchises like Applebee’s enable us to get satisfied with the same junk while travelling. Predictable food makes Americans feel comfortable when they are on the road and don’t want the adventure of trying the local cuisine. As a result there is an obesity problem because chain food delivers oversized meals that no one ever sat down to at home growing up. Likewise, mom and pop restaurants serve normal portions. It is not just the food Americans are eating in these places but the servers and the cooks presenting it to us as well. They are used to quick and easy, not healthy and happy. Mom and pop restaurants, for the most part, have good values and ethics. Our dollar is important to them and they want us to come back. They have bills to pay and kids to feed. They are working hard to supply their families. A franchise is working hard to serve the corporation. Sure they have families too but the ultimate ruler is the person they bought the chain from. As a result, cleanliness in restaurants is at an all-time low and our society has come to expect this. They don’t have time to clean the place, because there are too many people to serve. Our society just allows these things because everyone is in a hurry and wants the quick, predictable meal. Why care what it looks like? If you are staying in a hotel, you can take it back to your room anyway. Eating good food happens when people love themselves, feel good about themselves, and are confident and conscious of what goes into their bodies.
Hearing and Speaking: Do you talk like a lady—a woman who is in charge of her life, or are you bossing people around trying to control the world around you? Healthy, strong, confident women do not need to demand, they have a way about them that people respect. We see women in society who are loudmouths, who fight with other women and men, who are known as drama queens or who take other people’s men. Women who are educated, well mannered, and diplomatic often have good communication skills. They don’t have these types of problems. They don’t need to yell or fight or demand. When they talk, people listen because there is a sense (from all the senses as well as this one) that this is someone they should listen to. If you have to raise your voice, you need to rethink how you present yourself. Also, you don’t need to be an educated woman to have these skills or to think well of yourself, but it helps. College often brings confidence, but only when your skills are being utilized in the workplace and you enjoy doing what you have set out to do.
Reclaiming your power has to do with reinventing yourself. You, as a woman, have to make a conscious effort to look at what type of people you are attracting into your life and whether or not you have the life you want and are happy with it. If not, it is important to address this, not by finding a man, but by making some changes in your life. How do you fix these things if you have been raised in a world where you have been abused? If your life has been overwhelmed by a mental illness or mental health issues? If you have been raised to be a second-class citizen and are just unhappy overall? Working on the self includes getting support spiritually, psychologically, and physically: mind, body, and spirit.
Having a spiritual belief system strengthens your resolve. It gives you something to believe in. When you have nothing, it often gives people a sense of emptiness. Start with what you learned growing up and then begin to explore religions in general. Take a walk in nature, a good long hike deep in the woods that will bring you to a place of questioning. Nature is good for soul searching. If not a walk, sail a boat, sky dive, do something that enriches your sense of self and takes you to a deeper place.
Almost anyone can benefit from psychotherapy to gain greater self-awareness and contentment within. There are thousands of psychotherapists available who have different modalities of practicing and come from all different ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds. If you are unhappy, have come from an abusive background and suffered physical, emotional, sexual, financial, or domestic violence as an adult or witnessed it as a child, if you have a mental illness that runs in your family, if you have lost someone in your life very dear to you… these are just some of the examples of why you should seek out a psychotherapist.
Finally, you can’t work on your mind and soul without enriching your health. Cigarette smoking is neither spiritually nor psychologically healthy. If you are putting drugs or alcohol into your system, you are keeping yourself from thinking clearly. Soda pop and coffee on occasion is one thing but living your life with them is another. I have known young people who dehydrate themselves with highly caffeinated drinks, because they were living off these new sodas and not drinking water, juice or milk at all. I have also known people who don’t even drink water or juice on a daily basis. All of these things are bad for the soul. If you are taking lots of medications, you really need to get a second opinion from either another psychiatrist or medical doctor depending on why you take them. A healthy mind, body and spirit does not come from taking four or more medications. Seeking out holistic support and changing your diet can often help to eliminate medications. Don’t ever ignore psychological or physical reasons for taking medications, but you don’t need to be popping pills as if they are candy for the soul. Not only should you focus on eating well and re-examining all that goes into your body, you must also exercise and stay fit and trim. Too many times people give me excuses: “I used to do that” or “I know I need to get back to going to the gym.” Excuses lead to obesity which is an eating disorder in the sense that you are unable to control your food habits or control the way you live your life. Food soothes and nurtures the human being as they begin to give up on themselves. This is tied to family issues, the non-organic food available in stores today as well as the junk food culture, mental health issues, all of which require the support of a wellness practitioner, psychotherapist or nutritionist.
Reclaiming your power is hard work, isn’t it? Anyone can do this. If you want to feel happy with yourself and have the life you want, you must demand it of yourself and start organizing your life in a different way.
Thoughts for the Charming Life: Name 10 female role models in your life, personally or professionally or women of history, that are not in the entertainment business, and who personify the criteria above. Read a book about at least one of them.
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