One of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote Eat Pray Love (one of my favorite books of all time), Committed, and now her new book, The Signature of All Things, wrote a blog post back in December that recently rocked my world. I think she absolutely nailed it. Read on and I’ll share my thoughts on “how to do this” at the end.
Almost every night on book tour this year, I ended up talking about this subject with the audience. My audiences are pretty much composed entirely of women (though I love you, too, my emotionally-secure men who dare to come to my events!) and invariably there would be a woman in the crowd who would stand up and ask how to get courage to….well, whatever. To write her book, to change her life, to travel alone, to endure her sorrows, to leave her toxic relationship, to start her own business, to stand up for herself.
And I would end up saying something along these lines — that it is down to us now. There has never been a better moment in human history than RIGHT NOW to be a woman. While there are still huge stretches of earth where the lot of womankind remains trapped in subjugation, the industrialized modern western world is the best environment women have ever had — the best and only shot we ever got at full personhood. The life that I was offered, in comparison to the lives of my great-grandmothers, is so radically different that I might as well be a new human species altogether. I am a female with biological, political, financial and emotional autonomy. Such a thing was never heard of before. Ever.
Could things still be better for women? Yes, of course, and I fight for that, as we all must. Do we have perfect parity yet? Maybe in Sweden, but certainly not everywhere. Is there still discrimination and stupidity? Sure. Will there always be? Probably. But you guys, NOBODY in womankind ever had a better chance to manifest their own lives than us, RIGHT NOW.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Imperfection never stopped men from putting themselves forward! SO DON’T LET IT STOP YOU!”
But the last obstacle is us. Many of the big external obstacles (political, legislative) have been cleared for us by the great and brave women who came before us. We stand on their shoulders and should be grateful. But now we are left to battle the lingering prejudices in our own minds that say we are not worthy — not good enough, not strong enough, not talented enough, not brave enough. That our voices are not important, that we shouldn’t raise our hand, that we shouldn’t ask to lead the project, that we shouldn’t run for office, that we don’t deserve a promotion, that we can’t set boundaries, that we can’t have a child alone, that we can’t support ourselves, that we can’t defend our vocations, that we can’t apply for that grant or that graduate program, that we shouldn’t speak up and say, “No, let’s do it my way.” That we aren’t perfect yet, in other words, and therefore we must hold ourselves back.
And while it’s understandable that about a billion years of being beat down would keep a woman believing she is imperfect, we REALLY have to get past that obstacle in ourselves. Because I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Imperfection never stopped men from putting themselves forward! SO DON’T LET IT STOP YOU!
“Get out of your own way, women. It’s time. And nobody can do this part for you.”
Get out of your own way, women. It’s time. And nobody can do this part for you. No act of congress (no social or political legislation) can get you out of your own way. Gloria Steinem can’t get you out of your own way, and neither can Oprah, Brene Brown, Martha Beck, Hilary Clinton, your uncle’s dog, your mother’s cat or me.
Don’t wait to be rescued or discovered by anyone, and for heaven’s sake, don’t wait to be given permission from the principal’s office to take full ownership of your own destiny. You gotta do it yourself.
Step forward out of your own lingering residual sense of smallness, take up every inch of life that is your blessed inheritance, and DO YOUR THING.
It’s down to us now — down to you.
Never been a better moment than right now.
Get on it, my friends. For real.
For me this was powerful. A reminder of how much I (we) have, and can do today. I could not agree with her more. I also get in my own way (often).
But the big question, for me at least, after reading something so resonating and inspiring, when the crowd is roaring and the angles singing is, how in the hell do I get out of my own way?
I’m going to share with you one of the best ways I know how and ask that if you know of another way that’s worked for you you’ll share it with all of us.
Life happens between our ears. We all have a bazillion thoughts swirling around in our head about everything. Including ourselves.
The best way I know how to get out of my own way is to notice what thoughts pop into my head that keep me stuck. Anything as simple as “I’m not feeling motivated today” to as vast as “I’ll never find my passion in life.” If I have either of these thoughts, do you know what happens? Nothing. Nothing happens. No inspiration. No action. Moping. That’s what happens. Moping.
Your thoughts about yourself are what create imperfection. In my humble opinion, we are all imperfectly perfect. But it’s how we think about ourselves that drive how we feel about ourselves and whether we take action towards what we truly want or not.
So start noticing what those thoughts are in you. Become the observer of your mind. When you have an idea to do something, and you are really excited about it, then all of a sudden the wind has been taken out of your sails, that my dear is a thought about yourself popping up getting in your way.
What is that thought? Get still and search. Is it, I’m not good enough? I don’t know enough? No one will ever support me? People will think I’m crazy? Any variation of?
That’s the stopping point right there. As soon as THAT thought pops up, right then you decide, nope, not moving forward with that idea. Dreams die.
See how that happens? In an instant. An instant. And most of the time, we don’t even recognize it. We process things so quickly in our minds, we never even realize that’s what has happened. Which is why it’s so so so important to start to notice what’s going on within yourself.
This is where ALL of your power is. Right between those two cute little ears of yours. As soon as you notice a thought that’s keeping you stuck you get to decide what to do with it. That’s right, you. Not anyone else.
Take those words out of your head and place them in your hand or write them down on paper. You get to choose if that thought stays with you and you want to believe it, or decide to say no thank you, that’s not going to help me move forward.
The beauty of this is that a thought is just a thought. Power provided by the thinker. Or taken away by the thinker as well.
Thoughts can be believed or not, changed or not. Always.
If you’ve decided that a thought is keeping you stuck, right in that moment you can choose your own new thought that will help you move forward. Hint: It’s a thought that you think that makes you ‘feel’ great, good, or even just a little better than the one keeping you stuck. It could be as small as “damn I look good in this red shirt” to as big as “of course I can be the CEO of my own company”. If it makes you feel good, inspires you, empowers you, makes you smile or jump for joy, that’s the right track for you. Because from that place, you take action towards your goals and dreams. And I think we humans love taking inspired heart-felt action towards what lights us up.
And here’s the thing. Those pesky get-in-your-way-thoughts are going to continue to pop up. Mine do all the time. For some silly reason, our brains are wired like that. When I get to the other side someday I’m going to have a little chat with someone about that. :)
In the mean time, you will notice them more quickly, notice how they make you feel, and notice what action you do or don’t take because of them. Therein lies the moment of truth. Do you choose a thought that moves you forward or keeps you stuck?
That I can’t do for you, no one can. But I absolutely know, YOU CAN do that for yourself. And there’s no better moment than right now.
Join the conversation on the blog by leaving a comment below, or email me, firstname.lastname@example.org
I am grateful to be able to spend some time with you virtually today. Thank you.
As always, take from here what works for you, share this with your friends if you think they might benefit, and the rest… you can leave behind.