It starts when we’re pretty young, the idea that we must apologize for our mere existence. The requisite to be polite, demure and undisturbing is instilled in women during the earliest stages of girlhood. The hedging, the “sorry, but…” statements that bookend our otherwise powerful ideas - this is our response to a society that still prefers we be seen and not heard.
Within this construct, many of us concluded that we are inherently lacking, naturally out of place, and must perpetually prove our worth. For those of us experiencing intersectional oppression, this is particularly complex - women of color, trans women, mothers, survivors. As a result, we learned to dismiss ourselves and bypass our emotional needs so that we can show up in a world that doesn’t make enough space for us. The fear is that if we slow down, say no, pull back, or misstep, we’ll prove them right - that we are deserving of less space, less respect, less pay.
Perhaps the most radical choice a woman can make is to be compassionate towards herself. After all, demanding equality and space for wellness in the same breath is downright disruptive. Mostly, we are disrupting the notion that the love and compassion within us are solely for the consumption of others. But, the way we care for people, the way we understand and respond to needs, the way we nurture and coddle those around us - this is the care we must give to ourselves first.
So what does self-compassion look like? I think it starts with how we engage our inner voice. Our internal dialogue is typically the first responder when we meet our limit or feel like we’re failing. It pulls from childhood trauma or disappointment or ego or toxic cycles and removes us from our own care. That voice tells us to toughen up or push through when we really need to feel that same tenderness we would give to someone else if they were standing in front of us feeling defeated.
What would it feel like to validate the emotions you might otherwise call “silly”, or to soften your tone when you talk to yourself? What if, instead of apologizing to the people around you, you silently forgave yourself instead?
When you are intentionally compassionate towards yourself, you get to experience two expressions of love simultaneously - the love you give to yourself and the love you receive from yourself. This isn’t just an act of self-care. It’s also an opportunity to practice the full expression of love and expand your compassion for the people around you. For this generation of women, the task at hand is to pursue a different reality than our mothers had. This is a fight that we are in whether we want to be or not. In the meantime, since the world refuses to be tender with us, we must be tender with ourselves.
This Lady Lowdown article is by Ashley Simpo: a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York. She has penned essays and op-eds about parenthood, Black womanhood, and mental health and authored ‘A Kids Book About Divorce’ to help parents and kids talk about separation.
Find out more about Ashley’s body or work at blackashley.com and follow her musings on Twitter and Instagram.
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