5 Things Women Should Start Giving Themselves Permission to Do
By Katie Medlock
Alright, ladies, the time is now. Time to stop buying into the ideas society has about what is not okay for women to do, but is perfectly acceptable for men. Time to give ourselves permission to be human and to stand up for ourselves when others would rather we sit down and be quiet.
As we gain more exposure to the world and others’ expectations for us, we can internalize all kinds of messages that affect us deeply. Some of these messages are beneficial and promote growth, yet there are many that can prevent us from developing into the fullest expression of our selves—if we let them. Here are some things we need to start giving ourselves permission to do in our daily life.
1. Accept compliments
Just so we’re clear, I’m talking about sincere compliments and not inappropriate comments or unwanted harassment—rather, the kind of stuff people tell us that deep down we are very touched to hear, but have a knee-jerk reaction to invalidate. Amy Schumer has a bold (NSFW) sketch about women’s reactions to compliments. While over the top, it shows how we feel the need to deny others’ praise and go one step further to actively put ourselves down. Instead of reacting that way, try saying “thank you” and telling yourself you deserve the kindness.
2. Say “No” sometimes”
That’s right, we have to allow ourselves to “lean out” when we need it. The old stereotype that women are all driven by a desire to nurture everyone else needs to be put to rest, if you ask me. There’s nothing wrong with stepping up to a challenge (or seeking one out!), but if we find ourselves saying “yes” to a request just because we don’t want to let someone down or hurt our image, we are doing something unhealthy. We are just as entitled as everyone else to bow out when we are overburdened or just plain don’t want to do something.
3. Appreciate ourselves, “flaws” and all
We have one doozy of a self-improvement complex in the Western world and, unfortunately, it tends to chastise anyone who isn’t constantly seeking perfection. What in the world is wrong with being happy with ourselves? On a physical level, we do not always need to be preparing for the next diet or sit-up challenge—we can love the bodies we have just as they are in the moment. On an emotional and intellectual level, it can cause more harm than good to constantly give in to critical self-talk. Take a break from becoming “better” at something and reflect on how awesome you already are.
4. Call people out when they disrespect us
Have you ever been spoken over, passed up, interrupted, belittled or otherwise invalidated? As much as our socialization may try to teach us this is just how things go, it’s actually okay to say “I wasn’t finished talking” or “Here’s what I think.” Acts of assertiveness are not rude, nor do they need to be accompanied by an apology. We may be fighting an uphill battle with our self-esteem and the world’s expectations for us, yet both will learn to adapt to women taking up equal space in the world, as long as we keep practicing it.
Even though the film is a laugh riot, I take issue with Ricky Bobby’s idea “if you’re not first, you’re last.” Life isn’t always about winning or even succeeding at what we set out to do. By not giving ourselves permission to fail at something, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. This especially applies to allowing ourselves to fail at living up to what others want from us. Trying and failing is where growth happens, so let’s not be as afraid of this four-letter F-word.
James Achanyi-Fontem, is a Senior Health Journalist and Communication Consultant. He worked as a health journalist and broadcaster for 30 years with Radio Cameroon and later Cameroon Radio Television, CRTV before retiring in 2005 to engage fully with Cameroon Link (Human Assistance Programme). Cameroon Link is a registered charity, not-for-profit organisation involved in the promotion of community health, humanitarian assistance, promotion of women and child rights through involvement of communities in Cameroon for mother and child health care. Cameroon Link is a partner to Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Farm Radio International (FRI), International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN Africa), World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA). As the intermediary of Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Cameroon Link is engaged to implement a Cameroon Rural Radio story design Programming through an investigative research, which aims to discover through interviewing beneficiaries of health programmes on their interests, documenting and disseminating new ideas about how radio stations produce and air Healthy Communities Radio Programs in Cameroon.