Happy International Women’s Day!
I recently had the privilege of sponsoring the Leader of the Year award for the Woman of Worth awards. I received this award in 2019, and it was very meaningful to me. I spend my professional days helping people feel seen and heard. For me, receiving this award was an experience of being seen for all I have contributed. It helped me keep putting one foot in front of the other in the following challenging years after COVID hit.
I’ve been reflecting on what it means to identify as a woman in the era of gender fluidity. I identify as a woman, specifically as a feminist. I also believe people have the right to lead an authentic life. This is, in fact, the purpose of our work at Clearmind!
Being born into this western world and labelled a woman means you are handed a limiting script with a lot of responsibility and less opportunity. If you’re a woman of colour, a whole lot less opportunity. If you’re a lesbian woman of colour, even more challenge. You get the idea. And, choosing to identify as a women when you’ve been labelled something else comes with it’s own set of challenges.
Being born into areas like Iran and labelled a woman can mean you aren’t legally independent. You are owned, and this was true of the whole world not so long ago. Women carry this history, often unconsciously and emotionally.
This history acts out systemically and internally. A wonderful cartoon made the social media rounds many times that talks about the ‘mental load’. The mental load is all the invisible work that lands on women’s shoulders in a typical household, even if the concrete work is more equitably distributed. We keep track, we assign, we monitor, we anticipate, and we worry. We worry!
Speaking entirely from personal experience, one of the hardest parts of this dynamic is the lack of acknowledgement. Others aren’t bad and wrong for this, as we’re all programmed with this script. However, we all need to be seen for what we contribute. We have a fundamental human need to be seen. This is how all humans become ourselves: someone reflects our inner self, best self or hard working self back to us, and it feels good.
How can we detach from this script and live a more authentic life? We can’t do this alone. The more we accurately see each other, the more we invite equity into our relationships and systems. This requires having the courage to tell the truth in an honest, vulnerable and emotionally responsible way. It requires looking deeply and acknowledging others experiences and contributions.
We all need to be met where we are in order to grow. We can call each other into our best selves by being willing to see each other. Here is something women have been socialized to do well, to sit face to face, eye to eye and see each other. When we catch a glimpse of someone’s best, authentic self, acknowledge that self and give it some momentum. Who are the people who have seen you in this way? Who would you like to acknowledge? Comment below!
Catherine O’Kane is a Registered Clinical Counsellor, teacher, workshop facilitator and a gifted and entertaining public speaker with Clearmind International. She has a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, and has been a practicing therapist since 1992, helping people evolve out of personal pain into purpose. She firmly believes that what we put out in all our relationships has the power to ripple out and effect positive change in our families, communities and beyond.