Friday, October 21, 2016

     Whose voices in your past do you hear in your own? The answer to this question can reveal a lot about where our attitudes originate as women of the 21st century. Are those voices all female? If not, who were the strongest male voices, and what did they tell you about your role, your future as a woman? Were they energizing or paralyzing? How many female voices found a permanent home in your psyche? Do you hear these voices daily? Are they nurturing or judjmental? Have you learned to erase those who continue to create doubt or fear, those who challenge you every time you set a goal?

     Depending in what decade you were born, the voices in your head may be louder than others. If you were born during the 40s or 50s, your parents’ voices might be considerably
different than if you were born in the 80s or 90s. The Greatest Generation parents held strong values of right and wrong, respect for elders, humility, compliance. There were definite “shoulds, and gender roles were much more rigid than they are today. Most parents, for example, would encourage their daughters to be secretaries or teachers (female careers), or they might just encourage them to find a job until they could find a successful man. The programming didn’t need technology; it resulted from an attitude bred of recovery from the war and its financial consequences.

     Children born in the last decade would hear different “shoulds.” These might result in such recommendations as “You can be anything you want, even President of the United States.” Marriage, although, still considered a sacred value by many, is not the only life choice, nor is a heterosexual relationship or having children. The point is that women are “hard-wired” from birth to accept certain tenets that may or may not serve them well long term. Don Miguel Ruiz, in his book, The Four Agreements, states that everything you learned as a child is a lie. He believes that our parents and extended family planted ideas and values in us when we are innocent children unable to think for ourselves, so none of those values may truly be our own. He claims that one day we wake up and ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this? I don’t really believe it; I’ve just been programmed to believe it.” Now that’s a frightening but enlightening thought. 

      Were you close to your mother? your grand-mother? your siblings? your school teachers? What famous women inspired you growing up? Who were your role models? Were they all women? Do you sometimes wonder if you were brought up by only one of your parents whether your values and attitudes would be the same?

     Do you have a conscience? That may seem like an absurd question, but you have undoubtedly recognized in people you’ve met that some have more conscience than others. I contend that those with less worry less. Maybe. Who cares? Victims of bullying and mean girls care. The bullies don’t have the same conscience as the victims, do they? And mean girls often turn into mean women.

     When do we stop looking to our role models, realizing that we are the role models? Do you ever wonder what you have modeled for your own children? We often model things by our behavior that we don’t realize. Do your actions match your words? Do you consciously try to be a better parent than the one you had? Do you try to live up to the parent who had the most influence on you? I wonder if that is evident in our parenting and if our children see that. I wonder if the things I did or do ring louder in my children’s ears than the values I have tried to teach.

     I wonder how much all of this has to do with the character and courage of the women we are today. Did we learn early on to advocate for ourselves? Do we stand up for ourselves today? The “hard-wiring” explains why we are assertive, why we enable others or allow ourselves to be silent victims in situations where we should be able to respectfully and with dignity voice our opinions and state our boundaries. Can you do that with some, but not with others? Questions and doubt are the infrastructure of “wonder.” Based on all of this, it’s a wonder we aren’t up ruminating about this in the middle of the night.