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.
This essay originally ran on Elizabeth Gilbert’s blog and was published with permission.
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