I love social media, but there are some definite drawbacks that always make me miss good, old fashioned, bloggin'. I know I'm not alone (and some of my subscribers don't even have social media, what?) so at the risk of recycling information, I am sharing the main reasons I created the #patriarchydetox challenge, here. It will look better in long form anyways, I promise.
I created the #patriarchydetox challenge for several reasons.
The first reason, is when something becomes a buzzword, like patriarchy, it can be easy to write it off without understanding it, or the people who use the word. For those of us in the trenches of reversing patriarchal influences in our lives, it’s always a good reminder of why we’re fighting, and what we are fighting for.
So, If you feel like you’re on the fringes of this conversation, that you’re seeking empowerment but not quite sure you’re ready to jump in, this challenge is for you. If you sign up, you’ll only be entered in the giveaway if you participate in the challenge, but I can promise that just reading the emails or watching the videos will give you a better understanding of what patriarchy is even about, and how it relates to your life. If you’re not 100% ready, that’s OK. I’m not going to close the challenge right away, so if you start a little late, we’ll be here.
The second reason I created #patriarchydetox, is I really, really, super hate diet culture in January. I love New Years, but I loathe how so many fitness and pseudo “health” spaces use shame based marketing to make us feel like we need a “new us.” We are pressured to spend so much time, energy, and money to #detox on skinny teas, shakes, and wraps so that we will be more consumable to society.
I’m not here for that.
I am however, here for deconstructing harmful stories we participate in so our new year can be about discovering who we really are, and what we have really been called to. THIS is worth time, energy, and even money to me. Do you know what’s a HUGE boost to self esteem?
Actually believing that who you are in this world is enough, and that there is enough for you as you are.
I want there to be a permanent reminder in internet land, a sign post to remind us all that our goal shouldn’t be finding new ways to take up less space in the world.
The third reason I created #patriarchydetox, is it gives us ways to embody our growth. We can take specific action towards dismantling harmful stories we tell ourselves, and we can do it IN COMMUNITY.
Every single transformative healing experience I have had has been in the company of strong women united in purpose.
All of them.
My mission as far as I know so far is to create these spaces. Online, in person, one on one, anywhere I can. I want to offer so many ways for you to expand into who you were made to be. I’m here to hold that space for you to sift through the stories you’ve lived with compassion. I’m here to walk with you as you mourn the hard things, the dark places in yourself and in others. I’m here to rally behind your mission, calling, and purpose whatever they may be.
This is the world we can create in healing and reclamation, and this is just the beginning.
Reason #4: I created #patriarchydetox because patriarchal power dynamics are a baseline part of our stories that we often don’t question. If you haven’t figured this out already, I’m into questioning everything.
But really, it’s so important to know WHY we do what we do. This challenge is an invitation to deeper intention. It’s an investigation to discover how a main structure of society intersects with who YOU are.
We are only powerless when we choose not to claim our influence. We are powerless when we shut our eyes, and plug our ears. Living our lives on autopilot is always dangerous, to us and to those who trip over the bags we refuse to unpack.
I’m going to get a little vulnerable, and share that this is the case especially in spaces of faith. I think we tend to assume that if we partake in spiritual practices and beliefs we can avoid really getting to know ourselves. We hang a cross on the closet door that we’ve shoved all of our insecurity, fear, and shame in, and think that makes us good.
For my fellow Christians - Grace and forgiveness doesn’t mean we don’t live with the consequences of our actions, and of living in a cursed world. If we don’t evaluate the structures that our world is based on, how can we recognize them when they show up in our churches?
“The World” isn’t always sex, drugs, yoga pants, and rock n’ roll. More often “The World” is fear of not being enough, fear of not having enough, fear of being wrong, fear of not being good. Looking for quick, cheap, and easy fixes to our problems in life, and getting caught up in comparison traps. Patriarchy isn’t a system based in faith, patriarchy is a “worldly” system that we ALL must fight if we want to live wholehearted, autonomous lives of faith.
Reason #5: I created the patriarchy detox challenge because I hate men. JUST KIDDING. I actually created Patriarchy Detox because I hold deep respect and love for many wonderful men in my life, and I want to see THEM free from these harmful structures too.
My repeatable phrase in this challenge is that Patriarchy is a SYSTEM, it doesn’t mean “men are evil.”
Patriarchy is the SYSTEM that tells men the only socially acceptable way of processing their emotions is through anger.
Patriarchy is the SYSTEM that suppresses the infinite ways to define “masculine” and “feminine”
Patriarchy is the SYSTEM that teaches men to see women as consumable
Patriarchy is the SYSTEM that cuts many men off from learning how to nurture themselves and their communities
Patriarchy is the SYSTEM that teaches us all to equate connection with weakness (and femininity)
Patriarchy hurts men too. We need to debunk this myth once and for all, that the system of patriarchy benefits men, and we women are just fighting for our fair share of power. No. Patriarchy is poison that turns us on each other, limits all of our potential, and creates spaces of isolation instead of spaces of connection.
This challenge is based in my, feminine, experience of patriarchy, but men are also welcome. It’s equally important (if not more important!) for men to unpack the role patriarchy has played in their lives. It’s not easy work, but it’s worthwhile. I’m all about sisterhood, but we need our men to live into the full spectrum of their identities too. We need our men healed and whole.
I could probably make a month long series on why it's so important to examine the role stories like patriarchy play in our lives, but I'll save that for after I finish my book. I am, however, so psyched to do this challenge with you all. The challenge will be open from Monday, 1/7/19, through Friday, 1/11/19, and if you'd like details on what's involved and how to sign up, click on over here.
See you on the other side!
If you know my family at all, you know my mom loves traditions. We had a program for every holiday when I was growing up. The program was a mashup of worship service and seminar, and it lasted all day. As a kid, I was mostly interested in the food at Thanksgiving, and less in reading the Thanksgiving proclamation, poems about the Pilgrims, or sitting at the table for two hours while we all shared five things we were thankful for. There was one story I did particularly like, called “The Town of Thanks”, but other than that I just wanted stuffing. Looking back,I appreciate the effort involved and the community she was trying to build, although I still mainly want to eat stuffing on Thanksgiving, sorry Mom.
I thought I had a pretty comprehensive understanding of the first thanksgiving, and America's origin story. Then, I started doing some research and reading about the history of Indigenous peoples. We have this habit as humans to focus intensely on the parts of the story that relate to us. The pilgrims (or those who came soon after the pilgrims) are many of our ancestors. We feel a visceral connection and national pride when we think about our forefathers paving the way for the freedoms and privileges we now enjoy. The part that “Indians” play in our national narrative has been reduced to that of a guest at an ancient meal. They conveniently fade from view in our stories after this, other than as tropes and caricatures.
Is it any surprise that the Indigenous peoples of this land have different perspectives of historical events? The story stays the same, but the landscape shifts when we consider them as the main characters, instead of a cameo appearance.
I’d love if you would humor me for a minute, and see how it feels in your mind and in your body to not be cast as the main character. Pay attention to that feeling. Notice how it informs your thoughts and decisions. Does it feel unsettling? Wrong even? Think on that as we move forward.
I don’t know about you, but even with all of the history and understanding I had of the Immigrant / Settler side of the first Thanksgiving, I always imagined more Pilgrims than Indians. Yet, Edward Winslow's records state that only Fifty three pilgrims had survived at this point, and Massasoit brought at least ninety men to the feast.
Historically, it's doubtful that the Native Americans were actually invited to the first Thanksgiving. The common conjecture from several historians, including Tim Turner, (Cherokee, manager of Plimoth Plantation’s Wampanoag Homesite and co-owner of Native Plymouth Tours) is that Massasoit and his warriors heard the Pilgrims “exercising of arms” and came ready to aide their new allies in a fight.
When they found a feast instead of a fight, they became the most gracious guests. This feast was the celebration of a tenuous peace treaty. The Pilgrims, unaccustomed to agriculture or hunting for survival were vulnerable, and the numbers of Wampanoag people had greatly diminished due to an outbreak of disease. (A gift from European predecessors of the Pilgrims who also enslaved Indigenous peoples and took them back to Europe in 1614, four years before the Puritans landed.) Both peoples had cultural harvest celebrations, so this was a natural connection point.
It only follows that the Pilgrims didn’t have enough food for triple their number, and Massasoit sent his hunters out to bring game and supplement the banquet.
I grew up believing the Puritans came to America and fought for religious freedom, having themselves been outcasts of the English Theocracy. However much of their theology was decidedly harmful to anyone believing differently. The theocratic society they came from also sailed to the New (to them) World. They had learned well how to politicize and weaponize religion.
England had very recently colonized Ireland, as well as led crusades through the middle east. Their form of conquest was practiced there, and also came with the Separatists, who carried out horrific acts of terror in the name of a Prince of Peace. The Salem Witch Trials are another example of this dynamic. After a couple short seasons and a tenuous peace, the Puritans forgot the hospitality and forgiveness of the Wampanoags. They began to dehumanize their Native neighbors for their differences in culture, faith, and skin color.
Dehumanization was necessary to justify the genocide that soon followed in pursuit of land and power.
I find it sad and ironic that in our religious history of Christianity, those who had no understanding of our faith carried it out better than those that professed it.
Brene Brown talks about the dangers of dehumanization in her book “Braving the Wilderness” and I find her work applicable in this story. In this excerpt, she makes the point that dehumanization begins with language. If you’re ready for a shock (and to fall down the rabbit hole) look up the statements about Native American peoples from our founding fathers. It’s convenient that Thomas Jefferson is most well known for penning
“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” and the fight against “taxation without representation”.
Less the complaint that “(The King) has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”
Dehumanizing language is embedded in the very framework of our oldest and most revered political documents, and that was just the beginning. It’s also likely that Thomas Jefferson was referencing the Proclamation line of 1763, which was an undertaking of the Crown to limit westward expansion, and come to an agreement with the Indigenous peoples on set boundaries. Our revolutionary war was a revolt on unjust taxation, but a sinister shadow of unchecked pursuit of power through land came behind the rally cry of “Liberty and Justice for All.”
I looked up a map, and was amazed at where the Proclamation line fell:
In less than 100 years, from our independence from England in 1776, to 1846 the United States acquired the lower 48 states. Before colonization, there were roughly estimated to be between 50 and 100 million Indigenous peoples and an estimated 562 autonomous nations. This was after Columbus and other explorers had brought diseases and taken ships full of captives back to Europe. In America today, with all our cities and urban development, we have approximately 325 million people. So the number of Indigenous peoples living here before us was potentially a full third of the our current population.
The UN Genocide convention was formed after the holocaust, and defines genocide as “Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
This was developed long after the US was fully colonized. However, I haven’t found any other definition that more accurately describes the ways in which Europe and then colonists wrested land and culture from the first inhabitants. In memorandums of war and historical documents words like “extermination” and the phrase “leave none alive” are used to instruct the killing of Indigenous tribes. Indigenous women have been forcibly sterilized - as recently as 2017. Native children were often stolen from their families and given to settlers through adoption as an effort to squelch Indigenous heritage, say nothing of the boarding schools that required them to cut their hair and denounce their former identities. These are all forms of genocide that have been committed against Native peoples.
It’s easy to assume, and many history books may lead us to believe that the New World was basically uninhabited and there for claiming. That was far from the case. Colonization and settling the US territories cost the lives of Indigenous men, women, and children in the millions. Their civilizations brought us many staples we still enjoy to this day, like the cultivation of corn, beans, and their complex trails and roadways. It’s sad we didn’t also learn their understanding of sustainable game management, forestry, and horticulture, or honor their humanity and cultural identity.
Numbering those with Native descent is hard, especially since many have been naturalized and their heritage has been suppressed. However the rough estimate currently is 5.2 million, 22% of which live on reservations.
Native tribes that supported Britain in the revolutionary war (many looking to preserve their lands and heritage) were hunted afterwards with a vengeance. George Washington’s orders are on record to General John Sullivan, who commanded 5,000 troops to oversee “...the total destruction and devastation of [the Indian] settlements and capture as many prisoners as possible.”
Fast forward to the time of Abraham Lincoln, known for his progressive (for the 1800s) views of equality, and even he withheld money from Sioux to fund a war, while colonies already were taking over their land in Minnesota. When a military clash inevitably happened, he sentenced 39 Native Americans to be hung in the largest mass hanging of our country’s history. And yet, he was the founder of Thanksgiving as a national holiday.
Juan Gonzalez of Boston rekindles a small fire — the smoke symbolizing a ritual for healing and a connection with the "creator." He has been attending this day of mourning for 30 years. "We feel the pain of the Wampanoag," said Gonzalez. United American Indians of New England gather for the National Day of Mourning across from Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, MA on Thursday, November 25, 2010. The day signifies the deaths of American Indians at the hands of early settlers and colonists and the independence of American Indians. Boston Globe Boston Globe via Getty Images
It’s not surprising to me that now, many Indigenous peoples see Thanksgiving as a day of mourning. Many of us descended from settlers and immigrants, enjoy the nostalgia in the birth of a country brimming with wealth and opportunity. But many others understand it as the foreshadowing of genocide and generational trauma they are still working to heal.
So where do we go from here? What do we actually DO with this information? I’m not suggesting we forgo the turkey, stuffing, or thankfulness. I am suggesting that in 2018 maybe it’s time to bring some awareness to the main characters of the First Thanksgiving, and how things have gone for them since.
I suggest that those of us who identify as Christian research and understand how our faith has been weaponized by colonization, and remember that the sins of our fathers are visited on us. How often do we prioritize the thing we want, whether it’s land, power, or security, over the REAL tenets of our faith, and the humanity of others?
I suggest we raise our awareness of dehumanizing language being accepted in our current culture, and commit to calling it out, and not spreading it. (Yes, memes count here!)
I suggest we actively work to support Indigenous artists, non-profits, and foundations in understanding and empathy of their history and resilience. (Check out my post that details specific organizations supporting Indigenous women and combating violence against them)
I suggest that we research the tribes whose land we now occupy, that we travel on, and look for ways to honor their history. (I currently live on Quinnipiac land.)
I suggest that we learn to navigate the vast chasm between the discomfort of deepening our understanding, and the constant threat of physical harm and oppression our ignorance creates for Indigenous Americans and other people of color.
I suggest that we read books by Indigenous authors, follow Indigenous peoples on social media, and actively work to educate ourselves around a topic that has been silenced for centuries.
This Thanksgiving, I am humbled by the story of Massasoit. A plague had just decimated his people, another number had been shipped off as slaves. And yet he still offered the struggling pilgrims aide. They had raided new, sacred graves of his people, and yet he offered peace.
I mourn how our ancestors and founding fathers repaid Native kindnesses. It disturbs and unnerves me that my country was built out of the decimation of Indigenous peoples. I get a bit nauseous when I remember the faith I practice gained political strength and power through the same events. Sometimes, when we thank God for our freedom to practice our religion during church services I get a chill. I wonder if that's what we really mean, or if we are actually grateful that our religion holds unholy social and political power.
I think I was 15 or so when I started trying to reconcile the teachings of Jesus with organized Christianity.
I read “Blue Like Jazz”, and I found the first description of faith that felt like home. Don Miller is witty and conversational, but above all authentic and vulnerable. As I was writing this post, I kept remembering Don’s story about building a confession booth during Ren Fayre at Reed College.
For those of you not familiar, Don and his friends confessed to the students of Reed. They confessed their own bias, times they had been unloving, as well as more expansive collective sins like the crusades. As Don explains to his first visitor:
“What are you confessing?” he asked.
I shook my head and looked at the ground. “Everything,” I told him.
“Explain.” he said.
“There’s a lot, I will keep it short,” I started. “Jesus said to feed the poor and to heal the sick. I have never done very much about that. Jesus said to love those who persecute me. I tend to lash out, especially if I feel threatened, you know, if my ego gets threatened. Jesus did not mix His spirituality with politics. I grew up doing that. It got in the way of the central message of Christ. I know that was wrong, and I know that a lot of people will not listen to the words of Christ because people like me, who know Him, carry our own agendas into the conversation rather than just relaying the message Christ wanted to get across. There’s a lot more, you know.”
“It’s all right, man” Jake said, very tenderly. His eyes were starting to water.
“Well, I said, clearing my throat, “I am sorry for all of that.”
“I forgive you” Jake said. And he meant it”
Don goes on to say that over 100 students participated, and it opened doors for community outreach and growth like they had never seen before, on one of the most secular campuses in the US.
Maybe another thing that we can do to heal our collective histories is set aside our egos, our tightly held national narratives, and confess*.
I would like to thank Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz for her brilliant and detailed work in her books:
"An Indigenous Peoples History of the United States" and
"All The Real Indians Died Off, and twenty other myths about Native Americans"
they have inspired me to research further and greatly informed this post.
*Something I think we Christians can get wrong about confession is the expectation of forgiveness. God may forgive us, but people are never required to. Confession isn't a means to rid ourselves of guilt or discomfort. Confession is acknowledgement of wrong and causing harm.
I LOVE spotlighting amazing women for you all to follow, learn from, and support. Besides thankfulness, November and the Thanksgiving holiday are often when we remember what we know of our roots, and stories of the “First Thanksgiving”. Unfortunately, the mental picture of peoples from vastly different backgrounds sharing a meal and tenuous peace is often where our understanding of Indigenous Americans ends. So this month, I have a treat for you. I am going to link you up with fantastic Indigenous women to follow and learn from. Let’s expand our understanding of and respect for these women together.
Today, I want to share just a little of what I’ve learned as background. For the last couple years I have been actively working to fill my social media feeds with people who are different from me. Originally this started out as resistance to diet culture. I wanted to follow women who looked different from me because I wanted to build new pathways of what “normal” looked like in my brain. But as I followed these other women, and started learning about their lives and struggles, it became something more.
I realized that representation doesn’t only affect our self image through showing us airbrushed and photoshopped versions of reality.
Representation shapes our communal understanding of each other.
To put it more plainly, we understand and assume that most people are like us, the people we know, and those we see represented in media and government. We have more empathy for those people because their stories and lives feel familiar.
I used to think representation wasn’t a big deal, until I started paying attention to those who I really didn’t see represented. They showed me new worlds full of perspectives and histories I had never considered.
Violence against women has been headlining lately. I’m glad to see women gaining their bite, and a movement forming. But Indigenous women have been especially vulnerable to sexual violence for centuries, due to unjust legislation and lack of priority. Non indigenous people visiting a reservation were not chargeable with crimes committed on that reservation until the VAWA act was passed in 2013. 1776 to 2013 held 237 years of crimes (against Indigenous women) that were not able to be prosecuted. As of this year, there are 5,712 missing and / or murdered Native women.
According to the Indian Law & Resource Center;
“In the United States, violence against indigenous women has reached unprecedented levels on tribal lands and in Alaska Native villages. More than 4 in 5 American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence, and more than 1 in 2 have experienced sexual violence. Alaska Native women continue to suffer the highest rate of forcible sexual assault and have reported rates of domestic violence up to 10 times higher than in the rest of the United States. Though available data is limited, the number of missing and murdered American Indian and Alaska Native women and the lack of a diligent and adequate federal response is extremely alarming to indigenous women, tribal governments, and communities. On some reservations, indigenous women are murdered at more than ten times the national average.”
When I first heard these numbers, it was staggering. I thought about how how most of the women that I know have experienced harassment or assault in some way, and that all of us have felt unsafe because of our gender at one point or another. Then I thought about how our “normal” could be so. much. worse. There’s knowing that female genital mutilation and gendercide are still happening on the other side of the globe, and that is terrible. It’s another thing entirely to realize the breadth and nuance of what Indigenous women are facing right here.
Here’s the thing about fighting for equity and equality. We aren’t here, til we are ALL here.
If our version of morality, faith, spirituality, or equality only works for people who look and think like us, we need to do better.
Sometimes that means coming up against hard things in ourselves. We must build the resilience to do this work.
I’m not writing this post to guilt anyone. There are myriad causes that we can (and many times should) be aware of. It can be overwhelming to absorb so much information, and if you’re an empath like me, emotionally exhausting. Resilience is my repeating mantra here.
We do what we can, with the understanding that as we learn our capacity for growth and affecting positive change will increase.
I’m going to leave you with a few really actionable and positive steps to take to improve your understanding and, if you choose, help Indigenous women gain safety.
The first thing we can do, and it’s often free, is educate ourselves. Amnesty USA has a PDF explaining the nuance in legislation that vastly contributes to Indigenous women’s lack of safety.
There are non-profits run by Indigenous peoples to combat violence against Indigenous women like
Native Womens Wilderness is a Native run initiative that inspires and raises the voices of Native Women in the Outdoor Realm. They encourage a healthy lifestyle grounded in the Wilderness, and educate Natives and non-Natives on the rich beauty and heritage of the Ancestral Lands beneath our feet. (adapted from Native Womens Wilderness mission statement.)
The White Buffalo Calf Woman Society is committed to providing shelter and advocacy for individuals victimized by violence. They recognize the necessity of a multi-faceted approach –the need to develop an effective response to systems in our community such as health, criminal justice, and other institutions that minimize violence against woman. They also believe it is necessary to raise community awareness by naming what has happened to them as indigenous women. At the same time, they recognize that responding to systems may or may not make significant institutional changes that will stop violence against women. Therefore, they are also dedicated to exploring and creating actions that will move us toward a social transformation that will allow equity for women.
(Adapted from The White Buffalo Calf Woman Society Facebook page)
Mending the Sacred Hoop grew out of regional organizing efforts and a Native women’s advocacy and support group for survivors of domestic violence in Duluth, MN in the 1980s. They began as a Native program operating within the Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs (DAIP), with the goal of changing the way systems and service people respond to American Indian people. Their first funded project was conducting systems advocacy and intervention: organizing a Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to domestic violence with Carlton County and the Fond du Lac Reservation in northeastern Minnesota.
(Adapted from Mending The Sacred Hoop Website)
The Mission of National Indigenous Womens Resource Center is to support and uphold grassroots advocacy by creating and enhancing the capacity of Native communities to end gender based violence through technical assistance, education, public awareness and policy development. NIWRC’s vision is to restore safety of Native women and their communities by upholding the inherent sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples. (from NIWRC website)
Native Hope believes in the power of storytelling to dismantle barriers, bring healing, and inspire hope for Native people. Why? Because telling stories of Native struggle and Native strength is a powerful catalyst for unity, generational healing, and personal growth. Each of us has an evolving story which no one else can write. Native Hope believe that healing for Native people starts with a vulnerable recounting of where one has been, where one is today, and where one wants to be tomorrow. That's why we tell stories. (adapted from Native Hope website)
Taking positive action can look like reading these (and other) websites, subscribing to their newsletters, and financially supporting them.
We can expand our mindsets by purposely following, supporting, and learning from Indigenous peoples on social media.
We can respect the sacred things in Indigenous culture, and abstain from degrading them to the level of personal trinkets.
We can make sure that if we buy clothing, jewelry, or household items featuring patterns from Indigenous culture, that they are made by (and the profits of the sale go to) Indigenous artisans.
We can allow the perspectives and histories of the Indigenous communities to show us their communal narratives, teach us, and broaden our mindsets.
If you've read any of my work, you know I'm all about building up other women and boosting their signals. The belief that drives this for me is a conviction that we all need each others gifts. We are not whole, until we are all whole. We haven't arrived until we all have arrived.
We are not safe until we are all safe.
I have just started my journey of learning about and from Indigenous communities and cultures. This post is not about me or my experience. This post is an arrow to the communities and women that I am learning from, so that we can grow together.
While I prefer to keep a positive and actionable mindset, it’s worthwhile to consider our road blocks as well. Some of these I go into way more detail about in my book coming out next year so I’m not going to go too crazy discussing them here (or it will be a book.) But I do want to give a snapshot overview of a few things to watch out for.
I want you to know first and foremost that I believe victims. I believe that your trauma, whatever it was, changed your life indescribably. I believe you deserve justice. But there’s a quote that I saw a while ago that has stuck with me because it rings so true:
“Your trauma isn’t your fault, but your healing is your responsibility”
So often once we realize we have been wronged we want to sit in that, or we just don’t see a path out of it. We want The Perpetrators to come in, and somehow make amends for the harm they caused. The really hard truth to accept sometimes is that even if they tried to do that, there’s no way to reverse what happened. We still have to actively choose healing and look for ways to make peace with this new version of ourselves.
Waiting for anyone else to fix us is a dangerous game. We become easy to take advantage of, for anyone selling a “cure”.
We can know true healers by this - they don’t sell a cure, they hand us the tools to heal ourselves.
The idea of taking charge of our own healing can feel overwhelming and daunting, however it’s also incredibly freeing. We get to employ a level of autonomy in seeking healing that we may have never experienced before.
Casting harsh judgements on ourselves or on others is not conducive to personal growth. (This is why we started out this month talking about developing self awareness and self compassion) We spend so much of our time and energy on this!
When I finally started releasing my judgements about myself and others, I freed up SO much energy to spend in other constructive areas of my life. I also freed myself up to fail, to look silly, to be unproductive, even to *gasp* gain weight physically without shoulding everywhere. If you feel stuck automatically judging others, go back and take a look at some mantras for non judgement to inject in your mental landscape.
I’m going to invite you into some nuance here. I think many of us start mental health and personal growth journeys because we need help handling big emotions. We feel flattened by the hard things and we want to know how to either get rid of them or take them on without losing ourselves in them. I know personally, my first goal in mental health was finding groundedness, and knowing I would be OK.
This isn’t bad. But there’s more. I would never advocate that someone (especially those of us who tend to wrap our worthiness up in our positive impact on others) pursue personal growth JUST to be of service to other people. But our personal growth does affect our world. There is danger in complacency, in getting too comfortable. In too much “love and light” or “thoughts and prayers” without in the words of Rachel Cargle, “solidarity and action”.
At some point we have to get out of our comfort zones to stay on our growth journeys. Audre Lorde says; “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Self care and compassion enables us to show up in our worlds with resilience, and handle those hard things without them overcoming us. It should not be a place for us to hide from them.
Scarcity is the “not (ever) enough” mindset. It’s the assumption that more of anything will fix our problems in life. More sleep, more money, more attention, connection, intimacy, love, time, friends… you get the picture. There’s a whole chapter on Scarcity in my book coming next year (!!) but the five thousand foot overview is that often in our quest for more, we miss the reasons that we crave it. The opposite of scarcity isn’t excess, it’s ENOUGH. I think it’s hard for us to believe in Enough when we so often feel that we can’t ever measure up, and BE enough. Once we accept ourselves and learn to stay present in our world, it becomes easier to stop always looking around the next corner for More.
It’s a scientific fact that when faced with a unknowns, our brains try to fill in the most likely scenarios based on our personal experiences. This can be helpful in problem solving, but it also can be really dangerous. Leaving open ended unknowns can feel uncomfortable at first, but “I don’t know” is always an acceptable answer. Especially when it comes to big questions, questions of faith and theology, “I don’t know” is so much safer than building our lifestyle around facts that might not be true. Let’s leave space for more discovery and admit that we don’t have all the answers.
“I am resilient
I trust the movement
I negate the chaos
Uplift the negative
I’ll show up at the table again and again and again
I’ll close my mouth and learn to listen”
"Resilient" by Rising Appalachia
Self care and compassion can sound like shallow topics because they are positive pursuits. The “good” stuff is supposed to come easy, right? If only.
I emphasize self care and compassion / non judgement so much because when we practice them, we have the capacity to grow our roots and become resilient.
We can deal with someone in our lives not liking us without taking it personally.
We can hold uncomfortable space with other people in our lives without sacrificing our integrity or shaming them for their beliefs.
We are secure enough in ourselves to not let another person’s opinion of us our our beliefs change how we relate to them.
We learn to invoke nuance in tough spaces instead of clinging to a polarity of “GOOD” or “BAD”.
We know how to care for ourselves and our people when the world seems rough, cold, and heartless.
If we don’t develop these skills in our lives, we do ourselves and our communities a disservice.
My inner empath reminds me constantly our worlds are in crisis of all kinds. Every day it seems there’s something more divisive happening then the last. It used to be countries and factions warring for territory, and now our own families and faith communities are broken up along fault lines of opposing belief systems.
No matter what polarity we cling to, walling ourselves up with people who think exactly like we do, and dehumanizing the “others” doesn’t fix anything. Defensiveness of our own positions and belief systems only widens the divide.
We are where we are in the world because for so long, it was easy for many of us to not do this emotional work. It was easier not to learn to take care of ourselves, and extend grace to others. We could live on automatic and not worry about our inner worlds too much.
It was easier not to talk about hard things.
And now, here we are, the communal division and trauma rising, with no clue how to respond. And so we armor up, build our defenses, and prepare for war, divided even further.
The castle and moat a reminder that we care more about our chosen polarity than about our people.
I have strong belief systems. I feel them in my bones. But I still feel the fear and shame of those who might be seen as my “opposition”. I hold space and grace for their healing journeys. While they won’t change my core beliefs, I know they have much to teach me.
We can’t heal this communal trauma by ignoring it. As we heal ourselves and our relationships, we heal our world.
So tell me now, how love and compassion are the simple choices.
Tell me how easy it is to hold space for someone who believes differently than you do.
Tell me how you sweep shame out your front door every morning.
Tell me how you show your children and your community daily to choose love over fear.
Tell me what work you do internally to show up as the most authentic and vulnerable version of yourself in your world.
Tell me what advantages you have in life, and how you leverage them to help those who aren’t fortunate in those ways.
Let’s not allow “love”, “compassion”, and “empathy” to become just buzzwords. Let’s find tactile ways to show up behind them, every day.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that” Martin Luther King Jr., “Love Your Enemies” Sermon (1957)
Welcome to week three of plantalogies, thank you for growing with me!
Today I’m going to share five easy, repeatable mantras for non judgement.
These can help you dig in to your self compassion and strengthen your compassion for others.
We know that if we want to learn a skill we must repeat the movements over and over to teach our brains what we’re doing. The same goes for thought patterns and mindsets. So often we give up because it doesn’t come naturally, and decide that it’s just not who we are, but that’s not true! It takes just as much effort to purposely inject compassion into our days as it does to learn a new instrument or sport.
The graphics to follow are sized for iPhone wallpaper! Feel free to save one or all of them to have a regular reminder of whichever mantra you're internalizing.
I mentioned this first one in last weeks post, but I’m going to repeat and feature it here because it’s just so powerful:
Brene Brown introduced me to this concept in her book “Daring Greatly”. She shares a narrative of a horrific rooming experience at a speaking engagement, and then how her therapist asked her if she thought people were doing the best that they could, with the information they had in any given moment? Her (and my) automatic response was oh HELL no…
However the question has stuck with me. In traffic, on the phone at work, when That Person is doing the Thing that is Ruining My Life / Day, it was in the back of my mind. What if they’re really just doing their best right now? When I was stressed over my lack of productivity, or the fact that I got to work five minutes late, or that I didn’t cook a homemade dinner, the question gently prodded me “how would you feel if you could accept this as your best for today?”
Grafting this concept in has been a challenge, but it’s also been so rewarding. It gives me a way to release my frustration both with myself and with others. Also, I try to keep in mind that when I get frustrated with other people for being... people... that my frustration with them only messes up my day, it doesn't do anything to them. Getting upset with other people for mundane things only hurts me.
This is something I’ve struggled with intensely. Scarcity is that “not ever enough” feeling. There are really nuanced reasons we feel this way. (There’s a whole chapter on scarcity coming in my book!) However, social narratives teach us that one person’s success means that there’s less available for everyone else. This is especially true as women in patriarchal systems. We are taught that we must be the prettiest, nicest, smileyest, most acceptable (whatever the heck that means) to get anywhere in life. Since men run this show, we take our cues from them, and find ourselves in direct competition with all other women.
So let’s take a step out of the narratives, and look at our lives in light of there being Enough. Enough for everyone to live fully embodied, joyful lives brimming with purpose and love.
Enough to be whole.
This shouldn’t sound like a foreign paradigm, especially for those of us who participate in Christian faith. However we all fall prey to the narratives of scarcity. The sad thing is, we shut ourselves down from fantastic supportive relationships when we live this way. I can tell you that out of my current friend group, several women are those I was at one point intimidated by.
But now they are some of my biggest supporters.
The only thing that changed in those situations was me, and my willingness to reach out authentically.
It’s a natural function of our brains to fill in unknowns and blanks. It’s a basic part of our reasoning. But sometimes we get in our own way when it comes to other people and their stories. We act out of the belief that other people are mostly like us, so they should do things like we do, right?
The reason human beings are so fascinating is that we are all different. We all hold different experiences and stories in us. We have different backgrounds, preferences, and different DNA.
We can never assume we know another person’s story or history. Finding out someone isn’t like us is something to be celebrated and respected.
Let’s be secure enough in who we are to hold that space for others to be themselves fully too.
Making others experiences about us is a really easy thing to do. It can feel like identifying with them. It can feel like offering advice in what seems like a similar situation. But so often we don’t really have the relational tools to take ourselves out of the equation and just be there for THEM.
I’m not a mom (yet) but I see this all the time with pregnant women. On a dime, group conversation goes from what the woman in transition is living, to a parade of war stories and badges of motherhood honor from surrounding women. None of them mean badly, but they have completely made conversation about a life altering event for one woman about their personal validity and worthiness as moms.
So here’s my own rule of thumb - I ask questions and affirm what’s said to me conversationally at least three times as much as I talk about myself. I don’t assume that I know what someone else is going through. I don’t assume that they need me or my experiences. If the conversation shifts, and they start asking me questions too, then I open up more, and know we are tracking.
Have you ever felt just a little (or a lot!) jealous of someone who achieved something BIG? Maybe something you would like to achieve in your life? Whether it’s the friend that actually went on that dream vacation, or graduated from grad school, or runs a successful business… OR, the friend that decided to do compete in bodybuilding and now has washboard abs.
I have. But for the most part, I’ve stopped being jealous of others successes with just a few subtle mindset alignments. This is a big one. Remember the struggle. I’m very rarely jealous of low body fat physiques, because I know exactly how much effort and focus would go into obtaining that, and I am OUT. I’m not in for obsessively tracking every calorie and macronutrient I eat, or bringing tupperwares of my own food to family occasions. Or spending half my weekend making food for the week. I can look at people who have done all this and say wow, that takes a lot of dedication! I can admire their achievements without remotely wanting to go down that road.
When I do get that stab of “I wish that was me”, it’s actually directive. It can mean that I’m not fully living into my purpose, and I can plan to include similar elements. It can mean that may be a future goal I can look towards. It can mean that there’s some element in what that person accomplished that I’m not being authentic and standing in my integrity in. So when that feeling DOES, come it’s an invitation to greater self awareness, not something I sit in.
I hope these five mantras serve you as you increase your capacity for compassion.
Thank you for walking with me!
I’ve got my roots down down down deep....
So last week we talked about the importance of developing root systems, and how the basis of self awareness and compassion can sprout up compassion for others.
Today I want to dig a little deeper into exactly HOW to develop self awareness and self compassion. Sometimes, we feel like we are running on empty. Sometimes we feel strung out and isolated. Sometimes we feel… Worthless.
But those feelings, are just feelings. They aren’t facts.
Self care is a buzzword right now. You see it associated with things like shopping and bubble baths.
But I’m going to let you in on a secret. Self care isn’t always or even usually glamorous.
Self care means choosing to prioritize YOUR NEEDS and INTEGRITY over the comfort and wishes of others.
Take a beat and think about that. Self care means choosing to speak up and assert your NEEDS, and what you BELIEVE, down deep, over what other people are just used to.
Many times we are socialized as women to take care of other people first. That we are here for them. In religious circles sometimes there’s another layer placed that we are unholy if we prioritize ourselves.
None of this is truth. I have given full forty five minute talks on why our worthiness matters, and even how acting out of our worthiness is a way to commune with our Creator, but that’s coming another day.
For now, I want you to sit down and really think about how often you prioritize the things you really need over the things that other people close to you really want. Do you ever choose yourself?
We teach people how to treat us. We teach them that we will always prioritize them. We teach them what we believe about ourselves and our worth too. What are you teaching the people around you? Do they respect your boundaries?
These are the first steps towards developing true boundaries rooted in self care.
Choosing ourselves whenever possible gently and gradually teaches us that we matter.
Affirmations and mantras can be incredibly helpful. Last week on Woman Up Wednesday I talked about one of my all time favorite women that I follow; Erin Brown. She makes affirmation cards, which are some of the best tactile tools I have found for drilling into the best mantras for me specifically on any given day.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken a deep breath on a hectic Monday and repeated to myself from one of her cards “I can let my best be enough.”
Journaling can be another great way to get to know ourselves, and develop self awareness. It also gives a record of where we’ve been which is pretty awesome. Prompt journaling, which is just journaling in response to specific prompts can be helpful if you feel like you don’t know what to say. I created a resource of prompt questions that you may find helpful here:
Last week I saw someone quip on instagram that self care is actually more like self parenting than having the “treat yourself” mentality. I identify with this. So often self care is also doing things that just need to be done, like paying the bills, or cooking a decent meal. It isn’t shoulding, but it is taking into consideration how to care for our needs, not just our wants.
Ultimately, what self care tools we use are so individual.
For some moms I know, it means setting a timer for their kids to leave them alone, and having an undisturbed cup of tea or coffee.
Boring self care can look like taking our meds as prescribed.
It can look like taking care of a corner our space, when we don’t feel like we have the energy.
It can look like reaching out and asking for help, when our ego and fear of rejection scream “NO”
It can look like just saying "no".
To develop strong root systems that can support us in our lives, whatever way we decide to branch out, our self care needs to be built on a deep understanding of our personal identity and autonomy.
Self care isn’t a magic charm. Once upon a time, I was in such a bad depression that I was just trying to do all the “self care” things I could think of to tread water. Spoiler alert: It didn’t work.
Friends, we have to do the excavation first. We have to be willing to evaluate everything in our lives, and consider why we do what we do, and if that really aligns with who we are and who we want to be. Those two things don’t always line up, (who we are and who we want to be) but where we find that gap we find our capacity for growth.
Nancy Levin says to “Honor the space between no longer and not yet” and I have always loved that.
It means we can visualize, but we’re still figuring out the path and that’s ok. In fact, that’s the story of most of our lives, and it’s really a glorious one.
In January I’m hosting a patriarchy detox, where we are going to dig deep into our belief systems and mindsets.
I know Patriarchy can sound like a big scary word. I’m hosting this because digging through what stories and paths I lived out of society’s plan for me as a woman was both necessary and isolating. I wish I had had someone guiding me through that. I was so blessed to find a group of women online, unofficially walking that path but finding them took a lot of energy.
I want to make it official. I want you to have the opportunity to engage in communal healing and unleash your identity as we claim 2019 in power and boldness. The Patriarchy Detox is a five day challenge that starts January 7th. You’ll get a daily email with an awkward video from me, as well as the option to read a transcript so you can absorb the information whichever way works best for you. Then, you’ll have a prompt of a photo and caption to post on Instagram, (I will include a stock photo that you can use if you don’t have something that you feel goes with the prompt as well.)
I’m calling it a detox, because January is when the diet marketing really hypes up. “New year new you” (when the you you’ve always been is totally fantastic already.) The whole “detox” trend makes you feel like you’re dirty and need something to clean out your system, when we have organs like our liver that are designed to do that constantly.
But here’s the thing, we do have harmful mindsets and belief patterns that hold us back, and what if we could shed some of those? How would our new year look different?
We talk about the plant analogy here a lot (at least on Mondays) and this is like preparing your site for a garden. Flowers don't grow very well if we just try to stick them in the middle of our lawns, do they? We need to prepare the site, dig out the rocks, whatever the previous owners buried in the yard, and add organic materials to nurture them. We have to do the same thing with our mindset. Self care, self love, affirmation, and compassion don't grow well in the middle of what's always been there. We need to get ready to receive them.
I have joked recently that the fact I’m a photographer for hire is my best kept secret. I’ve never been good at self promotion. This year, I decided I was going to get back in touch with my inner creative, and what a ride it’s been.
I imagined getting in touch with my inner creative to be like Merida in Brave chasing willow the wisps; in a word:
The reality has not been ethereal, unless you consider ethereal sleepless nights and distracted days, constantly jotting and plotting ideas. I am telling myself that after years of barely giving my Creative a passing glance, she is making up for lost time, but there’s also a possibility that this is just life now.
I made the decision that I would post daily to Instagram in June. I had written some posts and felt I needed specific imagery for them, and did a last minute shout out on facebook to see who could make it to the beach for a photoshoot.
The perfect group showed up for me, and the results were magical. You see them all over my website and branding, because I can’t imagine a more perfect visual to accompany messages of sisterhood and empowerment.
When I thought about engaging creatively, I thought maybe I would write more, or do some projects around the house. I really didn’t think that it would revive my photography, but it has.
I also didn't count on the impact getting together this group of women would have. We ALL were empowered. We all left feeling like we had a stronger support system and connection. We all left feeling less alone in our femininity. We practiced and embodied taking up space. We practiced and embodied not smiling for someone else. We got dirty, we played, and we had such a wonderful time. In the end, I have these photos all over because they fit. But also because they inspire me, and every time I look at them I think of my badass friends showing up with less than 24hrs notice just because I asked them to.
The scary thing about the roles and stories we are handed as women is how ingrained they are. When we actively flip that script, and move in ways we are told to never move, and pose in ways we are taught not to pose, we practice reclamation.
Fair warning: if you ask to awaken your inner creative, be prepared. You might just end up chasing the moon.
Welcome to Woman Up Wednesday!
Where I link you up with the women who have had incredibly powerful impact on my life. A huge part of my why is to show other girls and women that they have options. They have ways to explore their creativity and healing. Growing up in extremely conservative Christian church circles, I knew from a really young age what I didn’t want for my life. We knew some fantastic families and women, but my inner empath is a powerful detector of pain and lack of fulfillment. A large percentage of the women we knew weren’t happy or free. They weren’t living into their callings, they were living the life they were told made them holy.
I knew that path wasn’t for me, however I didn’t have other women to look up to and follow that showed alternatives. I finally sought them out in my adult life. I am so excited to bring them to you, and share the impact they’ve had on me and my journey.
So, let me introduce you to Erin Brown! Erin is an author, activist and speaker from Lawrence, Kansas. I found Erin through Girls Gone Strong several years ago, when she (and I) were more focused on empowering fitness. Her books and presence have played a vital role in my healing. There are three, and she is working on a fourth which I can’t wait to get my hands on.
Soon after Sovereign came out, Erin released affirmation cards. I use these almost daily. Having those cards and her books is like having her sitting next to me, sharing her wealth of experience and all the healing work she has done. Empathizing and affirming me, while still calling me to be and do more. Erin released these cards when I was actively moving through seasonal depression, and they were a complete lifeline in that season specifically.
Erin also came to Connecticut (!) and hosted a “Sovereign” workshop in January. It was phenomenal, and probably as close as I’ve come to fangirling over anyone I’ve met. My version of fangirling equals watching them closely from a corner, gathering the courage to ask for one selfie, and driving home in a trance.
It’s really hard for me to fully quantify the impact Erin has had on my life through her work.
Her instagram stories remind me she’s a real, human, woman.
How she talks about parenting, and Letters to Lola, reminds me that it’s possible to break cycles of trauma for the next generation. That our healing not only matters, but is vital to healing our world.
Engaging with her through social media shows me the life of an artist and creator.
Participating in her many projects has shown me that growing and changing as a creator and artist is amazing, that we can always continue to reinvent without shame.
Reading Sovereign, and regularly using her affirmation cards as mantras, has constantly reminded me to keep choosing my integrity.
She has reminded me I am capable.
She has reminded me I am strong.
She has reminded me that those who are meant for me, will keep walking with me on my growth journey.
She has reminded me to seek healing.
She has reminded me to seek a sisterhood.
She has reminded me I’m worthy.
She has reminded me to take care of myself, but to keep showing up.
So, if you’re not already following her; let me formally introduce you! Her books and cards are linked through the pictures above, but can be found on Amazon, and her instagram is @iamerinbrown
Her website is www.iamerinbrown.info
I hope she illuminates your healing journey as wonderfully as she has mine.
First off, WELCOME to my new blog! I’m so happy that you’re coming on this journey with me. Like all the rest of them. I’m on a lot of simultaneous journeys. This month of Mindset Mondays is going to be themed around plant analogies because I’m a little obsessed. Also, how are plants not great examples of almost everything meaningful in life?
Today, let’s review an overview of developing mental root systems - learning self awareness, self care, and self compassion. I’m going to share why I feel putting intention and effort into these things is such a vital and necessary way to develop root systems that will continue to serve us and all our relationships.
Spoiler: It isn’t actually all about us!
There’s a popular and true statement going around that goes something like “What other people think about us isn’t about us, it’s about them”.
Often we don’t pay attention to the fact that the converse is also true: What we think about other people isn’t about them - it’s about us.
I think this is a great example of why we need self awareness, and we need to know how to take care of and manage our internal landscapes. Even if we ignore our internal world, it still affects how we view and interact with everyone we come in contact with.
I find being aware of my internal world a necessary part of showing up in my relationships authentically. I have the ability and responsibility to show up as the most present and mindful version of myself. If I don’t take care of myself emotionally and physically I am not able to be there for the people I care about in the same way at best. At worst, I project my challenging emotions on them. This can be SO HARMFUL, and honestly, seems like a leading cause of misunderstandings and friendship fall-outs.
Self awareness and self compassion are the root systems of a mindful and authentic life.
This is the beauty of cultivating self compassion: The kinder we are to ourselves, the more grace we hold for others. I personally think just learning to be kind to ourselves for our own sake is reason enough, but if you’re looking for ways to turn down the automatic judgemental thoughts we all get, build up your self compassion. Look at what you say to yourself around those topics you’re so judgemental of.
I used to be really judgemental of other people, other women specifically. I was judged their life choices. I judged what they chose to wear, or what makeup they liked. I judged how they managed their lives.
But as I’ve become much more compassionate with myself, and let myself realize that I have a full spectrum of life choices, none of which would make me less of a woman, I’ve been able to give those other women a break.
As I’ve gone from wearing makeup every day, to barely wearing it, and everything in-between, I just am happy another woman has something in her life to give her that boost.
As I’ve found myself time and again just doing the best I can on the daily through various life challenges, I’ve realized that other women are in that same, sticky, messy space.
The roots we develop in self compassion sprout into compassion for others.
So if you don’t know where to start, just start with paying attention.
The rest will follow.
Megan is a writer and creator from Wallingford, CT. She is passionate about empowering women to step into the full power and identity they were created to embrace and claim.