The Danger of Truth Telling Women
There are women I am ridiculously lucky to call my friends. They show up. They make me laugh. They shine the light and hold my hand. We share our stories and laugh until our sides and faces hurt. We see each other and to me they are each heroes. They do things like save libraries. Live through trauma. Parent with relentless and fierce and patient love. Work on, or walk away from their marriages. They tell me their truths, and I tell them mine. We walk together.
Then there is this another tribe. It is the tribe of brave, truth telling women that I read, listen to, and who speak to me. They are so brave. They live their lives out loud and they share their stories. They are women such as love warrior, Glennon Melton Doyle, or big magic creator Elizabeth Gilbert, or rising strong Brene Brown. New to the party is Jessica Bennett, founding member of the Feminist Fight Club.
Glennon. This woman has been sharing the inside of her life with us for many years. She shows us her parenting and marriage struggles. This makes ours feel normal and validated. Her voice is raw and unleashed, especially in her latest work, Love Warrior. She speaks so candidly of her most intimate life — and makes us all feel braver as we analyze our own.
She whispers to me not to say sorry all the time. Sorry if I am in your way. Sorry if I interrupted you. Sorry for having an opinion. Sorry for existing. Enough!
She reminds me it is okay to take up space. To have opinions and to state them. To use my voice and not apologize for it. This is scary for the folks who like the hierarchy just as it is. Women who question, women who stand up, women who share their stories and don’t apologize, well, they will change the world.
Glennon talks boldly about sexism, racism, eating disorders, alcoholism, depression, and loss. This is brave, hard and messy work and she walks into it, even when she is scared. Especially when she is scared. At the release of her book about her marriage, she announced a separation from her husband. Can you imagine how hard that must have been? She is living an honest, vulnerable, authentic, messy life where nothing is timed perfectly or even close.
Liz. Liz wants us all to be our wildest, freest, most creative selves. To shut off the critical voices and to dance with inspiration. Her big magic is taking heartbreak, fear, and loss — and turning it into something beautiful that can help others. Something magic (like she did with her best selling book Eat, Pray, Love). Our creativity is often killed by living in this hyper critical, everything-must-lead-to-something world. She tells us to dance with inspiration because it will move on to someone else if we don’t — -that this dance is authentic and beautiful and should not be ignored.
Liz whispers to me not to ignore the idea babies that are tugging on my sleeve. They need my attention just as surely as the damn dishes or email. I listen.
She also shows me that love is not one dimensional. She bravely told her readers that she is in love with her best female friend —who also happens to be very sick with cancer. This was extraordinary. Her bravery, honesty and compassion in this moment was incredibly moving and reminds us all to be brave in love, in creativity, and in all of life.
Brene. Brene told me that I could be both a storyteller and a researcher. That my work could reflect all the experiences I have had and be original and creative. She told me to lean into discomfort. To experience it. To fail and to stand back up without shame. That this is learning and growth and life.
She also tells me I can’t be shamed for doing something I believe in. Not by a big man, a more powerful person, not by anyone. When I get a no, a rejection, she whispers get up, keep trying, you are strong, you rise.
Brene tells me an authentic leader is willing to be wrong. That they listen to others, are open to their ideas, and seek alternative perspectives. She whispers that the truest of leaders empower others to use their voices — not shut them down. This is the kind of leader I want to be and encourage in others.
Lastly, Jessica. She shows me with her hilarious new book, The Feminist Fight Club, that women have been working in sexist workplaces for far too long, and we need some moves to fight back. Where was this book when I was just starting out?
Her fresh advice makes me laugh and shake my head in recognition. She tells me to say thank you when getting a compliment about my work instead of saying, “It was all such and such’s idea!!” or shrugging it off. No excuses, pushing it off, belittling it, or switching focuses — a simple thank you will do.
She reminds me to lean in, take up space, make my point, and not apologize for it. I’m still reading and learning the moves — but I am forever thankful that a younger generation of women is growing up and learning how to lay claim to their power in the workplace because of the Feminist Fight Club.
I know I need more diversity on my truth telling team. More stories and more honest voices and more perspectives across lines of gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity. My team is growing.
These women are dangerous. They are what society fears the very most: women who are not afraid to stand up. Women who tell the world who they are. They show us how it really is to grow up in a society that wants you to be small and beautiful and quiet and happy all of the time. Truth telling women create more truth telling women. Women with big, full complex messy lives. Women who struggle and grow and change. That’s who we are. By sharing their stories, they make it okay to share ours in any way we choose. They make it okay for us to have big, messy, full and changing lives as well.
I feel them walking with me. Whispering to me in meetings and presentations: you are not an imposter. You are right where you should be. Speak up. Be heard. Take up space. You matter and your ideas matter. Honor them. Honor yourself.
I keep listening.