For centuries, women have been made to believe stories that don't exactly serve us. Some of us grew up with fairy tales and family members who said All you have to do is marry a rich man and you’re set. Others may have been raised to think that they shouldn't be too outspoken about topics like sex or politics. And then there's the classic belief that women should take care of everyone else before considering their own needs. (Why do you think we're all craving a major dose of self-care these days?)
Of course, there are plenty of alternative narratives we can buy into as well—for instance, the one that encourages women to speak their minds and create their own destinies doing whatever makes them happy. And the women’s marches and the #MeToo movement are examples of how the collective story of womanhood is being rewritten in a more empowering way than the one our mothers and grandmothers were told. But according to Elle Luna and Susie Herrick, authors of Your Story Is Your Power: Free Your Feminine Voice, many of us still unconsciously buy into *some* ideology that limits us at some level, whether it came from our childhood experiences, our religion, or some other element of our history. And it's important to examine these beliefs and flip the script if we want to fully embrace our strength as women and take charge of how our futures unfold.
“Women tell themselves things like, ‘I should be cool with violence on TV,’ or ‘Girls shouldn’t get pregnant before marriage.’ But why do we tell ourselves these things?” Luna asks. “We have the capacity to fire and hire any internal voices in us without needing permission or acceptance from anyone,” adds Herrick. “That is the beauty of being human.”
Of course, controlling your destiny is easier said than done—but Luna and Herrick explain exactly how to do this in their book. Here, they explain what it actually means to rewrite your personal story, and shine a light on some not-so-useful plot points that you may want to strike from your own inner dialogue.
Keep reading for how women can take charge of how their future will unfold.
How to rewrite your story
It takes a lot of work to retrain your brain to think differently about yourself and your entire gender. But Luna and Herrick swear that you can craft a more empowering and fulfilling life for yourself.
In order to help women live their truths, the authors sprinkle small exercises throughout the book, meant to bring up your real feelings about your world—and not just what you've been conditioned to believe. For example, a chapter called "How You Got Here" asks you to think about how your family history, your cultural background, and your religion have all played roles in why you are the way you are. One exercise I found particularly telling is a "quick association" game, wherein you're asked to write the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of certain words—for instance, "politicians" or "single moms." The idea is to try and find any biases from your upbringing that you may not even realize you have, and then decide if they're influencing you in a negative way and if you want to consciously change them or not.
Another exercise poses questions like: What do you love about your family? What are you most ashamed about regarding your family? Did you have any family myths you believed your whole life only to realize they were false? The authors argue that we often don't know why we think or feel certain things (like, that you are inherently lazy or men are untrustworthy), but that it may influenced by your upbringing. Herrick says it's not about taming the critical part of you—like, the part that's still beating yourself up for not getting straight As like your sister—but, rather, redirecting it. “Instead of trying to destroy [my inner critic], I shifted my perspective towards it and that voice inside of me relaxed a bit,” she says. “You have to find compassion for yourself.”
“Instead of trying to destroy [my inner critic], I shifted my perspective towards it and that voice inside of me relaxed a bit. You have to find compassion for yourself.”—Susie Herrick
There are also unspoken societal stories that may be influencing us. For instance, the patriarchal system in place tells women that they can't do what makes them happy unless they're "perfect at it," says Herrick, who dismisses this idea. "Who said you have to be an artist to draw? Why can’t I walk down the street dancing and singing?” Other examples of societal stories that might be bringing you down? The belief that conflict in relationships is bad, that earning a lot of money will make you happy, or that you need clear skin and a single-digit dress size to be considered beautiful.
Of course, if you've suffered a trauma, this is a practice that must be dealt with very gently—with the help of a trained therapist, perhaps. But both Luna and Herrick hope that with introspection and knowledge, we can all take our own life stories more firmly into our own hands—and help to shape the story of all womankind, too.
“The more I do this work, the more I am able to transform that inner misogynistic voice and get closer to what I long for and yearn for as a woman, which is to support other women and all of our voices globally,” Luna says. “I also can now access my own gifts as a woman and celebrate them. Feminine power advocates for love, regardless of anything else.” A worthy moral of any story, indeed.
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