Olive Von Topp
International Women's Day: Unlearning
Lately I’ve been thinking about what it means to identify as a woman.
The more I do this work, both personal and professional, the more I begin to realize it is a process. A process of learning and unlearning.
We spend the first portion of our lives learning. Learning how to be a ‘good woman’.
Learning how to behave so that you are palatable;
Learning how to make yourself desirable,
To prove your worth.
Learning how to make yourself small,
So others can feel bigger.
Learning how to put your needs last,
So others can do well.
Learning how to stifle your desires,
So as not to threaten or upset.
Learning how to convince yourself you’re fine,
When every fibre in your being knows you’re not.
Learning how to distract yourself with your appearance,
So as not to get angry at the injustices around you.
Learning how to compare yourself to others,
So you can never feel like enough.
Learning that your body is not yours
But is there for others enjoyment, needs, and scrutiny.
Learning how to deny yourself
In order to maintain some semblance of control.
Learning how to be perfect.
In order to keep ourselves preoccupied.
Learning how to police other women
To keep the status quo.
We all know these teachings to some degree. We all got the curriculum. Though some were forced to study it more than others. The rules are complicated by our race, gender, size, age, ability, sexual orientation, income, etc. The barriers more impossible to surmount. The tests rigged.
Then sometimes suddenly, one day, something begins to shift. Maybe we just grow tired. Fed up. Exhausted trying to keep up the impossible.
And if we are lucky, we begin our process of unlearning
Unlearning all the lies we were told
To dim our fierceness.
Unlearning the automatic voices
That tell us we aren’t good enough.
Unlearning the automatic yeses
When we want to say no.
Unlearning the automatic no's
When we want to say yes.
Unlearning the shame
We hold in and about our bodies.
Unlearning the numbing
That kept us from our body’s wisdom.
Unlearning the enduring
That kept us in pain.
Unlearning the scripts
That kept us from our knowing.
Unlearning the fear
Of not being liked.
Unlearning the giving
Unlearning the diminishing of our dreams
To support someone else’s.
Unlearning the selflessness
That nearly killed us.
And then we begin to relearn:
Our desires as something beautiful
Our thoughts as our own
Our boundaries and our right to assert them
Our needs and our right to ask for them
Our bodies as keepers of our magic & wisdom
It is in this unlearning, where we come alive.
It is here, in our unlearning,
That we really begin to start living.