One of the most beautiful things that I've been sitting with since my conversation with Liz is the idea of being a strong, out loud, and powerful woman. It is still very much part of our world that feminine power comes with a caveat. The messaging can be really conflicting, "Sure, be strong and powerful, but not too strong or powerful. It can be intimidating!" or "It's really great that you're so driven and a good leader. If you were a man, I'd bet you'd make a great CEO." Both real things that have been said to me, y'all. While this project isn't exclusively for telling the stories of women, being privy to the process means I get to see and share what strength looks like from many different viewpoints. What strength and power means for one human might be something totally different for someone else. The beauty of understanding one another is in actually honoring what it is that makes each of us feel really powerful and strong. We are part of the culture that whispers unlovely things to us. Meaning we also get to be the people who change it. Ask questions, be open, and listen to others when they speak their truths. One step at a time, sugars. Speaking of humans telling their truths!! Here is Liz and her story.
I am Liz. I am a listener. And I am… a wife, a daughter, a sister, Catholic, a student, a learner, baby therapist, friend, napper, and a cat mom.
I am a listener and that’s who I see myself as for now. I chose it as my current identifier because it kind of sums up everything. I also think of myself as someone who puts relationships with people first. The most important part of that is being able to listen and it really impacts who I’m growing to be as a therapist. As much as I think of myself in that way and even like that about myself, It definitely comes with certain expectations and can be exhausting. I also will back away from relationships if I know I might not have that energy to give. Part of me thinks this comes from the expectations they have about me, but more likely these are the expectations I give to myself. I struggle a lot with this.
I deal with depression and it’s something I’m very open about. Sometimes the depression zaps all my motivation and energy. It can take a lot of energy to be present for someone, and when I’m in the fog of depression, I can really feel guilty to about not being able to show up for someone like I want to.
As I get older, I’m more and more introverted and I find balance by being really selective about who I spend time with and who I give my time to. It’s become a smaller and smaller group of people. Coming to terms with my own boundaries is an ongoing lesson for me. I’ve gotten really good at setting boundaries. The people I’m closest with are very aware that there might be times that I don’t get back to them right away and luckily, they just get it. They don’t take it personally, because it’s not.
What I’m realizing as I get older is that I was raised in a fairly feminist household and I give a lot of credit to watching my parents relationship while I was growing up. My parents never put the words to the culture of “shoulds” that surround us as women. My mother never talked badly about herself. She never wears makeup and my dad is still infatuated with her. She has never been obsessed with what she weighs, yet has maintained health. She is seen and respected as knowledgeable and valuable in her field, without question. Between my parents, It has always been equal parts. So, I have very high expectations and standards for how I interact with people in the world. While it’s hard to fight society as a whole, I will always quietly demand the same respect and dignity and voice that I deserve and give to other people.
Society has funny ways of trying to control how we present ourselves to the world. Despite the household and example from my parents I grew up with, I feel pressure to put on makeup before I leave the house and that I need to have my hair okay which means I’m not supposed to just simply roll out of bed. Except I can. Even knowing that I can, and do, there’s that thought in my head of “I should.” Because I identify as a woman, there is a lofty expectation that we’re supposed to be nice. Generally, that is my personality--almost to the point of being naive. What I’ve been wrestling with lately is that I actually am an expert in certain things. Though we’re taught to be soft and quiet, I’ve found myself in some leadership roles where I’m learning to have the confidence to stand up to the old guy in the room. Being assertive can be seen as being a bitch when really, it’s about being smart and knowledgeable and stepping into the role of expert and being in my own power. I get to accept that I have power and a voice and society may say that exerting that makes me a bitch and I say, ‘that makes me a human being and I have a right to be as forward as any male counterpart would be.’
I am only just realizing the brevity of my own power. I’m learning as I go. To other women who are in this place of learning how to own the space we take up, I’d say keep at it slowly. Take baby steps. Keep thinking about it. You might get things wrong. Actually, I’m expecting to get things wrong and that’s okay. Finding humility enough to admit to being wrong is a big part of fully taking on that power that I do or will hold. It can be scary and vulnerable, but I am also lucky enough to have people supporting me as I grow.
What does love and connection mean to you?
Everything. Love and connection are my purpose for being. It’s all we have beyond jobs or money or possessions. Truly.
What would you tell your younger self?
Keep going. Keep listening to your gut. Don’t settle for anything. Find a good therapist, it’s practical advice, but really helpful.
Make sure to check out more photos of this session with Liz and all of the other lovely people who have participated in the And I Am... Project over on the project gallery!
If you'd like to be part of the And I Am... Project, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org