I've always wanted to help people.
When I graduated college, I figured that I should get some experience with the "in person" side of psychology. See, when I was studying, I was mostly involved in data, research, and statistics - the "behind-the-scenes" of creating studies to learn about human behavior. Psychology is a huge field, and I thought I could benefit from experiencing various subcategories within that realm.
Enter my first full-time job as a residential counselor at a psychiatric residential treatment facility (PRTF, if you want to know the jargon).
Translation? Keep teens and pre-teens safe and entertained so that they can follow an agenda designed to get them out of institutions and back into "the real world".
They were already receiving an education and therapy within the walls of this facility - all we had to do was make sure they didn't hurt themselves or anyone else during or in between these activities.
I was barely older than some of these kids, and I was expected to be in charge of them 😅 Well, if you've ever met me, I'm not exactly cut out for bossing people around (which, ironically, I would be very successful at at my next job). I wasn't maternal enough to be a tough Mama-bear figure, like one of my coworkers who was very successful at connecting with the kids without falling for their mischievous ways. Nor was I an example of a strong man with a healthy view on masculinity to be a role model to the boys.
Yet, somehow, one day (during training, mind you), I found myself alone on a unit of boys who were always one step away from an inappropriate comment (on a good day) or beating someone up (on a bad day). I kept my cool, assumed I'd just have to fake it till I make it, and miraculously they respected me.
That didn't change the fact that I was on guard for a solid half year.
It's incredibly stressful to be on guard all the time. It's mentally and physically exhausting to be ready for a verbal or physical attack at any given moment. While my nerves were running high, I quickly learned quite a lot.
Other than the lasting bed bug anxiety that still wakes me up in the middle of the night, I'm grateful to have worked in a psychiatric facility. I was lucky to work with an amazing team of people who always rushed to your side when you needed it. Nothing brings a team together like the potential for danger. We had each other's backs. Ultimately, I wasn't happy with how I wasn't able to really help or make any difference.
So I started my yoga training. But I'm getting ahead of myself - I didn't teach for another year after that. We're still missing a few stories and many, many lessons 😉
My mother always told me I was delicate.
I resented that.
I didn't want to be delicate, fragile, or sensitive, because that meant that I was weak. And the weak are trodden upon, looked down on, forgotten.
Somewhere in my little head, I had absorbed the notion that these feminine qualities won't do me any favors, and it's best to fight them off. I'm talking about softness, vulnerability, empathy, caution. Why be these things when confidence, logic, and action are what society treasures?
It took me a solid 26 years to realize that I have been fighting my femininity. Not only was my culture attacking my femininity, but I was too. How many times have you heard "You [act/throw/play/run] like a girl" -- as if everything a female does is fundamentally worse than how a male would do it.
Or how many times have you been laughed at for simply having emotions or for caring "too much"? How many times has someone completely ignored your input because women are inherently irrational and untrustworthy?
I don't know about you, but I heard it everywhere. All of this and more.
And then my therapist told me something that shifted my perspective 180 degrees. "It's a beautiful thing to be so sensitive. You feel more, experience more, grow more." And I thought,
Why have I been attacking myself, when I am the only ally I have?
She was right. All of these "yin" qualities are so precious, especially in a world that has tried to extinguish them. Where will we be when the world's grace, empathy, and thoughtfulness are gone?
I admitted to my mother that maybe being delicate wasn't such a bad thing. And I started to embrace all of those lovely feminine qualities that keep my heart soft and my intuition clear.
They are not my weaknesses. They are my strengths.
Today is International Women's Day, and my wish is for everyone to celebrate their femininity. If you've been cutting these qualities out of yourself, stop. Let them be. And notice how beautiful it is, really, to feel delicate.