There is something very strange about the Western cultural lens through which we – as women and per default – judge our own behaviour and most importantly establish our sense of worthiness. I was talking to my therapist the other day (how 21st century is that statement right there!?) about the intensity of my emotions and emotionality in general. “I’m constantly paying attention to my feelings and easily cry if I feel strongly about something, I just can’t help it. I feel like I’m crying ever second day.” To which she replied “Yes, and…? Why is that such a bad thing?” “Well, because I’m tired of being weak and fragile”, I said. “Do YOU think you’re being weak and fragile by crying?” she asked.
And that’s where the discussion on the limitations of our Western culture kicked off.
I confessed that I’m simply a very emotional and sensitive person and always have been. The conversation took an unexpected turn when I was reminded that these qualities of mine could actually be seen as an incredible asset and source of strength. Now I’m someone who thinks a lot about culture dynamics, I’ve done studies on the topic and taken particular interest in the history and evolution of Western culture which has resulted in a predominantly patriarchal approach today.
So I was surprised when my therapist invited me to review my attitude towards that ‘weakness of mine’.
“Have you thought about what a gift it is to be able to tune into your environment and your Self the way you do? Rather than judge, can you imagine yourself simply noticing feelings of pain and anger and going…wow, what a powerful thing it is to be able to feel so much in this world.”
I was so relieved to turn to my Self and say “You’re ok. No, actually you’re quite strong.”
Despite my awareness around our culture’s masculine disposition, I have in no way been able to internalize that understanding. Up until now, I haven’t been able to conceive of an alternative ‘measuring stick’ other than the one that males made up in the first place.
Mind you this is not a story for the “angry feminist” box. It is simply a request for us all to honor the multitude of ways of seeing ourselves and the world. More than ever, we need to embrace new (but actually very old) ways of being and with that a different set of norms and expectations that foster respect and understanding.
One of the most touching and inspiring things I’ve seen this week was a haka wedding video from New Zealand that went viral – in less than 24 hours it was seen more than 19 million times.
Watching a group of mature men in shirts&ties make crazy faces, beat their chests and utter the strangest sounds isn’t exactly what we’re used to seeing. So what does our fascination with this sort of event tell us?
Perhaps that there is a different life out there – there is a way of being that allows you to behave like an animal, to unleash your inner wild one, to act crazy (and not blame booze for it) and to do so in the support of a loving and encouraging group. I watch that clip and so wish I could do that too – despite not being Maori or knowing anything about haka traditions – I wish there was a space where we didn’t have to conform. Where we could be wild and crazy and emotional.
So whether it’s about a woman’s emotionality or the animalistic war cries in a haka dance, we need lots more stories encouraging a diversity of being in this world.