Thursday, January 26, 2012

Girls to Women, People to Gods

Phenomenal Woman

by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I wish more women understood their power. I wish more people in general understood their power, but this poem makes me mourn specifically for the woman's tortured mentality. I'm not saying that I am the epitome of self-confidence or that I totally embody the idea of this poem, I'm just as much a victim to stereotypes and impossible expectations as the next woman. But I do understand that we all have our own power, a unique energy that we choose to abuse or nurture depending on our fears and insecurities.

I know how easy it is to let doubt take control of your life, hand over the steering wheel to insecurity, and let fear make all of your decisions for you. We come up with all of these reasons and excuses to construct a life of minimal possibilities so that we don't ever fail too hard or hurt too much. I should know, I've been doing it my entire life. And now that I'm beginning to understand that about myself, and realize how ridiculous it is to live that way, I can see how other people use fear and insecurity in their lives to disconnect themselves from their power to diminish responsibility for their own happiness. I can also see the people who have flung themselves into the chaos of life with full-force, finding certain "successes", but have not yet embraced their true power. Finally, I can see, and admire, the people who know themselves, understand their power, and have made a life dedicated to love, work, and balance. I think my Mother is the best example of this.

I think this poem is about more than just the allure of self-confidence, though that is definitely something valuable to meditate on as a young woman once in a while. It's about the power of the mind, and how easy life can be once your brainless insecurities are domesticated and tamed by a clear conscious. It speaks to women on the surface, but if you stretch its message and wring out other meanings, you can see that it speaks to us all.

Life is much easier than we allow it to be.
Know yourself, and others will want to know you.
Love yourself, and others will want to love you.
Be yourself, and others will want to be you.

That's what Maya, that beautiful goddess, is trying to tell young women with this poem.
But we can all connect to it on a very basic level.

That's all well and good, Jillbo, you say, but how does one begin to live that way? How are we supposed to sever ourselves from the insecurities we've been forming since childhood? How do we even begin to understand what those insecurities are, how they are controlling us, and who we can be without them? It seems very difficult.

Maybe there was a time when you were a child and your parents decided that you had too many toys, and so you had to choose some to give away or throw out. And it seemed like the most difficult, heart-breaking, impossible thing to do because you loved them all so much. But really you didn't need all of those toys, and you kept the ones that really meant something to you. And now as an adult you're glad you aren't carrying around trash bags full of Barbies and Beanie Babies.

Clean yourself out. It may seem hard to let go of some things, but like your adult-self looking back on your kid-self, you will understand the benefits when you're not weighed down with the unnecessary in the future.

There are many ways, I'm sure, to begin doing this, and I'm only just beginning to explore a few. Maybe that's what the next blog will be about, so... you should probably subscribe. Like, now.

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