Breaking the Cycle

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I absolutely adore my niece, Mia. At 3 years-old, she’s already cracking me up and I just can’t wait to meet the hilarious adult who she is bound to become. I’m excited to hear her do bits and watch her make her brother and cousins laugh. The anticipation of how her intelligence will interact with her aptitude for humor is killing me because I just know it’s going to be so perfect. She is the kind of little girl who will meet the needs of the world just by walking out of her front door.

I think about adult Mia all the time. But then I get these pangs in my heart because I know what her future looks like and I end up wanting her to stay little forever. I don’t want her heart to be touched by the darkness that this world brings. I don’t want her spirit to be crushed by the weight of envy, either her own or some one else’s. I don’t want her voice silenced by the loudness of ignorance.

I don’t want her to end up like me. Or my friends. Or any other woman who has ever believed the lies that she has heard about herself. I want more for her! For her, I want the biggest challenge to be how to cure cancer or end world hunger, not how to make her voice heard just because of her gender.

When I think about all of the terrible things I say about myself, it destroys me to imagine that child, so full of adventure and bravery and inspiration, saying those things about herself. She’ll trade her dreams for schoolhouse drama, her confidence for a seat with the cool girls, and her wide-eyed wonder for some guy who has no idea what she was worth.

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Unless we break the cycle.

The words that we use? The words that we hear? These are the words that will eventually affect her. The best way for us to raise good women is to be good women. It’s not too late for us! It’s never too late to be good to ourselves and to each other. It’s a matter of choosing honest, kind, gracious words over the ones that we’ve heard our entire lives. We can choose good men to share ourselves with. We can call those around us to live to a higher standard of loving others. We can remember that every one of us was once a child, untainted by the ugliness of the world, and we can call back to that innocence, both in ourselves and each other, through the simple act of choosing a kind word over a hateful one.

I refuse to believe that I have been permanently wrecked. I don’t have to believe that I am worthless. I don’t have to believe that I am dumb. I don’t have to believe that I am incapable.

I know different; I know the truth. I know that I am brave and good and intelligent and able and strong and beautiful. Anyone who says different is blind and is some one who probably needs more love than even I do. Today, I choose to break the cycle because my Mia, and every little girl just like her, will not grow up as a second-class citizen. Our mothers built a world for us to be better, just like theirs built one for them, and now it is our turn to pay it forward.

My Mia will grow to tell jokes and solve problems and be the kind of friend that everyone needs. She will know how to love herself and she’ll know how because we showed her. She’ll know how to better herself, how to admit to flaws, how to come to terms with failure, and how to succeed with grace. She will know all of these things tomorrow because you and I are going to learn them today.

We may never change the whole world but we will certainly change the one around us. I don’t need the lies that I’m told to be quieted; I need the truth about myself to be louder, even if I’m the only one hearing it. I don’t need Mia to be shielded from the ugliness; I need Mia to know that she is strong enough to overcome.

So, right here and right now, you and I are going to break the cycle.
Ready? Set? GO.

The Story of the Satirical Shark

I recently purchased a remote controlled, flying shark. I find it incredibly juvenile yet impossibly fun—a brand of humor to which I happen to subscribe. I flew the stupid thing around my entire house, getting it stuck in vents along the way, learning that fans are not friends, before finally stopping it in front of the master bathroom mirror. I thought to myself, “There’s a joke here.”

I was right, there was a joke there. I thought about how funny it would be if a great white shark had the kinds of thoughts that I have when I look in the mirror. Am I pretty enough? Am I smart enough? Am I funny enough? Am I “real” enough? Will people like me?

The “Mirror, Mirror” image was the first. It cracked me up! Seeing such a powerful creature, capable of untellable feats, master of its domain, getting insecure about something so trivial as being the “fiercest of them all” in the same way that the Queen in Snow White was worried about being the “fairest of them all.” That was hilarious to me. Reimagining a shark as insecure seemed like comedy gold.

I began to think of other situations in which I could place the shark that I may elicit such joy as when I put it in front of the mirror. (I should mention, at this point I’ve decided that the shark is female. So, from here on out, I shall refer the shark as “her” instead of “it.”) I thought about all of the stereotypes that women shoulder and the worries we have, the ones that are largely based on our gender and imposed on us by our society, and I came to the realization that my little shark-project was not so much simple comedy as it was satire.

It’s satire because there’s actually a large social commentary property. If it’s silly to imagine something as powerful, beautiful, and terrifying as a shark being insecure then isn’t it also ridiculous for us to be insecure? I, as a woman, may not be the terror of the seas. But I, as a woman, am capable of far more than I’ve given myself credit for. I’m capable of far more than I’ve been led—no, than I’ve been allowed—to believe. I’m not bashing women for being insecure. I’m bashing the idea that we have to feel insecure.

We carry this notion that there is something we are missing, that there is something we must attain in order to achieve security. And that something is not logical! Insecurity is not saying, “I need a job because I don’t have one.” Insecurity is not saying, “I’m a selfish person and that is part of myself that I need to work on.” No, insecurity is when we tell ourselves that we must be prettier, smarter, funnier, wiser, and… Something-er in order for us to be liked, accepted, loved, or chosen. We must always be something-er because we’ve grown to believe that we are not enough. We must always be something-er because who we are, already, is not what the world wants.

I’m calling B.S. We ARE enough. And if we stepped away from the mirror for two seconds we would find that we are exactly what this world needs and if the world is too stupid to want what it needs then you’re better off for having never changed to accommodate it. Ladies, the first step to infiltrating the borders of our insecurity is to admit that we don’t need insecurity to begin with. And to help each other accept that we don’t need our insecurities, we must encourage one another in that. We must accept on another, love another, and choose one another in the name of women standing strong, together. Men, we welcome you on this train, as well! I don’t mean to leave you out, I just speak directly to the women because we tend to be the harshest critics of one another and that’s something that we need to work on. But guys, we need you. We do. And I’m sorry if in recent years we’ve tried to push you away in an attempt to make ourselves feel self-sufficient. In the same way you are with us, we’re still learning what it’s like to be equal with you. Sometimes we over-compensate. But that’s another talk for another time and no, I’m not putting the entire burden on women so get that out of your head. J

I am going to continue unraveling my need for insecurity and I am gong to continue doing that with a dumb flying shark. Because I find it to be hilarious and I dearly love to laugh. Next time you question your worth you should ask yourself, “Would a shark need to do this?”

Because if something as powerful and beautiful and terrifying as a shark doesn’t need to worry about how pretty she is then neither do you. You, my friend, are a human being who is capable of great things.

And you’re more than pretty enough.

 

Follow along on Instagram @katiecmansfield, Twitter @katemansfield, or Facebook!

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“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fiercest of them all?”

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“Is there gluten in wine? I need to fit into my wedding dress. Yes…I’m single. What’s your question?”

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“I’m still about 6 lbs away from being hot enough for peak gym hours so, for now, I mostly work out at home. I want to have Kerry Washington’s arms.”

Self(Less)

Dear SELF Magazine,

Karlie Kloss is beautiful. And, according to you, also incredible. Incredible because of her “dream body, 24/7 drive, and [ability to be] balancing it all.” I do believe she’s incredible but I think those are 3 of the dumbest danged reasons to attribute such a grand descriptor to a woman. Shame on you for short-changing that woman by reducing her to such perfection.

That’s right. Perfection is not the pinnacle of the human species. It’s the reduction of us. For a magazine called “Self” you sure have managed to completely miss the point of what one’s self actually is. The self is the entire being. You’ve ignored the flaws and challenges that she’s overcome in order for her to achieve self-love, self-worth, and self-respect. By your standards, she is not incredible.

That’s because your standards are garbage and reveal absolutely nothing about a person. Seriously.

According to your cover, my best me can be achieved through flatter abs, thinner arms, and a tauter butt–all in one week. And what a disappointment! Because I could have the best abs in the world and still be a jerk. I could have 9% body fat and still hate myself.

I know what you think of me and myself. You plaster it all over your cover how I need to do anything but be me. Now, you know what I think of you and your Self. And I think your Self sucks.

Sincerely,
Katie and the Women of the World