A colleague at NCJW/LA recently sent me the “10 Rules for Brilliant Women” list written by Tara Sophia Mohr. Mohr writes that she knows “many brilliant women who don’t believe in the brilliance of their own ideas—and as a result, don’t share them boldly.” In response to this, Mohr published her now infamous 10 rules, including things like “get a thick skin,” “question the voice that says ‘I’m not ready yet,” and “filter advice.” What I love most about these rules is number 10—“let other women know they are brilliant.” I’ll tell you why.
You Are Beautiful
I took a class on Female Sexuality my last year of college. The course was peer taught. It basically was intensive group therapy with a bunch of women for four hours a week. I honestly wish I could have continued taking it for the rest of my life. It was that powerful. We discussed issues that affect us, like sexual assault and harassment, power dynamics, sexuality, and self-acceptance. One of my first assignments was to go up to a woman I did not know and tell her she was beautiful. I know this sounds silly and easy to some people, but for me it was a big challenge.
I walked around campus for a week trying to find a woman to say this to. I was not looking for a supermodel. I was looking for someone whose beauty, intelligence, and soul radiated through her. And I was trying to ignore my own personal issues with how awkward it is to just go up to someone and give her a compliment. It’s something many men do all the time to women, but most of the time their intentions are to hit on them. For me, there was nothing to be gained from this encounter.
When I finally did find her, she was sitting on the stairs outside of one of the main humanities buildings and looked like she was having a rough day. I walked up and said “I just wanted to tell you that you’re beautiful.” She was surprised and said I had made her day and kept telling me about how nice I was. I felt great!
In retrospect, I think it was such a relief for once to not feel in competition with another woman, which was ingrained in me just by growing up in Los Angeles. Since then, I’ve tried to continue complimenting other women—letting them know how smart, beautiful, capable, strong, and special they are.
Nah, You’re Just Saying That
What doesn’t come easy is the acceptance of such statements. Most of my girlfriends will respond with comments like “I don’t know” or “You’re just saying that because you’re my friend.” Actually, I’m not. I really have no need to say such things if I don’t mean them. I just happen to be lucky to have incredible women in my life and I’m being honest.
So here’s what I’ve come to realize. I think that before we can even take Mohr’s rules into account, which focus on being bold and sharing our brilliant ideas with the world, we need to love and accept ourselves first. Here are some rules I’ve come up with (for myself) on how to do this:
10 Rules for Loving Ourselves (for Women)
1. Know Yourself: Figure out what motivates you, what activities make you happy, and what negatively and positively triggers you.
2. Accept Your Quirks: Accept that you have moods, good days, bad days, strange habits, and random interests that some people will think are awesome and others just won’t. You are unique.
3. Accept Compliments: Stop saying “you’re just saying that” to people complimenting you. If they’re giving you a compliment, they’re doing it because they want to.
4. Ignore Insults: If people say mean things about you or insult you, that’s their problem, not yours. They need to work out their own issues. It’s a symptom of our society; our TV shows and media are largely teaching us to hate and be jealous of each other when we really should be working together and supporting each other. The point is to let these things go in one ear and out the other. I know it sounds hard, but it pays off so just try it.
5. Be Open to Constructive Criticism: Totally different than insults, constructive criticism is useful. And if you’re open to it, it can help you improve yourself, your relationships, your career, and your daily life tremendously. It’s hard (especially for me being the perfectionist I am), but we have to not take things too personally or be overly sensitive when people are giving us advice that is actually coming from a compassionate place. When a friend tells me to calm down or relax when I’m overly stressed about work or about getting everything done, I often want to scream, “If I could relax, I would,” but the truth is that they’re just trying to help and make me see that I really need to calm down (whatever that means) because this non-stop lifestyle is harmful.
6. Always Work on Improving Your Life: Stay focused not on who you want to be or what your flaws are, but on how you want to live your life and take small steps to make that happen. For me, taking a few hours of my week to just do nothing is hard as I think you can infer from my previous rule, but those few hours of nothingness calm me down and make me happier in the longer run. It’s hard, but I’m trying.
7. Accept Yourself Again: Accept that it’s not easy to create the exact life you want, but you are doing the best you can to make it happen.
8. Say You Love Yourself: Practice saying “I love myself” and own it. I started noticing that some of my male friends would tell me that they loved themselves. Yes, it can be said in a really cocky manner, but they were genuinely saying that they respected themselves and were at peace with who they are. I may not personally know you, but I know that every single person has something to offer to themselves, to others, and to the world we live in. You have to recognize your greatness and be proud of yourself for all that is you. Say it out loud.
9. Don’t Hate: Do your best to not gossip negatively about other people, especially about other women and their appearance. As women, we don’t need these kinds of divisions between us anymore. I don’t mean don’t vent about things going on in your life or about challenges you’re facing with other people. I just mean there is no need to say something negative about someone’s looks or what they’re wearing. We all face a lot of judgment by others based on how we look and what we wear and we know that usually the perceptions people have of us are false, so let’s not perpetuate this practice.
10. Spread the Love: Tell other people how great, smart, beautiful, and capable they are, even if it’s awkward.
I want to invite you to submit your most inspiring rules for yourself as comments.
It can be 10 rules, five rules, or just one. I look forward to reading them.