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Day 4: Bare Bottom

That moment when you’ve been through so many of these, that the sight of this one almost/does break you down…-personal photo

So far in this challenge, it has been easy to do the exercises in an easy breezy manner if you’ve wanted. It’s been up to you to be as naked as you were willing to be; this is not one of those exercises where you get to do that. Today’s exercise is serious business.

Most people know what the term rock bottom means, but in case you don’t, a definition:

The culmination of a descent to a place where a person has nothing left to lose in terms of possessions, status, wealth and perhaps even shelter, food and warmth as a result of self-destructive behaviour-via Wikipedia “Rock Bottom

There are times in life when we feel as if things couldn’t get any worse…yet they do. This is not that. This is the lowest possible level, where there is nowhere to go but up. Many people think of this as a horrible place to be. The feelings of failure and helplessness can be overwhelming, but there is a positive side to rock bottom.

The positive side isn’t that it won’t get any worse, but that you get to build your life back how you want it to be. It’s a fresh starting place, stripped of all the artifice and outside definitions. There is no more “keeping up appearances” at rock bottom; you are wiped off the map and everyone knows it. There’s freedom in that. J.K. Rowling says it this way:

I was set free because my greatest fear had been realized, and I still had a daughter who I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. J. K. Rowling Read more at  Brainy Quotes

Let’s talk about your self-acceptance rock bottom. Maybe this came when you failed at something at which you always believed you were the best. Maybe you gained weight or failed out of school. Maybe you went through a bad break up or struggled with addiction. Maybe, like me, you couldn’t look at yourself in the mirror for three years. Maybe you tried to take your life. What shattered your self-esteem and self-worth? Have you reached your self-esteem rock bottom? When you cleared out all of the rubble of what you used to think about yourself, what was left?

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t want to do this exercise. I don’t want to go back to that place. At the same time, I know that place will keep finding me wherever I decide to run, and at some point, you just have to deal with it.

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Real Independent Women

Independent Women
They mislead an entire generation of women, read on to learn why I said it. Image via Wikipedia

I’m going to have to give you a two for one today. I know I promised I would be writing “Meet My Rep” today, and I will, but this idea has been swirling around my head for quite some time (check my digital recorder if you don’t believe me). I was going to wait until I get an interview with a special someone who would know how to break this all the way down until it was officially broke, but reading this post on Independent Women on Coco’s blog brought it to the fore again. I cannot with some of these independent women (and yes, I meant to say I CANNOT with these women–no words are missing ;-)). I want real independent women to get some credit, too, not just what I like to call “pretenders to the throne.” As always, feel free to tell me how wrong I am disagree. Enjoy!

Someone save me from so-called independent women! As Mr. Perfect is so fond of saying, paying your own bills does not make you independent; it’s what you’re supposed to do, especially as a single GROWN adult. By this definition, I’ve been independent for YEARS. By my definition, few women (or men) really are independent. Having my own place, car, job, working hard, picking up the tab on occasion–these are all good things, but they don’t make you independent; they make you an adult.

I can easily identify ten characteristics that I associate with true independence in women. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • An independent women is free from emotional baggage–or at least has a carry-on sized bag. Being independent means being free. If you are being weighed down by what the last man did to you, your trust issues, your commitment phobia, or your daddy issues, you aren’t independent. (I figured I would get myself out of the running quickly,, seriously, I told you I meant to define REAL independence, and that’s not easy to achieve).
  • She is secure in her singlehood, not hiding in it. There’s nothing wrong with being single, and you shouldn’t have a problem being single if you are. But in addition to women who don’t know how to be single, I find it alarming when women use the banner of being independent to hide in singlehood. What they really are is afraid to love, trust, or give of themselves, so they try to convince themselve and everyone else that they don’t need a man and can meet every need that they have. This is not healthy. This isn’t natural. Most assuredly, this is not real independence.
  • She can be both empathetic and sympathetic without turning the attention back to herself and her own issues. Women who aren’t burdened by emotional baggage and stunted in fear can focus on what another person may need. They can be a friend who listens and understands, who feels your pain and commiserates with you, without comparing miseries and trying to “out misery” you. She knows everything in the world is not about her and is willing to attend to someone else’s needs.
  • She’s interested in uplifting people, her man (present or future) included. She doesn’t have to protect her independence by putting down other people. She understands the interconnectedness of people, and that another’s success is also her success, especially the success of her spouse.
  • She knows how to play her position and use her strengths to get what she needs/wants. Just as I wouldn’t walk into my boss’ office and demand that he implement my way of doing things to increase efficiency, I wouldn’t walk up to my man and demand he spend more time with me, or my girl friend and demand she let borrow her stilettos. An independent woman knows how to approach situations with an approach that is appropriate to the context and nature of the business. She knows how to highlight her strengths and use them to her advantage. She can even effectively use her weaknesses in the same way an average person would use her strengths.
  • She knows everybody needs somebody sometimes. She knows how to work well with people and be cooperative to collective efforts. She isn’t a stereotypical diva and doesn’t have to outshine everybody else. She acknowledges that she can’t do it all and doesn’t berate herself when she needs help.
  • She isn’t afraid to be in a supporting role doing support work. Everyone can’t be a first string quarterback or captain; someone has to catch the ball, play defense, punt return. She understands that she doesn’t have to be the one outfront getting all the glory and knows her importance. Without the supports, the whole thing would cave in. She sees the intregal part she plays. (This ties in with playing your position but is different. This is knowing your worth and the value you add, not just being a team player and going along with the status quo).
  • She knows how to communicate effectively. No amount of neck rolling, finger snapping, rolled eyes, and huffed breaths can achieve what a few well chosen words can. A real independent woman can express her feelings and get her point across while listening to others and taking in what they are saying. She talks to people rather than at them. She is able to engage in a discussion without making it a battle. She knows that talking to her man is not a high school debate but an attempt at a meeting of the minds. She doesn’t beat down and belittle people with her speech or facial expressions. She can be heard without screaming and using profanity.
  • She knows the value of true forgiveness. You can’t be independent and free with old grudges holding you back. Forgiveness is for the forgiver as much as, if not more so, than for the forgiven. By forgiving, she frees herself from having to remember old hurts, remembering to be angry, becoming bitter and jaded and unapproachable. She allows love and tender feelings a clean slate to write on. She gives people another chance to prove her right about their goodness, or a first opportunity to impress because she’s not filtering them through a filter that’s used and dirty.
  • She accepts and embraces her femininity. Women are not men. We are wired differently. We see the world in a different way and have a different approach to life. It’s not better or worse, just different. An independent woman can appreciate and embrace all the things that make her female. She can embrace her natural instincts and her nature without feeling it makes her any less important, intelligent, or valuable. She doesn’t just use her makeup, hair, and clothes to express her feminine nature; she uses her heart and God given personality to do so. She doesn’t suppress her feminine desires in favor of usurping male roles in an effort to achieve independence. She loves herself in such a way that she can love other people.

The most important thing an independent woman knows is that no one is truly independent. We are in a symbiotic relationship, an interdependent relationship, with others in the world. We need good friends and other social relationships. We need relationships with men. It’s good to love and accept love in return.

There’s nothing wrong with being independent; in fact, I believe many more of us would benefit from being a bit more independent. It’s not about doing the things that all adults should do as a matter of course; it’s about being free from mental and emotional shackles so that you can choose what you want to be a servant to (because we all serve a master, whether we want to accept that or not).

I understand the arguments that in the past, women couldn’t provide for themselves economically and were oppressed, and so on and so forth, but right now, today, I feel that women need to move forward. Since you can be economically independent, stretch yourself to be more. *Besides, many African-American women in the past have been primary breadwinners even when in relationships, as they were more able to get jobs in segregation being maids, cooks, nannies and other domestic arenas…but that’s perhaps best left for another post.

I’m sure I missed a few things (some deliberately, for exploration another time), so tell me, what do you mean when you say independent woman? How do you feel about the way people use the term today?