Women, Humility and Martydom

When I was a kid just about the worst thing you could say about a person was “She loves herself”. The phrase was a damning indictment of the character of the person being spoken about, one who had “ideas above their station” it was cast at anyone who dared to show even a bit of confidence or self esteem. These people were not to be trusted, in fact you wouldn’t even bother trying to chat to them as they’d probably whip out a mirror or just want to talk about themselves. I remember the comment being made about a girl who was genuinely quite vain and also about another who was openly proud of a scholarly achievement. There being no distinction between vanity and self esteem, they were both lumped into the same “loves herself” box of toxicity. A slur so bad that no one wanted to be thought of as loving themselves.

This idea did not leave my life once school ended. It has followed me everywhere I’ve gone in life, from the southern to the northern hemisphere. And at 40 I am still hearing it.

Maybe I wouldn’t be as exposed to it if I wasn’t one of the people it gets said about. I was the child who was openly proud of my score. I wasn’t boasting or bragging, I was just pleased with myself. I didn’t know then that that wasn’t ok at that time, that it wasn’t acceptable to express any delight at your own accomplishments. That makes you “full of yourself” or “big headed”. As I’ve got older the insults have become more sophisticated. “Egomaniac”, “self centred”, “delusional”, “mouthy”, “show off”, “attention-seeker”. All are expressions people have said to me or about me in the last five years of my life.

My crime is that I do love myself. More than I love anyone else. I have loved myself for a long time and my love for myself grows deeper every year as I grow and learn and become a better person. I’m becoming more ‘me’ and I love that. My body is changing and I love that. I’m being presented with new challenges and I have to find ways to meet them and I love the ways I make things right and also when I’m wrong and the mistakes I make and how I learn from them. I love life and living and the wonder of it all. I love the human experience and how beautiful all the souls in my life are, how each person brings their uniqueness into my experience. I love it all.

And many many people hate that. They hate me because of that. They hate my confidence, my joy for life, my self expression and my self esteem. They hate what I wear, what I say and what I stand for.

They especially hate what I stand for.

I think because I stand for the way it could be, if you choose self love. I stand for genuinely not-giving-a-fuck what other people think of me. I stand up for and take action for my values (even when that is really fucking hard to do). I stand for choosing to do things differently to how most people do them. In no way am I perfect, or offering my life as a model of how others should live their lives - what really fascinates me is how much hatred I invoke just by being apologetically, unashamedly ‘me’. How that rubs people the wrong way. How many adults have never left behind the school yard concept of “putting people in their place” and how enraged they are when their efforts to do that to me fail.

How some people are almost obsessed with the idea of me and that I have now been given so much power by these people who hate me so much that many of them call me a witch.

I happily accept the name witch (some of my best friends are witches), and I happily accept the great power my detractors bestow upon me. How angry they would be if they fully understood how much they give me in their hatred of me.

My theory is that I am so hated because I am a woman who dares to openly (and sometimes loudly) declare my love for self. And women are meant to be humble. Women are meant to be bashful and grateful for any praise that comes their way , but they should take it away with them and only look at it in their darkened bedrooms where no one can see them enjoying it. Women are meant to be martyrs to their families. Be that children, husbands or their parents. We are meant to suck it up, uncomplaining — take joy even from being so needed by so many, for so many many hours of every day, every week, every year. We are not supposed to expect more. We are not supposed to put our own needs first, we are not supposed to say ‘No’. Ever.

We’re not supposed to be open about how much we like sex (“dirty slut”, “whore”) and our sex lives, fantasies and desires should stay locked away in a place where only our partners (husbands preferably) get an occasional look in. Try being open about how much you like sex and see how many people get annoyed with you. I once posted on my facebook page that I was grateful for my great sex life and had a (good) friend defriend me over it. We didn’t speak for years after. Like, how dare I say openly that I am happy about my sex life? I’m such a monster.

Luckily for me I actually DO love myself and therefore the barrage of hatred I get for doing so is like water off a ducks back. There are loads of people for whom my self love and self confidence is not a terrifying abomination-that-must-be-destroyed-at-all-costs-lest-other-women-get-ideas so I am not without lovely people in my life…Did I mention the majority of these haters are men? While I do have a few women who particularly dislike me the vast majority are men. Men who I’m happy to report are no loss to me. Why would I want people in my life who require me to be passive, subservient to men, and full of self loathing, sexual shame and repression in order to be my friend? Like, that’s a weird friendship dude.

I’m sure reading this some of you are thinking that I MUST’VE done something to make all these people hate me. So I’ll share a story with you. A year or so I met a friend in town.

He said to me, “I can’t go anywhere without people bitching about you. You are so hated.”

“Yeah I know.” I said, smiling. “But tell me this, can any of those people tell you anything bad I’ve actually done to them or to anyone else?” I asked.

“Oh no.” My friends said. “No one is saying you actually did anything.”

I haven’t actually done anything, other than being me. A ‘me’ that makes some people (mostly men) so mad that they are overflowing with hatred towards me. Because in a world that pours scorn on self love there understandably aren’t that many women who feel comfortable with expressing that. I think maybe there are many women who don’t know what it even feels like to love themselves, so well has our world convinced them that they will never be good enough, successful enough, pretty enough or be the right shape.

Women are taught from girlhood to set aside their own desires and to spend their lives straining for something that is unattainable. It is the hamster wheel of misogyny with the empty promise of a prize at the end of a journey that never ends. Keeping women occupied with demands on their time, kids, work, housework, beauty routines, comparing themselves with other women, diets, looking after family members, putting others first. The world relies on women’s martyrdom, on women always choosing to put others first. Women are kept busy lest they start to realise they are worthy and powerful.

I tell my kids “I love myself more than I love you and I hope you love yourself more than you love anyone else too.” I say this to them because I know if you’re not choosing self love first then you are choosing something that is ‘not-self-love’ first and I don’t want my children to do things that are not self loving. I don’t want them acting against their own interests. I want them to have the best and happiest lives they can. I know from experience that if you genuinely love yourself then it doesn’t matter what your neighbour thinks, or your boss or your grandparents. It only matters what you think about yourself. And if you have to think something, it might as well be a loving thought.

I don’t believe in a Patriarchal conspiracy but if you did it would be hard to come up with a better plan than making women seek to martyr themselves for their families and/or eschew self love. I know of no greater force on earth than that of women. We have been beaten, abused, raped, locked up, discriminated against, silenced, dismissed and negated and still we rise. And still despite all the trauma we have faced — this world as we know it could not continue were we all to down sticks tomorrow.

How incredible a force are we, as women? What power we hold. Imagine what we could do if we all operated from a place of self love? Imagine what a change there would be to the world if we all practised self love for even one hour of every day.

Join me fellow witches. Let’s rise together.

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Joy bringer, writer, podcaster, mother of 5, colourful fashionista