The Question Too Many Women Ask

I’m just returning from a fabulous trip to my old stomping grounds—the Twin Cities, in Minnesota—where I gave a talk on blogging at the Bloomington Writers Festival. Afterwards, an attendee emailed me (let’s call her Kat), thanking me for giving her permission to explore whatever topic she wishes on her blog. She often holds herself back, she explained, for fear of what others will think.

“So here’s what I’m thinking of covering,” she wrote, then listed incredibly unique and insightful topics. “You honestly don’t think people will think I’m weird or crazy for these? Sorry to ask again, but I’m nervous and could use some reassurance!”

What a kick-ass woman, right? I love that she’s planning to step out of her comfort zone and reached out for support. She didn’t need to apologize, of course, but I imagine most of us can relate to what she’s experiencing—that apology included.

On the plane ride back to LA, I spent some time daydreaming preparing for upcoming radio segments (okay, same thing). Tomorrow, I’ll interview Stephanie Berman, creator of an intimacy product that helps lesbian couples get pregnant.

photo-163

Who wouldn’t daydream to this? View of the Grand Canyon, from my plane window

Amid controversy and criticism, Stephanie has succeeded, and continues to better the lives of many. I plan to ask her how she’s managed to deal with naysayers, answers to which I think will apply to the most brutal type: those that rise up within ourselves.

I’ll also answer a few questions from listeners,’ which happen to tie into this theme. Nearly every email I receive from listeners features similar lingo, and while the specifics vary, they ask virtually the same question. Women want to know, “Am I normal?” I think they’re really asking, “Am I okay?”

We want to be extraordinary and unique, but without ruffling anyone’s feathers; to feel beautiful just the way we are, but without others judging us harshly against their standards; to live full, authentic lives, but without letting others down by not living up to their expectations.

If we truly want extraordinary, authentic lives in which our dreams not only come true, but better the lives of others (which is exactly what authentic lives and dream-work do), we’ve got to kick those BUTs and ‘their’ worries out the window. It’s not often easy, but learning to shift the focus from self-doubt to self- awareness and embracement may be the closest thing to magic I know of.

Ask questions and seek support, particularly when it comes to important yet wrongfully taboo topics like sexuality. When you find yourself asking questions that have more to do with doubting yourself than a particular thought or behavior, though, dig deeper: Why are you doubting? What’s the worst that could happen? Does what others think of you matter more to you than leading a happy, healthy life?

My Minnesota trip ended with a visit with my first modeling agent, Teqen, who I hadn’t seen in years. He was one of the first to offer support when I was diagnosed with anorexia, regardless of the fact that my hiatus to focus on healing meant that I wouldn’t be bringing any cash or esteem to their company.

“What you do isn’t important to us,” he said back then. “What matters is who you are.”

I’ve held those words close to my heart ever since. More than a decade later, Teqen and the Vision crew continue to embrace me as family. I feel the same way about them.

The reunion was another illustration to me just how powerful self-embracement is. Gone are the days when I let insecurity cloud my days, keeping me from living, except from a distance. Back then, I’d have worried that he was judging me, that I’d say the wrong thing or simply would not have shown up. I certainly couldn’t have written authentically then.

Instead, I reconnected with a friend of the truest variety, the kind who cares more about your soul and well-being than your details.

We’ll always doubt ourselves on occasion; it’s part of being human. What’s important is not letting it stifle us. Doing away with a self-doubt mindset allows us to be more present and grateful in our lives and for others, rather than caught up in, “Am I okay?” Because, quirks and all, there’s never a doubt that we are. The only permission needed to get there is our own.

August and Teqen

Reunion with Teqen

“…and the day came when the risk to remain tight, in a bud, became more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”Elizabeth Appell

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21 Comments

  1. Wonderful post, August! So cool that you got to reconnect with Teqen. ❤

    Reply
  2. It’s great to be able to daydream about your work; there are some professions where you get nightmares thinking about work!!
    It’s true we often tend to become super conscious about not offending others & in process end up hurting us. Any thought or idea about shaping yourself in a way that pleases you (of course remaining within legal boundaries) should be celebrated without any fear of repercussions; sure people will join in too!
    It’s an awesome feeling to reconnect with the crew who continues to treat you as a family;

    Reply
    • Very true, Yatin! The rewards are almost always worth any risk. When butterflies crop up, I say dance with them. 🙂 A little fear’s okay, as long as it doesn’t hold us back.

      Reply
  3. This is beautiful, August. Completely kick-ass, booty-shake, in-your-face AWESOME.

    Reply
  4. August,
    Well, gotta say I am not officially more educated in lesbian affairs. Didn’t know you could do artificial insemination at home. I will be researching now for my own mind.
    Great post, as usual. I see your name pop up in my email reminders and I have to keep it for reading.
    Scott

    Reply
    • The Semenette is pretty new, Scott! I’m excited to learn more about it — seems revolutionary. The episode will be available tomorrow night on iTunes and my homepage on Thursday. 🙂

      Thanks so much for the support. Means a lot that you enjoy my posts!

      Reply
  5. This is so lovely, August! Sounds like you inspired a lot of women with your talk.

    That self-consciousness not only holds people back from their potential, but it also makes it difficult to look outward and be there for others. I’m reminded of times when I was younger, and so painfully worried about not sounding stupid in a conversation that I’d spend my time formulating what I’d say next instead of paying attention to what the other person was saying! It’s hard to get out of one’s own head, isn’t it?

    Reply
    • Oh, thank you, Kathy! You’re so right about self-consciousness. Thank goodness maturity and experience tend to help with both — though, I suppose, we can all use reminders. 🙂

      Reply
  6. Oopsie- your quote should be attributed to the amazing Anais Nin! (She’s fabulous btw…check her out if you are not familiar!)

    Reply
    • I love Anais Nin, too! And thought she’d stated that quote for years. Then I read KM Huber’s blog post, and learned the real history of it. 🙂

      Reply
      • I’m so pleased to have that link! And my correction stands corrected! HA! Thank YOU! (And now to some of my Anais quote posts which require some attribution editing. Love the learning!)

  7. Such wonderful affirmation, August. Powerfully motivating too. I’m embarking on a speaker journey and often ask myself, “What do you really know about…? You don’t blah blah blah…” I learned from author Jane Porter to never underestimate how far-reaching what I have to share can be, so I’m going for it. Thank you for this post. Great photo!

    Reply
    • Good for you, Joanna! YES! Go for it!

      Self-doubt only holds us back if we let it. When I feel the butterflies taking over, I remind myself of one of my favorite mantras: Passion speaks louder than nerves. 🙂

      Reply
  8. Well-stated, K.B.!

    Reply
  9. As you say, if we are afraid to risk, we will never blossom fully, even if we begin to bloom. We have all seen the bud that is stopped mid-bloom. It is a matter of taking the risk, trusting our natural grace to unlock our softness. What an insightful, inspiring post, August, written so beautifully.
    Karen

    Reply
  10. Well said, August! BANISH THOSE BUTS 😉

    Reply
  11. You said it perfectly, August:

    We want to be extraordinary and unique, but without ruffling anyone’s feathers; to feel beautiful just the way we are, but without others judging us harshly against their standards; to live full, authentic lives, but without letting others down by not living up to their expectations.

    That’s me. It’s a kind of perfectionism that I continue to work to overcome. Thank you for so beautifully putting it into words.

    Reply
  1. My Big But | Jan Morrill Writes

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