How to get your passion back
You’ve done all the things to bring that spark of life back inside of you. You’ve watched the podcasts, bought the inspiring quote pillows, and taped notes all over your mirror. You’ve done the face masks, the exercises, and more meditation than you thought possible.
Still, deep within, the truth resonates: The fire is gone.
Maybe it’s a fire for the career you once loved or the life you lived. Perhaps the spark has simply dulled for the things you used to know. Whatever it is, you know the torch has died down and the zest for life has been usurped by a bleak gray color. Nothing shines vibrantly anymore.
Life feels monotonous and draining. Suddenly, you understand those rebels without a cause who disappear into the vast wilderness, hitchhiking across the country. You understand that thirst for wanderlust, for adventure, for a life that is wildly unfamiliar.
Because behind all of the daily routines and monotony that leaves you feeling dead inside, you just want to feel something again.
The past months haven’t helped things, certainly. With COVID-19 has come a slew of new anxieties and a brand-new meaning to the word boredom. Life is both terrifying and dull in some new paradox of life we have adapted to as the “new normal.” But the foreign sense of normalcy we’re told to get used to brings little if any comfort. In fact, if anything, it makes us all question who we are, what we want, and what life really means.
As a woman who lost her fire, you feel a sense of dread when you confront what your life's purpose is now.
You used to walk into a room and see possibility. You used to revel in the spotlight and in the journey you were on. Your feet couldn’t hit the pavement fast enough as you joyously ran toward that goal, that dream, that destination.
Now, all you feel is stuck in the swampy mud, wondering if you’ll ever feel that buoyancy again.
To the woman who has lost her fire, I say this: I see you. I feel you. Because I think if we’re being honest, many of us have faced this, too.
Adult life is tiresome and difficult. Everyone talks about what hard work it is and how confusing it is, but few talk about the very real monotony we all face at some point. No one talks about how to handle it if suddenly your dreams don’t light you up anymore. We all shy away from the truth of that because our quote pillows and our inspiring podcasts tell us that we should be grateful and make our own joy.
But sometimes that advice makes it all worse—because it encourages us to cover up and mask the very real hardships we’re facing. Sometimes, when we lose our fire, it makes us feel like we are alone in that misty, murky water. It makes us feel like we should already know where the life jacket is and how to paddle out of it.
To the woman who has lost her fire, though, I also say: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask for help from other women in your life because I know for a fact so many of us mask this hardship, and there is comfort in knowing you are not alone.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for professional help if the fire has been put out for too long or if the days and nights just feel too dark to handle by yourself. There is nothing wrong with admitting the fire has turned to ash and that you need someone to help you find the matches again.
You have one life, and it is too short to waste it experiencing guilt for how you feel. It is too cold of a world to live without that inner flame that keeps you warm, keeps you exuberant, and keeps you healthy.
Finally, to the woman who has lost her fire, I also want to say this: Maybe that wasn’t your true fire all along. Maybe what you thought was your eternal flame was only a spark to give you sustenance for the road ahead. If you can walk far enough away from the smoke signal of your old fire, perhaps you’ll see that in the horizon, a bigger blaze awaits. It can be scary to venture out from the comforting glow of what we’ve grown used to. However, sometimes we have to walk a while in the cold to get to the fire where we truly belong.
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You Are Not Defined By Your Mothering Status
“You’ll regret it someday.”
“Don’t you feel like you’re missing something?”
“Oh, you really don’t want children?”
These are statements I’ve heard numerous times over the years, and they are phrases that remind me of a harsh truth: I am an abnormal thirty-one-year-old, at least by social standards.
Looking at me, though, you might not know it.
I’m married to the love of my life, a man I met at the age of twelve. I’m a teacher and an author with a small house in our quaint hometown. We don’t have a white picket fence, but we have a chain-link fence that reins in our mastiff, Henry. I love shopping, coffee, and time with my few friends I keep close.
Our life isn’t the thing of flashy romantic movies. We go grocery shopping on weekends, and we are always drowning under piles of laundry and dishes. Date night usually means Netflix and pizza in sweatpants.
In short, my life is nothing extraordinary.I am your average, brown-haired woman who hasn’t quite mastered walking in heels or winged eyeliner.
I’m average in every way, except one: married and thirty-one, I don’t have children, and I don’t know if I ever want to.
I’ve never had what I call the mothering gene. While many other females my age crave the feeling of a newborn in their arms, oohing and awing over our friends’ babies, I am the woman, uncomfortable and awkward, standing in the corner praying no one passes the child to me. I don’t get any excitement when I walk past infant clothes in the mall, and the thought of being responsible for a child slightly repulses me if I’m being honest.
My husband and I have found a sense of joy, of purpose, and fulfillment without children. We are happy. We feel at peace. We don’t feel like we’re missing anything.
But it seems like society is quick to judge us, to define us, and to berate us for our choice.
Over the years, there’s a sense of guilt that has been pushed on us for our life choice. From strangers’ nosy questions about our childfree life to acquaintances accusing us of being selfish, we have both taken heat for not producing offspring. I have even had students’ parents question my abilities to teach because of my lack of children.
On a bigger scale, numerous blogs, articles, and speakers seem to tout the notion that a childfree life is less somehow, and then it will be filled with regret, sorrow, and unfulling days.
When I’ve written articles about being childfree and the bias that is present against women in my situation, I often faced backlash. I’ve been accused of attacking motherhood and of inventing a bias that some claim doesn’t exist.
Through it all, I’ve learned that despite critics’ words, there is clearly a subdivision between the haves and the have nots when it comes to motherhood--and I think that is the greatest disservice we can do in terms of female empowerment.
The bottom line is this: I am not defined by my mothering status, nor are you.
Our choices when it comes to motherhood certainly impact who we become and our journey. However, it is not the only defining factor in our lives as women. Our society has thankfully moved beyond the years where a woman’s worth is only measured by her ability to reproduce. Some of us are mothers, and some of us are not. But beyond that, we are so many other things. We are leaders, friends, bosses, dreamers, inventors, nurturers, motivators, and artists. We are all made up of a multitude of specialties, skills, attitudes, dreams, and personalities.
To define us by one aspect of our lives isn’t fair to any of us. As women, we are so much more than one choice, one life path, and one status.
Thus, I say this:
To those who are mothers--I respect the hell out of you and your journey.
To those who are not mothers--I respect the hell out of you and your journey.
Your choices as a woman, your life’s journey to your own version of fulfillment, and the status of your family do not define your value in society.
Find your own way, find your own joy, and don’t let anyone tell you the path you chose is less, children or not.
Lindsay Detwiler is an author with Avon Books/HarperCollins UK and a high school English teacher. She has thirteen romances released with Hot Tree Publishing, including Inked Hearts. Her novel, The Widow Next Door, released in November of 2018 and remained at #1 in Horror on the Amazon charts for weeks. Learn more by visiting her Facebook.
An Important Message For Women This Weekend
Lately, I've been finding myself fantasizing...and not about men with sexy abs or the hot dates of romance.
My fantasies these days go something like this: I'm in bed, sleeping the day away, not worrying about hair, makeup, or putting on work-appropriate shoes. I saunter to the couch eventually, stuff my face with bad foods without worrying if it goes to my hips. I watch endless hours of Netflix, ignore the pile of dishes and the bills and all of the adult stuff and just spend the day with Henry and my cats.
I know, I know....a wild fantasy.
In all seriousness, though, September always feels like a rough month for me. I'm back to school and trying to just get used to the routine. September usually finds me worn out, burn out, and just craving sleep.
Sometimes I think life is just really hard, and we all fall into the trap of needing to be so many different things. There is always so much to do, to worry about, and to feel insufficient at. Hair, makeup, housekeeping, bills, careers, friends, relationships, marriages, parenting, and everything else we're a part of---wow, it's exhausting.
And wow, it can all leave us feeling inadequate.
But this week, I'm here to remind you this: You're doing okay. I'm proud of you. And, most importantly, you're more than enough.
I think as women especially, we need to remember to boost each other up. Life is hard. Adulting is hard. Exhaustion is real.
But if we can all remind each other once in a while that what we're doing is worthwhile and that strengths, weaknesses, and everything in between, we are enough....well, I think we might just all make it through together.
How has your month been? And how do you beat the exhaustion that sometimes sets in with the craziness of life? What keeps you energized? I'd love to know your tips and tricks. Hit reply and let me know what works for you.
Have a great weekend! I hope you get to rejuvenate a bit.
Author Lindsay Detwiler
A Busy Woman's Guide To Resetting and Refreshing
We spend the weeks rushing around from duty to duty, accomplishing tasks at lightening speed and praying for the weekend. Then the weekend comes... and life isn't any easier. Laundry, bills, groceries, playing catch-up on household duties.
Life as a woman in 2018 is beyond hectic. It's exhausting, tiring, and overwhelming. How the hell is anyone supposed to do it all? And, if you do, how are you supposed to find time for your own dreams and passions?
It's a common issue I hear so many women dealing with these days. In our already intense society, so many of us feel pressure to be all things to all people... and we have little room left for resetting and refreshing our lives.
But I've come to learn: We all MUST set the reset button sometimes. We must find time to rejuvenate the soul, our passions, and our psyches. We can't keep go, go, going all the time. We can't be all things all at once.
In March, I got the opportunity to get away for a weekend to Capacon Lodge, a state park lodge in West Virginia. It was a writing retreat, but for me, more than that it was a reset retreat. I got the chance to leave the piles of laundry behind, the overwhelming amount of emails, and the daily drudgery of my busy life. I got to simplify and reset. I got the chance to spend some time sitting in the sunshine, walking in the woods, and just slowing down a bit. There was nowhere I had to be for a couple of days and nothing I had to do.
And you know what?
I felt so much more accomplished by the end of the weekend than any other weekend.
We can't all escape reality on a daily basis. We can't all pick up and go every single weekend, and there will never be enough retreats for us to reset our lives as often as we need. Getting away is a luxury real life doesn't always afford.
However, the retreat reminded me that we still need to find ways to rejuvenate and to refresh our souls. We need to reset our passions and refocus our priorities.
So how do you do that in a busy world? I think you do the best you can. I think you find small, easy ways you can take time for yourself. Whether it's two minutes or two hours, you do your best to put yourself first from time to time. You do your best to say "good enough" and relax when you can.
Most of all, you find the value in hitting reset, in kicking back, and in slowing down.
Here are some simple ways you can hit reset this week. Feel free to add some ideas in the comments below! I'd love to hear how you find ways to refresh during the busy week.
1. Have a cup of tea
2. Meditate for five minutes
3. Listen to your favorite song
4. Read a book for fifteen minues
5. Take ten minutes to do your makeup (confidence is always a win!)
6. Take a walk with a friend to catch up
7. Sit on the deck or porch in the sun for a few moments
8. Paint your nails
9. Write in your journal
10. Indulge in some chocolate and refuse to feel guilty about it
11. Take a long bath
12. Turn off your electronics for an hour a day to escape from social media
To All Women Hoping For Big Changes In the New Year
Some years are harder than others, both personally and as a society.
For many, 2017 was a tough year. Whether it be some of the major tragedies occurring in the world, stark realities about injustice in our society, or personal turmoil, many women are ready to say farewell to this year and start fresh.
It seems that with the switching of the calendar to a new year, the feeling of a blank slate is a given. For many of us, January 1st is the start of new promises and visions for a brighter year. We’ve got 12 months left to prove to ourselves we can better our lives, find more fulfillment, and uncover joy we were maybe missing in the previous year.
I’ve found that many women are seeking big changes for 2018, which can be an inspiring thing.
Some of us are searching for fulfillment in new careers. Some of us want to get right with our health and our bodies. Some of us crave self-acceptance of who we are.
Some of us are looking for stronger senses of spirituality, of joy, of appreciation. Some of us need to find a new relationship or a new sense of purpose. Some of us are seeking love and a cure to loneliness.
Many of us are looking for big changes in social views, political truths, and cultural values.
In truth, many of us are searching for big changes in some aspect of our lives... the question becomes: How do we make those big changes we are seeking a reality?
When the confetti has settled and the champagne from New Year’s Eve is gone, how to we make sure our midnight vows to ourselves materialize in the coming year? How do we find the strength to clutch tightly to our dreams for 2018 long after we’ve flipped to January on the calendar?
For so many of us, the fear of failure stares us in the face. Any change in life comes with risk, and many of us are so afraid of failure that we don’t even try. For so many women especially, failure feels like the ultimate death of a dream and the ultimate thing to be avoided.
Nonetheless, I’ve come to learn this over the years: Failure isn’t always the riskiest thing in life or the worst possible outcome. Sometimes, it is the status quo that truly threatens our success, our fulfillment, and our true purpose.
A stagnant life can be even less fulfilling than a life full of failure.
So to the women looking for big changes in 2018, whether they be personal, social, or global, I give you this advice:
Find your voice.
Find your courage.
Find your passion.
Above all, don’t settle for the status quo, and don’t settle for another year of the same.
And, when we prepare to say goodbye to 2018, whether you’ve achieved your goals successfully or whether you’ve tried and failed, the key will be that you discovered the bravery to chase your dreams. You found the strength to go after what you wanted, and you were wise enough to recognize when change was needed.That will be the thing you hang your pride on when you leave 2018 behind.
These are the qualities a fulfilling life is built upon. As one of my favorite authors, Jojo Moyes, wrote in one of my favorite books, Me Before You:
You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.My wish for you in 2018 is that you go out and live your life as fully as possible, chase those changes you are seeking, and find a way to support the other women in your life who are also looking for a brighter, better year.
Happy 2018 to you. May you be brave enough to chase those changes you want most of all.
Lindsay Detwiler is a contemporary romance author with Hot Tree Publishing and a high school English teacher. Learn more about her works and her dedication to sweet, genuine love stories by visiting her blog.
Changing Our Minds: It's Our Prerogative
Sometimes it seems like society tells women we have to have every single aspect of ourselves 100% together. We must be decisive and focused when it comes to our goals. We must have a set plan for our lives and not veer from it. We must be steadfast go-getters who have their eyes locked solely on the prize.
As I approach thirty, though, there's something I've come to learn: This idea is garbage.
To live is to inherently accept that we never quite know what's happening. Life is a jumbled, crazy journey filled with twisting and veering paths. Some paths intersect. Some loop back on themselves. Some bring us to crossroads filled with choices.
No one can be certain of every step.
Plus, there's the fact that we must allot for change. We are dynamic beings. We grow and learn. We develop and change our vantage point. We do not stay the same.
As women, we are complex being with choices, regrets, confusions, and questions. We don't have everything figured out, no matter how old or wise we are. We change our minds. We get lost sometimes. We lose sight of who we are or what we want to be.
Life isn't always filled with simple, two-answer questions. Life is murky and confusing. We get misled sometimes, and sometimes we simply have trouble listening to our gut.
The thing I've come to realize, though, is that literature for women should reflect this in order to give us permission to be okay with this.
Literature Reflecting Life
Too many times, I've seen the ridiculous standard held for women in real life held for fictional characters. Female characters, especially in romance, are expected to have all the answers, to make the "right" decisions, and to play by the rules all the time.
Just like in real life, I don't agree with this.
When I set out to write romance, I knew I wanted to write for the real, modern woman. I wanted to write for the woman who changes her mind, her heart, and even herself. I wanted to write for the woman who doesn't have every answer and who doesn't know exactly how many steps and turns she'll take in her life. I wanted to showcase women who were courageous enough to not only chase happiness at all costs but who also weren't afraid to make mistakes.
I wanted to write about perfectly imperfect women who got confused, got down, got lost, and got broken. I wanted to write about women who were far from perfect...but perfectly fine with that.
The women in my books change their minds. They get confused about their hearts, and they get confused about themselves. Just like us, they make choices only to regret them. They make choices they are sure of only to go back and change their minds.
Like in real life, the women in my books are just trying to survive this crazy, turning path called life with a sense of purpose and a sense of joy.
The women in my books aren't perfect, and that may bother some people. To me, though, as a perfectly imperfect woman, I wouldn't have it any other way.
To learn more about my perfectly imperfect female characters, click the Books link above.
Guest Post: Sally Perkins' Tips for Caregiving
Today, I am honored to welcome Sally Perkins to my blog with some tips for caregivers. For those of you in this position, she has a great article with 30 Tips for Caregivers that you should check out. Here is a sample of some of her tips:
Caregiving? Replenish Your Energy
We tend to think of caregivers as people who are doing things for someone. And while it’s true that caregivers do a lot of things -- cleaning, cooking, shopping etc., caregiving is way much more than just doing. Caregiving is an act of love. It’s astonishing to think of all the ways in which a caregiver gives to a loved one, with the strength of their bodies, hearts and minds. Which is why caregivers need to replenish their energy.
Time to take a day off
If you’re a parent, you know the drill. You cook, you clean, you shop, you do the laundry, then you do it all over again. If you’re a caregiver as well, then you get to do it three times over. There’s no doubt about it, you will get physically exhausted. When you’re wiped out, remember that you’re no good to anyone. Love yourself enough to stop and take a deep breath. It’s probably time to take a day off.
If you’re taking a day off from caregiving, here’s one excellent piece of advice: take the day off. Don’t use your day off to catch up on other errands, tempting as that may be. Here’s the trick. Identify three day-off activities that you find personally relaxing and if possible, a companion to make sure you stick to the plan. A day at the spa; lunch and a movie; it doesn’t matter what, as long as it relaxes you
Need help? Take it
A word to the wise: if you try to be everything for everyone it will end badly. Don’t try to do everything yourself. A caregiver need not be ashamed to ask for help. Divvy out chores in exchange for treats. Every little bit of help counts. Kids can take the trash out, load the dishwasher, play a board game with Grandpa. When a neighbor asks if they can do anything for you, say yes. Do a bit of research to find out what kind of help is available in your area. You might be pleasantly surprised at the range of resources for caregivers that are out there for you. For example, did you know that there are people in your community who have signed up to help caregivers with tasks like meal delivery and driving to appointments. All you have to do is request the help?
Build your energy
You’re not going to make it if you don’t build up your energy. Take care of yourself so you have the strength for caregiving. Exercise and diet are two open secrets in this regard. Where are you to get the time, you might wonder? It’s time to get creative. Become an expert on quick workout sessions. When all else fails, organize an evening dance session for the family. Dancing can be an amazing workout and lots of fun. Learn how to make quick, healthy meals. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, look into getting meals delivered to the person you care for. In addition to a nutritious meal, they will be getting companionship too.
Sally Perkins is a professional freelance writer with many years experience across many different areas. She made the move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, Sally enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family and travelling as much as possible.
It's Okay to Be a Tired Woman
When the alarm's annoying buzz blares at 5:45 am, there is one thought that immediately comes to mind: I can't wait until I can go back to bed.
Lately, the pep in my step, the energy to meet the day, has been lost. At 29, I have a lot to be excited about and a lot to be grateful to jump out of bed for. I have my dream career, a writing career on the side, a wonderful husband, a loyal family, all the cats a girl could want, and many more great things. I have plenty of reasons to be energized and enthusiastic about life.
But lately, it's been a struggle to overcome one huge hurdle: I'm tired.
It's not just a lack of sleep or a restless night kind of tired, though. It's a bone-chilling, wearying tired. It's a can't even function, can't even find a smile kind of tired. It's a body tired, brain tired, heart tired kind of tired.
I'm just tired.
I crave weekend sleep-ins. I dream about the next time I don't have to set an alarm. I hurry home, not so I can do things I really want to do, but so I can melt into the couch in my pajamas at four o'clock and watch Netflix.
I'm just plain tired. I'm exhausted. I'm rundown, worn out, beat down, done.
And yet, behind the tired, one feeling simultaneously rules my mind: guilt.
The Do-It-All Woman of 2017
Looking at my own life and at my female friends' lives, it's no wonder so many of us have become practical zombies, both physically and mentally.
Because we are told we can do it all as a woman, we feel like it's our obligation. We try to excel at our jobs and put in 110% effort in every task. We challenge ourselves to keep our homes at unreasonable levels of cleanliness and organization. We take care of husbands, kids, parents, and pets. We run from event to event so as not to be anti-social. We join groups, volunteer, contribute, and organize at every chance we get. We make sure we say "yes" more than we say "no" so that we are a team-player.
A woman in 2017, after all, has to be a go-getter, a doer, and accomplisher...in all aspects of life. To step back, to take it easy is to fail. At least this is what society seems to tell us.
Pulled in ninety-eight different directions, it's no wonder we're all feeling run-down. It's no wonder there are mornings when we truly consider smashing the alarm clock into pieces or running away. It's no wonder our biggest goal sometimes is to climb into bed, uninterrupted, and just sleep away the day.
Many of us have backed ourselves into a corner and left no room for breathing. We fill our days with so much stuff, that we can't possibly have a minute to just relax. Our days are crazy packed races and to-do lists. A moment not accomplishing is a moment wasted.
In short, we are tired because we don't let ourselves have a moment to get rested. We put so many other people, events, duties, and tasks above ourselves, that we are bound to run out of fuel.
We are left decrepit and downtrodden. But even then, we don't cut ourselves slack. We are left feeling like there's something wrong with us or like we are failures.
We tell ourselves we need to just move on and find energy. We need to eat more oranges or drink more coffee. There are, after all, no excuses for the 2017 woman to just take a break.
Learning to Listen to Your Body
It's easy to fall into the do-it-all trap. It's easy to ignore the extra yawns, the negative feelings, and the desire to just take a step back.
However, to be a strong woman in 2017 and to be a woman who can find true meaning in life, we must be willing to listen to our bodies. We must hear ourselves when we say we're tired. We must recognize that we can't run on E forever, and that it's okay to say "no."
We must be willing to realize the weariness in our bones is a warning flag that we need to take care of ourselves. We must realize that taking care of ourselves isn't selfish or wrong.
We must learn that although we can do it all, we don't have to. Mental and physical wellness are both crucial elements of happiness. To ignore our exhaustion, physically and mentally, is to not be our best selves in any aspect of life.
So to all you tired women out there, take a break. Take a moment. Take a day. Take a weekend. Take time for you, just you, to sit back and relax. Take time to say "no" even if you feel like you should say yes. Take time to skip a practice, a meeting, or an event. Take time to rejuvenate and to relax.
Take time to realize it's okay to be tired...but it's not okay to ignore it.
The Strength to Find Your True Smile
She paints it on, her ruby red lips stretching as though they’re going to crack. Inside, a formidable storm circles and bubbles, but she has to suppress it. She can’t let it surface. She can’t let it ruin the perfect smile, the eloquently highlighted grin that reassures the world she’s fine, she’s great, she’s happy.
Because to show anything but the smile would be disastrous, especially in a world that shuns unhappiness. She must wear the face, play the part, and be thankful and gracious. She must smile.
Day after day, the red-lip façade carries on. Day after day, the storm brews a little more, threatening to usurp her. It simmers with feelings of anxiety, loss, and a lack of self-identity. It swarms her, making her feel heavy and exhausted. It’s hard working up the courage to wear a smile in the middle of an earth-shattering eruption. It’s hard to cover those feelings.
But smile she does because smile she must. She’s learned from childhood what it means to be a “good woman.” It means being thankful even when you’re frustrated or disappointed. It means being gracious and kind, sugary sweet words always dripping from your lips even in the face of injustice. It means carrying on when you’re weary in your bones and in your heart. It means doing more and complaining less. It means putting others first.
Most of all, it means you smile, even when you don’t feel like it.
So she smiles. I smile. We all smile.
Strong Women Don't Always Smile
But what good is this smile? What purpose is it serving? Certainly being appreciative and being kind are noble pursuits. However, does this mean that a fake smile trumps genuine feeling? Does it mean we must suppress our true desires, fears, anguish, and confusion just so the world can see the mask we wear? Is a smile really what we value in ourselves and in other women?
Instead of teaching our girls to grow up to be kind, smiling women, maybe our focus should shift. We should focus on teaching our girls to be appreciative and kind. We should teach our girls to be gracious and thankful. But we should also teach our girls that sometimes, life is hard. Sometimes, you don’t feel thankful or fulfilled. You don’t feel happy or appreciative. Sometimes you will feel walked on, underappreciated, lost, and confused.
In these moments, painting a fake smile on is not a necessity or requirement. In moments of struggle, it’s okay to show it. It’s okay to not be the smiling, strong woman who can take on the world every second of life. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to frown. It’s okay to stand up for yourself.
Smiling is a beautiful thing when it comes from a place of truth. But to be a strong woman is not to smile at everything in life. To be a strong woman is to be genuine. It’s to feel what you feel when you feel it. It’s to look past social expectations to find the real you, the true you, and to let yourself feel every part of what that looks like, smile or not.
So for you, I hope for many days of genuine smiles. However, I also hope that on days you don’t feel like smiling…you don’t. I hope you have the confidence to own your emotions. I hope you have good friends and family to lean on, who don’t expect the ruby red grin when you don’t mean it. I hope you have a support system strong enough to hold you up when you just can’t bear to smile anymore.
I hope you find your people, the people who can bring back a real smile to your face even when you don’t think it’s possible.
Above all, I hope you find the courage to go after what makes you genuinely smile and never force yourself to fall in love with a life that requires the art of fake smiling.
The first time you made me feel inferior was in 6th grade. You were the bouncy blonde who knew how to smile the smile well beyond your years. I was the girl with ill-fitting clothes, mousy brown hair, and a smile that said “child.” You walked the walk of the popular crowd while I sat in the corner with my book, sporting my butterfly clips.
We could’ve been friends, despite our differences. At the very least, we could’ve just co-existed peacefully. You, however, had other plans.
From my hair to my clothes to the freckles on my face, you made fun of every inch of me. You mocked me until I felt like maybe I was flawed. You got others on your bandwagon and worked hard to belittle me every chance you could. You pushed and shoved with your words, and insecurity crept in.
Through the years, there were many versions of you. Your name, background, hair color, and voice were different. Sometimes we had one harsh encounter, and sometimes you stuck around for a while to make me feel small. Over the years, there were so many of you. I still know each of your names and remember the hurt you caused.
To me, you were always a version of the girl from 6th grade. You made me feel weak. I learned that the message of being kind wasn’t always the way of the world. I learned that mean girls really did exist, and that sometimes the words of the mean girls really did sting.
As I got older, I told myself I was tougher. I didn’t need to worry about what others thought. I didn’t need to be meek and walked all over. I started to grow confidence, and I started to talk back. I was never innocent, I realize now. I said and did some things I shouldn’t have. Even the bookworms put on Regina George’s heels from time to time, and that’s something I’m not proud of.
Behind the brave face, though, was a hidden truth: Insecurity. Those pesky worries were always sitting really close to the confident smirk on my face at your harsh words. What if they were right? What if I wasn’t that special? What if I really was ugly, dumb, weird, and boring? What if I, like they made me believe, was a nobody?
Mean Girls in AdulthoodIn high school, you think the scenes from Mean Girls are left behind when you graduate. The comments and antics of teenagers surely can’t cross the imaginary line into the adult world.
However, I’ve come to realize that mean girls always exist at every stage of life. No matter how much you grow up, judgement and harsh comments still surround you. There will always be those willing to stomp on you with their stilettos to make themselves feel superior. That’s just the way life is.
Working as a high school English teacher, I’m even more privy to the fact that cruelty and competition are cyclical in nature; they truly don’t just go away, and there really is no way to just let it all go.
Harsh words really do haunt you, no matter how brave you try to be.
Nonetheless, I’ve come to realize two very important lessons the 6th grade version of myself didn’t quite know.
1. No one is perfect or perfectly innocent.
We all have our Regina George moments. We might go about it differently, but we’ve all judged another woman or been unnecessarily unkind. Thus, we must use our experiences, especially if we’ve been on the receiving end of cruel judgement, to inspire us to be kinder. We must strive to be more empathetic than our adversaries so we can stop the cycle. We must seek to build up others, even if they are seeking to tear us down. We must strive to combat the inner mean girl that tempts us to judge others, to be cruel, and to make others feel inferior.
2. Inferiority is a personal choice.
In high school, it’s almost impossible to understand this. Even now, at 29, it’s not an easy concept to ascribe to. However, the older I get, the more I realize the truth in this statement.
Mean girls are only effective if we let them be. Sure, the words will always haunt us. Cruel comments are indelible and don’t really dull with time. Still, it is our decision to believe them or to let them rest as untrue. We may not have the power to stop all of the real life mean girls in the world—but we have the power to choose how we handle their words.
Real life mean girls will always exist. From time to time in life, we might even find ourselves as one of the clique. However, the true challenge we as women face is to rise above the tendency to compare and to seek power. We must start to realize that tearing down another woman doesn’t build anyone up. Most of all, we must realize that we alone have the strength to build our own selves up. Words truly do hurt, but inner confidence allows us to find a place where cruel words don’t dictate who we are.
Lindsay Detwiler is a high school English teacher and contemporary romance author. Her latest novel, Who We Were, is a romantic comedy about dealing with high school enemies.
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