International Women’s Week is upon us whereby women, and many of the men who love us, are celebrating the joys of womanhood around the world. Now, in all this hoopla and hype, I need to come clean on something.
In case you did not notice, I am a woman. Your first clue might be that I interview only women on my talk show Extraordinary Women TV. While today I am deeply grateful to be a woman, I was not always. Ehem, let me explain.
When I was seven years old, my youngest sibling was born. A boy. After bringing three daughters into the world (I am the eldest), my young parents gave birth to a son. It was a much-anticipated event for friends and family members alike. When my mother was pregnant, I often heard comments such as: “Maybe you’ll finally have a baby brother! Wouldn’t that be great?”
I had also heard similar comments when my mother was previously pregnant with my two younger sisters. This “boy-thing” seemed to be a big deal.
Still, one of the most memorable days of my childhood was the day my brother was born. The school’s principal called me out of class to take a phone call from my father, who was at the hospital with my mother who had gone into labour earlier in the morning. As I stood on a chair so that I could reach the phone that was fastened high on the wall, my father’s matter-of-fact words on the other end touched me: “You have a baby brother.”
When I walked back into the classroom with a smile from deep within, my teacher, who was expecting the announcement, asked me if I now had a baby brother or sister. When I replied “brother,” everyone in the class cheered. It seemed like so much more fuss and celebration than when my previous siblings — girls — were born.
I quickly came to realize that this new kid in the family, a son, got all the attention and, through my childish eyes, took away my glory as a girl – because he was a boy. Wherever we went, people congratulated my parents: “Finally, after three girls they have a boy!” But my seven-year-old ears heard something different. What I heard at a deeper level was this: You are a girl, therefore you are not worthy.
This feeling of being second in value held me back as not only a creative being, but as a successful person. At the drastic end of the scale, I hated being a girl and wished to be a boy because I experienced the value society places on a boy: a cherished boy passes along the noble family name to the next generation.
As a girl, I felt inferior. I lacked confidence in my abilities. And this became my catalyst to want to become just as good as, if not better than, a boy.
That’s when I made the faulty decision in my child’s mind that men are more powerful than women. Coming from a traditional family model in the ‘60s, where the man worked and woman stayed at home to raise the children, I realized my father had the control of money in the family, and I saw that as being the most powerful seat in the house because we could not do anything or go anywhere without money, and those decisions were always up to my father.
I saw my mother as somehow being weaker because she did not make those financial decisions. That was when I decided that I wanted to be like my father when I grew up because he worked and made money — and therefore had the power. I saw the woman in the family as powerless.
And so, as I grew up, I placed my values into the areas men value in society: career, work, finance. As a teen, and later, young woman, I stuffed my femininity into a closet because I saw it as a weakness. I worked hard at my career then, and still do, like a man in a man’s world. I unconsciously avoided my feminine side. As a result, as a young woman, I was never truly in touch with the feminine traits of healing, intuition, nurture, care, family, compassion and creation.
The result has not always been wonderful. Sure, I’ve had an exciting career and earned a living, and made my own decisions – for good and bad — around money. Good for me that I fulfilled my own prophecy. But for years, I have suffered from chronic and severe dysmenorrhea, which does not seem to be uncommon for women like me: those who put their careers first. Some experts have told me this medical issue is a physical result or manifestation of disowning femininity on the unconscious level. I believe it.
In my thirties, while trying to heal this often debilitating condition, one day I “woke up” and realized the power my mother truly had — and still has. I became ashamed of myself for not seeing it earlier – much earlier. What I did not recognize as a child, or young woman, for that matter, was the power my mother had of nurture, care and sensitivity. The power of making my tears go away when I fell off my bike and scraped my knees. The power of making me feel safe inside our house on stormy prairie nights. The power of making me feel like the “beautiful swan” when I told her I really felt like the “ugly ducking” from the storybook. Even today, my mother has the power of making me feel that everything is going to be okay when I fear the sky is falling.
For all the money and business status in the world, my father, whom I respect very much, could not have the power to do that. And so, I came to see the perfect balance of power in the family. When I saw this perfect balance, I began to see — and appreciate — my own power as a woman. I have since consciously brought out of the closet my feminine traits: that of healing, intuition, nurture, care, family, compassion and creation – and, not to forget, beauty. I believe I am a much better person for it.
And so, thank God I am a woman.
I would love to hear from you about why you are grateful to be a woman.