“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” – Virginia Woolf

I read these words many years ago and they struck a chord deep within me that resonates to this day. Her words apply in a much broader sense to all women who want to be happy or free. Her words inspire me to think that a woman must have power and space for herself if she is to live fully. In a world that has historically made it more difficult for women to have money and property, it occurs to me that this shit runs deep. I’ve always been interested in the way political issues manifest in our personal lives, and so I notice the way that we as women tend to give away our power and resources for the benefit of others. The legacy of the women who came before us lives on in our cells. On some deep level, we’ve internalized the notion that our value lies in our ability to serve others. Service is wonderful, but when we lose ourselves in it, or when it’s taken for granted, or when we’re merely fulfilling the expectations of the patriarchy in our own little corner of the universe, I’d say it’s not so wonderful.

Look at all the places, all the subtle ways in which we give our power away. It used to appear in obvious ways, like the right to vote or work. It continues to show up systemically in terms of the pay gap, defunding of women’s programs, and the exorbitant cost of child care. In a personal sense, it shows up when we don’t speak up, in significant as well as subtle ways. It shows up in the language we’ve picked up over the course of our lives. I just read an article about how one woman noticed that she always asked her partner to “help her out” when she wanted him to do household chores, or just merely not make a mess. She realized that he’s a grown up, and part of being a grown up is not throwing your kid’s coat on the floor. Putting it away is not helping your wife, it’s being a grown up. In this particular household, ownership of keeping the house tidy – although not explicity assigned to the woman in an overt way – landed in her lap and was reinforced by the language she used. A shift in her language is a huge thing. It’s one way to stop playing into the system that keeps us too busy with the little things to have any room for what lights us up – creativity, big ideas, and self-expression.

Where in your life do you feel that you do not have a choice?
Where do you hold your tongue so as not to rock the boat?

In order to affect real change, we need to look at the innermost places where we’re participating in our own powerlessness, where we aren’t allowing ourselves to take up space.

A few years ago, the following example occurred to me. A man-cave is a normal thing, but how many households have a room that is just for the woman of the house? Rather than needing her own space, we’ve collectively decided, she blends into the house as a whole. Or perhaps we consider the kitchen to be her space. Or the bedroom. Either way, this is all shared space – there is nothing of her own. No space where she can simply be herself, separate from the roles she plays and responsibilities she handles. And we don’t question it. We just all go along, participating in this model that fuses a woman’s identity with the family as a whole, while it’s accepted that a man still needs his own space. Eff that noise.

How about the messages we hear about our physical presence ? What are we told about taking up space with our bodies? The beauty ideal certainly reinforces the idea that a woman should take up as little space as possible. Society has linked her attractiveness to her diminutive presence. And so women set fitness goals to be smaller rather than stronger. We hold our bellies in all the time. Even that small act is creating digestive issues and pain related to chronic tension. The irony is that the more tightly we hold on to this need to take up less space, the more tension we create, and the more the body is primed to hold onto weight. It’s a self-defeating approach that leaves us all wound up and stressed out. Generic Propecia 5 mg 20 pills at http://www.trendingdownward.com/propecia-finasteride/ cheapest prices.

How about time? How likely are we, as women, to really treasure and defend the time we’ve chosen for ourselves? If you’re succeeding in this department, that is amazing. Huge kudos to you, my friend. I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Unfortunately, it’s more common that we sacrifice our personal time to meet others’ needs. The first thing to go when demands rise is time for ourselves. In her article, “Why time is a feminist issue,” Brigid Schulte describes her shock when a time-use expert told her that she has 30 hours of leisure time each week. She too found that our personal time bleeds into care-giving and taking care of all the little moving parts in life. We disappear into the background, and our time – and our power – disappears.

Are you giving yourself the space to be…yourself? So many women experience anxiety, and so much anxiety comes from not feeling like it’s okay to fully be who we are. These social expectations of women have been ingrained so deeply that we’ve internalized the message and given voice to it in our own minds. You know the one – the inner critic who expects you to be on the ball all the time, and who beats you up for not being able to handle absolutely everything? On a moment to moment basis, when we’re letting the inner critic drive the bus, we are giving our power away. We are trading our authenticity and integrity for social comfort. And it sucks.

So it starts with each of us, on the inside.
If we change our thinking, we can change our lives.
If we change our lives, we change our relationships, our families, our communities.
Indeed, we can change the world.

I want to live in a world where women claim their power and take up space. We have a choice and a voice. We are divine beings, meant to experience the fullness of life by being exactly who we are. When society doesn’t reflect our values, rather than abandoning ourselves, let’s change society, shall we? Who’s with me?

You can start to reclaim your time & peace of mind with Breathing Room, my free, 21-day guided meditation program that allows you to connect to your breath for 5 minutes a day. Sign up here.