I’m not the same person that I was last year. If you’ve been lovely enough to keep up with my thoughts and admissions over the past few months, you will have noticed that personal development has been at the core of my content. I’m more thoughtful, more introspective, though still as foul-mouthed as ever (here’s a fuck, just for good measure).
Lots of things have kick-started this progress; I quit my job and became self-employed, I moved out of my grandparents home, I started to tackle my body demons and the person I love really made me start loving not only myself, but life. 2017 has been a sweeping whirl of change in many senses, and amidst the madness, there were pockets of quiet where I was able to sit down with myself and ask if I could be better.
Not at work or finances or planning ahead, but as a person. For all my preaching of self-love, body positivity and learning, I still have shitty flaws that I have to check myself for on regular basis. I still find myself saying things that don’t sound like myself, only to then have to take a step back and assess where that’s come from. For example, Keiran and I watch Jeremy Kyle every morning with a cup of tea - I hate the show because I think it’s exploitative and preys on vulnerable people for some kind of self-righteous entertainment, but at the same time, I still find myself shaking my head in disbelief at some of the story-lines, hunkering over my steaming mug with bleary-eyes and tired confusion. This morning a girl of 18 revealed that she’d slept with 8 men in the space of a few months, and I scoffed. Keiran looked at me in confusion, questioning why I scoffed and commenting that it wasn’t like me to disdain someone’s sexual proclivity.
And it isn’t. That’s not me at all. So much of my time and energy do I enthusiastically dedicate to challenging the ‘slut’ mentality many of us were brought up with, and yet every now and then, even I find myself regressing into that ingrained mindset. Whether it be an off-hand reaction or a gut feeling, sometimes my instinct is at odds with the ethos that I promote, and I have to actively stop and think: okay, I felt that way, but that’s not what I really believe, so why?
It’s very easy for your learned behaviour to become deep-seated and go unchallenged - for the things that we pick up on and subconsciously adopt to become part of our psyche and way of understanding the world. When an attitude or certain type of language is a regular part of our environment, they become a part of our toolbox for decoding all of the information that comes rushing towards us on a daily basis. And then, after so many years, when something doesn’t fit our prescribed ideals of how we feel the world should work or be navigated, then we’re upset without truly understanding why that is.
Let’s take ‘slut’, since I mentioned it earlier. Generally defined as a woman who is sexually promiscuous or loose with her sexual morals, we use slut to denigrate a female’s right to sexual freedom. Used as it is often intended - and not in the sense of reclaiming which many women have done over the past few years - slut is meant to be offensive. It’s meant to do harm, either to someone’s emotional well-being, to their reputation, or to their standing within a community or group of people. For this to be the case, ‘slut’ has to come from a place of offence. Whoever uses this term is unsettled, upset, or threatened by a woman’s sexual independence, and so they have to re-categorise the woman to make sense of her. This is where the importance of asking why comes in.
Why do they have to recategorise her? Why are they offended? Often the answer comes from the fact that we learn limiting and gendered ideals of what a man and woman should be from an early age. Take the lock and key analogy: if a key can open many locks, it’s a good key, but if a lock is opened by many keys, it’s a bad lock. I know, I know. Shall we all expel an exasperated sigh together? Analogies and ideas like this are born of archaic stereotypes, and become so ingrained into our behaviour and how we understand ourselves and our place in the world (which, oftentimes, is terrifying to us), that when we see someone acting outside of this, we ourselves feel threatened. Or jealous. Or emasculated. And we have to create that person as the ‘other’, or else we have to come face-to-face with all of the phobic behaviours that we allow to fester under the surface of our liberal facades.
So what is the question that made me a kinder person? Quite simply, it’s why?
Why do I feel like that? Why do I have those ideas of that person? Why am I upset by that? Why do I feel that what that person does affects me? Why can’t I be happy for them?
Why can’t I be happy for them? When I see another woman doing well, my heart rejoices, but my head backs up on itself. What has she done that’s better than me? Did she deserve it? Is it because she’s prettier? I don’t believe any of these things, but as young women, we’re taught to be in competition with one another at all times, rather than to celebrate one another's success and lift one another up. Every now and then, my learned behaviour takes me back there, and I have to challenge it.
Anytime I have a gut reaction, I ask myself why. And from there, I try and pick apart any nuggets of prejudice or unearthed bitterness, and to make myself a better person. It’s frustrating at times, not least because you find yourself trying to push ‘why’ on other people in an attempt to make them a better person too, but it’s necessary. We’re all a product of our environments, but that doesn’t mean we get a free pass to stay that way. Sometimes we just have to admit that we’re fucked up and we’re in the process of unlearning behaviour, and that’s that.
‘Why’ is making me a kinder, more compassionate person. The next time you find yourself thinking or saying something hurtful, unfair, or simply wrong, ask yourself why. Hopefully it will make you a kinder person too.
And in true, CP, fan-girl fashion, I'll leave you with these SZA lyrics: ‘Just give as much as you take, forgive as much as you hate, or get the fuck out’.
Until next time lovelies x
“So what’s the end goal? Who do you want to be?” I’m an inquisitive person. Whenever I’m with people -...