Before embarking on writing this article, I have to admit that I wasn’t fully aware of the significance of Women’s Day. Sorry ladies! Yes, I knew we were celebrating womanhood, but I didn’t realise how important this day really was. Women’s Day, celebrated on the 8th March each year, is a day celebrating and acknowledging the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world. This is a day in which we recognise the huge strides women have made to achieve certain rights and freedoms, including the right to vote, addressing sexual and physical violence towards women and closing the gender pay gap, amongst others. At the same time, we’re also acknowledging that discrimination and inequalities still exist for many women around the world, whilst continuing the work towards change.
So, if Women’s day is about acknowledging the rights of women and continuing this ‘fight’ towards equality, it’s really about taking care of and giving women the respect they, or we, deserve. This year, in recognition of Women’s day, I’d like to add another dimension to the day by bringing this idea of respect and care for women closer to home. I wonder how many of you think about the importance of taking care of other women in the community, our colleagues, friends and classmates. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we looked out for each other more and cared for the well-being of women in our lives? We may not change the world but we’ll certainly create a happier and healthier environment for everyone. For all of you with me on this, I’d like to suggest a few ways to take care of the women in your life:
- Do away with unrealistic ideals
The number of women I see in the clinic who have decided they’re not pretty enough, skinny enough or smart enough, is incredibly saddening. A survey of UK girls and young women (Girl Guides Annual survey 2016) revealed that 36% of 7 to 10-year-olds say people make them feel like the most important thing about them is the way they look. 40% of the same group feel they’re not pretty enough and 25% feel they need to be “perfect”. One in six feel ashamed or embarrassed of how they look. Whilst the media’s portrayal of what it means to be beautiful, as well as social media, has a lot to do with this, they’re not the only factors. If you see a girl or woman who doesn’t conform to what you regard as attractive, refrain from judging her or being unkind in any way. In fact, let’s go a step further and choose to accept her just as she is.
- Reach out to people who need support
Is there anyone in your life who looks like they need a friendly ear, some moral support or some encouragement? I’ll never forget one day when I was sitting in a bus, and I looked up to see a young mother whose baby had been crying for the entire bus journey, suddenly start crying quietly herself. I wanted to ask her if she was okay, but felt hesitant to approach her, not wanting to seem nosy. Whilst in the midst of my internal dilemma, an older lady walked up to this young woman and started speaking softly to her. She sat with her for the whole journey and when it was time for the older lady to get off the bus, she gave the younger lady her number and a comforting hug. It was very touching to see. I wish we could all take a leaf out of this lady’s book and offer words of comfort to those who need it. It could really make a huge difference to anyone going through a difficult period. I certainly learnt an important lesson that day.
- Go easy on the gossiping
According to anthropologists, throughout history people have used gossip as a way to bond with those people they like, whilst isolating those who don’t support the group. As human beings, we also possess a powerful drive to learn about the lives of others. It would be unrealistic for me to suggest you stop gossiping completely. However, I would encourage you to think twice before talking negatively about anyone, spreading information you don’t know for certain is true, or sharing anything which is hurtful or unkind. When you need to vent about someone or something, which we all do sometimes, speak to someone you trust will keep it to themselves. Or take your complaint to the right person, such as your manager in the case of workplace issues.
Gossip very often comes from a place of insecurity, fear, pain and jealousy. When you’re tempted to gossip, take the time to think about what emotion that person or their actions brings up in you. Are you putting someone else down to feel better about yourself? Did that person’s behaviour remind you of someone in your life who once hurt you? If someone makes choices you don’t agree with, accept that we all have different values and views. Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and think about how you would feel if people were talking about you behind your back. Tarnishing someone’s reputation through heresay or causing someone shame or pain is really not okay, ever. Remember the old adage before you speak – ‘Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?’
- Forget generalisations about what it means to be a woman
I think I’m going to hand the baton to Jennifer Aniston on this one. After repeated pregnancy rumours and speculation about her relationships, Jennifer Aniston had this to say, and I applaud her wholeheartedly:
“Here’s where I come out on this topic: we are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child. We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies. That decision is ours and ours alone. Let’s make that decision for ourselves and for the young women in this world who look to us as examples. We don’t need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own “happily ever after” for ourselves.”
Need I say more?!
- Celebrate the success of other women
Recently, someone told me that she never tells a particular friend of hers positive things she’s achieved to avoid making her friend jealous or angry. Errr, pardon? Sadly, this is not the first time I’ve heard such statements. When a woman succeeds, achieves something she’s worked hard for or has an amazing talent, pat her on the back. Don’t knock her down. I often wonder if certain individuals believe that another person’s success or good fortune reduces the chances of them succeeding. Why should someone’s positive experiences mean that everyone else’s are suddenly limited? We can all succeed at something, without having to bulldoze others down in the process. Instead of seeing successful women as a threat, see what you can learn from their experience and be happy for them. I’ll leave you with a quote I love – ‘You can always tell who the strong women are. They’re ones building other women up instead of tearing them down.’ Anonymous
Finally, I’d like to wish all you beautiful women out there a happy Women’s day. Yes, that’s every single one of you. I hope we can use this day as a reminder that when we have each other’s back, and when we support and care for each other, we’re stronger.