A few months ago, I had the opportunity to participate in the launch team for Jen Hatmaker’s new book, “Fierce, Free and Full of Fire.” This post is the first in a series of posts related to what I took away from reading this book. All quotes are from Jen Hatmaker, unless otherwise noted.
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It’s been a while since I published the first post in this series. There are several reasons for this, the least being that we are in month five of quarantine and life is, well, a different kind of crazy. I would say that the more probable reason I have yet to publish this post is because I have been putting it off. This section requires quite a bit more vulnerability with you, Reader. I need to ask for your grace in the delay of this writing, and of its reading.
It’s really not that often that we stop and take time to think about our own needs, isn’t it? As women in America specifically, we are raised to think about others’ needs before our own. This is often presented under the guise of “being a good, Christian woman” and synonymous with “being a servant.” I get it. I was raised with that vocabulary too. Thankfully, I also have an amazing mom who has always made sure that as I grew I knew how important it is to realize what I need and to fill my cup as well, to take care of myself.
Now, that doesn’t necessarily make identifying what I need any easier. Ask my husband. He’ll be the first to tell you that when I’m in a spiral of overwhelmed emotions, 99 percent of the time his very sweet “what do you need? what can I do for you?” is met with a dramatic “I don’t knoooowww!” (You heard it in that voice, didn’t you? Maybe even identified it as your own?) Today, we will dig in to beginning to discover the answer to that question.
i deserve goodness
As evidenced by my blue ink all over the pages of this chapter, I definitely resonated with this! Jen spent fifteen pages telling us that we deserve goodness. It’s kind of a sad thought that this is something we have to be told, isn’t it?
The first sentence I underlined in this chapter was this: “Women are famous for putting up with crap.” Yes, ma’am! It’s expected of us under the guise of “being polite” and “ladylike.” We’re just supposed to take whatever comes at us and “let it roll,” without complaint or self-advocacy.
You know what this does? It wears us down! It makes us feel like the problem, too much, inferior (Imposter Syndrome, anyone?). I don’t know about you, but when I’m overloaded from putting up with so much crap “politely” I tend to explode. You too, huh? You know, I didn’t really understand the subtleties of gaslighting until I read them in this chapter. Talk about mind blowing!
Jen counters subtle gaslighting by saying, “Someone benefits when you don’t even believe you are worth good things, but a woman is unstoppable one she believes she deserves goodness.”
Well guess what, there’s a way to stop putting up with crap, stop exploding, and love ourselves. Jen quotes Dr. Kristen Neff’s teaching on fierce self-compassion. I’ll give a very short, surface-level run down here, but when you have time I do suggest you head over to Dr. Neff’s site and read the article. You will be awakened!
i need self-compassion
Dr. Neff talks about yin and yang self-compassion. Yin self-compassion is that gentle, mindful self-care we need to engage in, in order to nurture our well-being. Yang self-compassion on the other hand is fierce. It is the self-compassion of protecting ourselves. As Jen puts it, “refusing to accept anything less than goodness.” We need both yin and yang self-compassion to be truly ourselves and to believe that we are worthy of goodness.
It wasn’t until I started working with gifted students that I learned the term “Imposter Syndrome.” Defined by Psychology Today, Imposter Syndrome is “a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments.” As soon as I heard this definition, I felt relief! I wasn’t the only one who had ever felt the way I have felt for most of my life! I’m not crazy! Upon further research, I learned that Imposter Syndrome is actually quite common among women in leadership. Would you believe me if I told you that I have in fact held several leadership positions in my life, but have never up until a few months ago really considered myself a “real leader”?
Jo Saxton (look her up, she is an amazing leader herself!) has recommended the book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women by Valerie Young. The subtitle is “why capable people suffer from imposter syndrome and how to thrive in spite of it.” You bet that book went right into my audiobook library. I might just knock it out in one long drive.
Imposter Syndrome, when combined with perfectionism can be a deadly combination in regards to ones’ dreams. No wonder it took me so many years to start this blog! When we put too much weight on the criticism of others, it can lead to just not starting in the first place (“it won’t ever be good enough anyway…”)
I’ve been blessed with several people over the years who are very good at stopping me when I get in that kind of cycle and reminding me of the evidence of the good. The lives I’ve changed, the difference I’ve made. Those of us who suffer from Imposter Syndrome and perfectionism need people like that. If you need that friend, find them. If you are that friend, know that you are cherished beyond measure.
The goal is this. Love yourself well. Kick the negative self-talk to the curb. Practice self-compassion and self-kindness daily. Be healthy. Feel worthy. Sit back and soak up the goodness.
i need some help
I am awful at help. There, I said it. Now, some people know that I identify as a type two on the Enneagram. Those who know the Enneagram know that type two is referred to as “The Helper.” So why do I say I am awful at help? Because I undoubtedly suck at asking for it. I pride myself at being a strong, independent woman. After all this is what is prized by western society, right? I’ve always been independent, but with the appearance of that Imposter Syndrome and perfectionism I talked about earlier, I somehow have also become a woman who does not ask for help. This has just about ruined me on several occasions.
If I really take a minute to stop and think about it, I do a lot! I do a lot physically (work, home, kid) and there’s a lot I do mentally (organize, list, remember, write). One of the things I am most proud of in my career is the GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) program at our school. I was tasked with heading it up several years ago and since then it has become a passion of mine. We’ve seen our numbers grow exponentially, and programming and events have grown alongside it. We have great parent and community involvement.
But…it’s always only been a one woman show for the most part. Yes, I’ve been blessed to have a coworker every year to help with some of the things, but mostly the program just falls to me to organize, etc. It’s my baby. I’d take the best care of it, right? Ha! This summer, I am re-organizing the leadership model of our entire program. After almost crashing and burning last year, this is a much needed (and honestly overdue) overhaul. After all, collaboration is often the best kind of work, with results that show it!
Jen pulls in some utter brilliance from Dr. Wayne Baker at the University of Michigan on how to ask for help. I’m just going to list them here. Check out the link for more info. (The quotes below are from Dr. Baker, “5 Ways to Get Better at Asking for Help”)
- “Earn responses to your requests by generously helping others in the first place.”
- “Know what you want to ask for.”
- “Ask SMARTly”
- “Don’t assume you know who and what people know.”
- “Create a culture where asking for help is encouraged.”
To be honest with you, as I’m sitting here reviewing my notes it occurs to me that I need to read this section again. Quarantine fatigue has set in, y’all. 24/7 with a three-year-old can be really tough. Trying to manage stress, anxiety, house, writing, and making sure she’s having fun all at the same time…let’s just say those plates don’t spin too well these days, and often they end up shattered on the floor. I do the best I can, and try to remember to give myself a lot of grace.
i need more connection
I think we are all realizing how important connecting with others actually is. Since March 13, most of my connecting has occurred online. I am lucky to have family who are keeping the same safety protocol who we see frequently, and we occasionally have a driveway chat with friends. But, oh these months at home have been lonely at times as well. How I long to just go out with friends and share a meal together! But, we are doing what we are now so that we can do that again later.
We are not created to be alone. We are created to live in relationship with one another. Seriously, thank God for technology like Zoom and FaceTime! We can still have authentic, genuine connection with those that are closest to us.
Take a moment and think about your tribe, you crew, whatever it is that you call your people. How big is it? How many of that group would you say you have genuine close relationships with? Finally, do those relationships help you grow? Do you help each other to flourish?
Being connected with one another is so essential to our well-being. Those close connections celebrate with us in our victories, support us when we need it, have our back and are in our corner, and crawl down in the trenches of early parenthood with us. When I think of the handful of people that are essential to me, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that these are true connections that I could not live without.
no more excuses
Sure, there have been occasions where the emo-middle-schooler in me suddenly rears its ugly head, usually during a relational rough spot or a particular struggle in which I know I need connection but pride or embarrassment take over. Jen shares some excuses we make for not connecting with others (pg 96). How many of these have you heard or said or thought yourself?
- Everyone already has a crew
- No one has time for me
- No one wants to make time for me
- I’m lonely because something is wrong with me
- I’m lonely because I’m not loveable
- Wanting connection is asking too much
- This is going to be too much work
- My bad history with relationships is insurmountable
- Women are mean
- Women are competitive
- I’m going to be disappointed
- I’m going to be disappointing
- I don’t need close relationships
i need to be vulnerable
How many sound familiar to you? Y’all. At some point we have to just be willing to be vulnerable with others. My Nana used to say we need to “put (our) big girl panties on” and deal with it. In this case, we need to hike those suckers up and bring ourselves to the party. It is only when we are our authentic selves that we will have relationships that thrive and that allow us to flourish. That means we need to be vulnerable.
You know where I find it’s easiest to be vulnerable and truly connect with others? Around a table filled with great food and good drink. Everyone is welcome at my table. I think a kitchen table has the kind of power that not many things do. So many conversations are had and hearts poured out around kitchen tables. I believe it to be a truly sacred space.
Right now, your kitchen table might look different. Mine does. Sometimes that kitchen table looks like a parking lot where cars are parked 10 feet apart in a circle. It might look like friends enjoying dinner and drinks over a group chat online.
However it looks, don’t let the kitchen table lose its power. Find a way to be connected. Throw out whatever excuse you have and just go for it. Does it mean it’s going to be easy? No. Does it mean you’re not going to get embarrassed or put your foot in your mouth sometimes? No. It is worth it to live in community with others that allows you to be yourself and to grow into your best self? Hell yes!
I hope this post has inspired you to find out more. This book is some of Jen’s best work yet. You can find the book on Amazon, and can find more Jen on her website jenhatmaker.com. She also hosts the “For the Love” podcast. Listen wherever you find your podcasts.