A Woman’s Call to Freedom from the Harrowing Tightrope of Others’s Judgement
Lewis Carol got it right when Alice was trying to get into Wonderland and she kept eating potions that made her too big or too little. The struggle for all humans, and especially women, is to find a balance between being too much and too little. If I’m too mousy I’m not leaning in. I’m giving my power away. Or if I want to take back the reins to my life, I’m bossy or bitchy. Heaven forbid I’m the “S” word—Selfish!
When I was younger I would wish upon a star that someday I could define my life. Then I’d finally be an adult. Nobody told me that adulting, especially while female, would be so challenging. Society has conditioned us all to think it’s normal to subject women to constant critique. It’s maddening to live with endless judgments that you are always doing something wrong. I’ve been told I’m too skinny, not beautiful enough, not smart, too weak, won’t amount to much—the disease of too little. I’ve also been told I’m too pretty, too emotional, too ambitious, too slutty, too bold, in your face—the disease of too much.
One thing that is for sure: I find this tightrope of scrutiny too narrow and harrowing. My younger years were riddled with abuse and ways in which I erased my selfhood to survive. I took in the bullying and made myself wrong, lacking, and bad. I was miserable. And when I made the decision to leave it all behind, to not be a powerless victim to others’ opinions and mistreatment I felt so empowered. I began to live the life I dreamed of. Yes graduate school was hard and so was starting a business, having a child, and daring to believe in myself. Everybody loves a comeback kid. As a wounded woman I wasn’t much a threat to others, yet!
Life changed after years of being poor, unable to make rent or take a break. I finally earned a paycheck at age 36. I could support myself. At age 40 I treated myself to my first world vacation. I bought my first new car! I found my soul mate and fell in love. I shared my joy with the world. I wanted be an example of a woman who dared it all to be herself. I was living my dream life— fully in my power, a lady boss on my terms. I freed my victim-martyr identity and allowed my bold, glorious soul to shine. I felt tremendous gratitude and shared that with the world. Then suddenly I became too much.
I became a show off, too vain, too shallow, too materialist, too “braggy”. People mistook my desire to express the gratitude and elevate the joy in the room as wanting all eyes to be on me. People misunderstood my love of travel and photography and thought it was an attempt to rub glamour in their faces. People thought my intent was to make others feel bad about themselves.
People interpreted the freedom I feel in my body with sexiness and femininity as vain and self-obsessed. People believed my love of play for lack of ability and skills. I had a doctorate but was still labeled a dumb blonde. People assumed I’ve always been a privileged princess who married for the money when my greatest pride is in being self-made and a provider for my family.
I made others feel bad about themselves and was told I should tone it down. The real heartbreaker was the assertion that I was letting women down. My self expression was too loud, my joy filters were not realistic, and nobody should be sparkly if they want to be taken seriously. I was a role model or an oppressor to womens’ self esteem. I was a champion or I was a Kardashian. I was endlessly too much or too little.
I can say, that despite others’ idealism or judgment I am trying to live my best life without sacrificing myself or others in the process. Ultimately I want freedom, mine and yours, from the narrow and harrowing constructs that seek to suck the marrow out of our brilliance. I want freedom from the tightrope narrative that we either have to be lacking or perfect—the double messages that reduce us to scared, insecure, ruthless bullies. When we try to control others so that we feel good inside, we unleash our oppressor on them.
I want the freedom to be messy, anxious, angry and vulnerable. I want to eliminate the dichotomy that I can’t be strong, deep, smart, vulnerable AND sexy, needy, bold, emotional. I want to be freaking brilliant and not have the answers. I want to be irreverent and sarcastic while overly sentimental. I want to be valued as a fierce, sensitive, loving woman!
While I sincerely wish you your freedom on your terms I want my freedom on my terms-
I want to bash the extreme polarization of black or white thinking, too much or too little. I want these stupid constructs and narratives to smash into a million little pieces of tender unique snowflakes and full spectrums of light. I demand as shards of glass we shred oppression and unite in a mosaic of love.
May you be both too much and too little, and gorgeously, brightly— YOU!
Dr. Liz Bliss Esalen is a mother, wife, entrepreneur, psychologist, CEO, healer and writer. Her life’s passion is to be a champion of the Light, and empower people to restore faith, love, joy and peace again after profound loss. She is the Founder and CEO of Luminous Healing Center & The Lotus Collaborative, thriving, holistic organizations committed to employee wellness and guiding individuals, groups and families through trauma and eating disorder recovery. She draws upon her own transformational journey, clinical psychology education and entrepreneurial leadership to inspire others.