Look around. There is a tidal swell of social change that’s rising because women are looking at themselves differently. We are putting more value in our own perspective on ourselves, rather than focusing on what others think.
Looking at divorce differently, too—as a means of leveraging possibility and coming through the heat of it with a newly forged sense of self—means we need to look at marriage differently. It’s time to evaluate, for ourselves, marriage as a social norm. We tend to think of “the norm” as happening outside ourselves, but the fact is, we are all the norm, so each perspective and each experience is valid. Each drop of water is part of the swell. But even if you disagree, there are women already living outside “the norm.” We must stop viewing being married as a benchmark for our success.
What’s an unapologetic woman?
An unapologetic woman is not ashamed, and she is a little bit selfish. That doesn’t mean she’s acting like a matador, flying the flag of the egotistical or self-involved, but yes, she is a little selfish when she needs to be and she is okay with that—even if the people around her are not. We are glad when we are able to please others, but we aren’t driven to it in order to feel like “good girls.” We aren’t pleasers to our own chronic detriment. We can say no when we need to and not feel guilty about it. We’re recognizing the pitfalls of defining our own happiness by whether the people in our lives are happy.
We do not need to apologize or justify ourselves for making choices that serve us well. We are not “bitches” for standing up for ourselves, for being bold, for taking risks or making our own happiness a priority, any more than we are “whores” for reveling in our sexual selves.
The unapologetic woman is not about being brassy or loud-mouthed or brazen—the most common misconception. It’s about cultivating zero shame and embodying who we really are. We’ve reached the place where we no longer assess our value or meaning through someone else’s eyes. We look to ourselves instead of others for approval.
In the past, we gained approval and a sense of being valuable by turning down the volume on that inner voice that is just ours, down to a whisper, so it wouldn’t interfere with the clamoring voices calling to us for needs to be met, investments to be protected, support to be given, and conformity or blending in.
Being authentic is one way of being unapologetic
As SAS founder Liza Caldwell points out in this movie, how we keep ourselves “in our place” is to give away our power and identity to external forces—to other people’s approval, to the having of a man, to the entity that is the marriage itself. In her archetypes and sacred contracts material, Carolyn Myss identifies marriage as an archetype unto itself and describes how the archetype of marriage comes right up to the newly-married couple at the wedding banquet, plunks itself down between the bride and groom, and says hi, I’ll be here for the duration of your marriage telling you how you should conduct yourselves.
The problem is that when we are behaving in a way dictated by anyone other than ourselves, we lose all sight of our bigger self, our truest self, and what we want. We are struggling to adhere to a version of ourselves that we didn’t generate.
When it doesn’t come from within, it’s not authentic. It might feel workable for a while, but eventually, it’s like trying to dance or run a marathon in shoes that are too tight. And then, because we’re just trying to move forward, we change from a long stride to a shorter one. We mince along, and we end up feeling inadequate and sorry for not being able to keep up.
Or confused, or grudge-holding—that others seem to be doing it so well! Why them, and not us? What is wrong with us? This voice is a smaller version of ourselves, the one trying to shoehorn who we are into who we thought we were supposed to be. And we apologize. For endeavoring to be our true self, our biggest self, and instead revert to a much smaller version of what we know is living deep within us, the self we are meant to be.
Some people reach for the biggest version of themselves naturally, but for most, it takes life giving us a push.
Divorce is one of the ways we get pushed
Okay maybe divorce is more like getting thrown, and when that happens, we finally give up trying to be something we’re not. We change. We find our natural stride that was waiting to break out all along, and we grow. We become an unapologetic woman.
It is SO okay to have a long stride, to be big, to take up space in the world—no matter if big means our life looks hugely different from how a praise-worthy life was laid out for us before, or if it is our size 18 body. (Big doesn’t necessarily mean busier or more multi-tasky. It just means that you like it more. That you like you more. For you. No one else.)
We do not need permission from anyone outside ourselves. What we need is our own permission.
Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer and former journalist living on the West Coast. Nicknamed Verbose at a young age, she loves word craft but has to keep a short leash on her fondness for the profane. Jennifer enjoys her cat’s input on her rough drafts (talk about snark) and the freedom of being her own partner. Connect with Jennifer here.
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