Girly thoughts are those societal messages we receive about how we look. Join guest author Patricia O’Gorman as she shares “Beauty, Resilience, and Claiming Your Personal Power: How Your Girly Thoughts Rob You of Appreciating Your Beauty.”
Written by: Patricia O’Gorman, Ph.D.
Many women have been brainwashed by a force beyond their control, a force so strong, yet so insidious, that they probably aren’t even aware of it. Yet this powerful force is the reason women do not accept themselves, for they do not appreciate their own beauty and instead focus on their imperfections. They look in a mirror and see defects and flaws, and they blame these imperfections for much of what is wrong with their lives.
What is this mysterious–yet overwhelming–force? As a psychologist, I’ve had the misfortune of meeting it in a myriad of forms in the women I’ve worked with over the last twenty years. I’ve finally come up with a label for it: girly thoughts.
Girly thoughts are those societal messages we receive about how we look and what makes us appealing. They are self-limiting thoughts and images of who we are, what we are capable of, what we are good for, how we should look, how we should act, and the consequences we can expect when we don’t fit within this very narrow and often unobtainable expectation. Girly thoughts are the often subtle, outside messages we internalize that cause us to blame ourselves for not being what we feel we should be.
Girly thoughts are born from our need to be loved and accepted. They are nurtured through the fairy tales on which we were raised, stories that speak to our need to be weaker than we are, and they are reinforced through the practice of digitally enhancing a woman’s natural beauty to the point that the model doesn’t even look like the actual woman being photographed. The result of this blurring between what is real and attainable and what is not is the huge price we pay for chasing this illusion: we lose access to our personal power, curtailing what we could achieve if only we didn’t spend so much of our emotional capital berating ourselves for not looking or acting as we feel we should.
With girly thoughts in charge and teaching us to be so very, very critical of ourselves, we give away our personal power. Without thinking, we are “naturally” drawn to concentrating on our “flaws,” and we feel real anguish that we have them. Watch women trying on swimming suits in a department store and you’ll see that anguish in action.
By allowing these perceived flaws to consume so much of our energy, and by being so weighted down by our girly thoughts, we sacrifice taking real care of ourselves–a sequence that, ironically, begins with not appreciating our own beauty. The price we pay for this is dramatically seen in the new Dove series, Real Beauty Secrets, which you can learn more about here.
In it, a police sketch artist draws a woman’s face based on her verbal self-description (without actually seeing the subject). Later, he draws her again, this time based on someone else’s description of her. When the woman (and the audience) sees the two sketches side by side, there is a dramatic difference in how the same woman looks in the two versions, but the a-ha moment is when the woman realizes she appears prettier, happier, and brighter in the sketch based on a stranger’s description of her. I was moved to tears by the faces of these women as they came to realize that, as one woman put it, “I should be more grateful for my natural beauty. It impacts our choices in the friends we make, the jobs we apply for, how we treat our children; it impacts everything. It couldn’t be more critical to your happiness.”
I urge you to spend three minutes watching this moving video, as it is a dramatic illustration of the price we pay for our girly thoughts, which block access to not only our beauty, but also our energy and power.
You need that energy and power to fight back. Actively resisting those subtle, negative images and messages that are such a part of the fabric of your life is a struggle. But the alternative–staying stuck listening to your girly thoughts and just focusing on your flaws–is a recipe for personal misery.
You can fight back and learn to tune out your girly thoughts by developing and claiming your resilience, which is a positive response to adverse circumstances. It is living quality within that can be nurtured and developed with conscious attention, a process that can be taught and mastered through the 7 Steps to Personal Power, which I outline in my just-released book The Resilient Woman.
- Step One–Make Your Crises Meaningful: Choose to Develop Conscious Resilience
- Step Two–Uncover Your Hidden Resilient Voice: Use Your Own Wisdom to Determine What Is Right for You
- Step Three–Create Helpful Boundaries: Take Charge and Stop Setting Yourself Up
- Step Four–Protect Your Heart: Love Resiliently
- Step Five–Become Strong in the Hurt Places: Heal Your Wounded Self
- Step Six–Think Positively: It’s the Best Revenge
- Step Seven–Develop Gratitude for Who You Are and What You Have Learned
Remember, anything has been learned one way can be relearned another! Position yourself to step into your power, because you are more beautiful than you think you are.
Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life — Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.TM Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.
What have you accepted in your life that took time, physically or mentally?
I grew up in a family with many, many challenges. Family members with: addiction, mental health concerns, poverty. I’ve leaned to accept my past, love the best in my family, and have come to understand that my past does not define my present, or limit my future. Yes, this has taken hard work, but it is so worth it.
What do you appreciate about yourself and within your life?
I appreciate my tenacity, my vision of what is possible, and how I’ve used my anger as a fuel. I’ve learned to work hard despite a learning disability. I’ve worked hard and earned a doctorate in psychology. I’ve written 8 published books, along with working and raising twins.
What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What goals do you still have?
My writing and speaking on women and resilience in such a way that they are understanding this! I’m so excited about the reception that my newest book has received. My goal is to keep reaching out to women and helping them see the best that is in them, their hard-earned strengths, and learn to use their strengths consciously. This is the game-changer.
What is your not-so-perfect way? What imperfections and quirks create your Identity?
One of my favorite affirmations is that is in my book 12 Steps to Self-Parenting is : I am perfectly, imperfect. It gives me joy to to know that I do not fit into the small molds that are offered to women. Knowing this frees me be outrageous, if I choose to be.
How would you complete the phrase “I Love My…?”
I love the loving, powerful connections I’ve made in my life– my children, my husband, my family, my friends. I love that I’m learning to make sense of it all.
Patricia O’Gorman, PhD, is the author of The Resilient Woman: Mastering The 7 Steps to Personal Power (HCI 2013). As a psychologist in private practice in Albany and Saranac Lake, New York, she is noted for her work on women, trauma, and substance abuse. Learn more athttp://patriciaogorman.com.