where insight unravels
This year I got to contribute to the International Women's Day campaign by the Women's and Gender Studies Department at Acadia University. Here's my reflection:
For me International Women's Day is a day of reflection and action. I take this opportunity to reflect on where I see, experience, and perpetuate patterns of inequality and disparity based on gender identification. This day is a reminder for me to explore the internalized patterns that inform how I think and act as a woman in my family and community. Often these patterns are strategies of safety and personal gain and they are so ingrained I barely notice them. However, they are also outdated, and if the resulting behaviour or action only benefits me and not our whole society, that behaviour or action needs to be examined. So on this day I recommit to asking those hard questions about what I gain from perpetuating my internalized assumptions and habituated behaviours and face the emotional and physical consequences of changing them.
I believe that choosing to challenge starts on the inside. I can only influence systemic change when I have challenged and changed my own assumptions and patterns, which can be an uncomfortable experience. However, I have a responsibility to evolve the way I see and interact in the world to not only support equality but generate a new way of collaboration and interaction between and among genders. I draw on my courage and bravery to commit to stepping into the new, unknown territory that change and growth inevitably reveal.
My work helps people rediscover their inherent self worth so they can stop basing their self esteem on how well they serve others, which often means putting themselves last. This inner value and confidence, which everybody has but may not access, is the foundation of the courage and bravery necessary to choose to challenge and responsibly change how we think, feel and act. This is where sustainable growth begins. Inner self worth enables our choice to take a step into the unknown as we move beyond our current understandings and operating systems to affect change inside ourselves as well as within our families and communities.
What does International Women's Day mean to you?
New Years Day comes with the sentiment of ‘out with the old and in with the new’. Its an invitation, a challenge, and a mounting, looming pressure that weighs heavily because more often than not, January 1 is not the day.
Our infatuation with trading in the old for the new is proof that we crave change; we are designed to grow. However, over the years and tears, we’ve developed an attachment to change and growth coinciding with feeling better, safer, and more comfortable. I am sure it is not news to you that growth often means varying degrees of discomfort, depending on your palate for all things new and unknown. The result is that our innate urge for change and growth is met with our well-developed resistance to discomfort and the ultimate decision to stick to what we know, no matter how confining and uncomfortable that may be. (Yup, you read that right, staying in the current familiar discomfort avoids new discomfort that might lead somewhere else)
Imagine your comfort zone as the well-known, well-lit area you currently live in. Every thought, feeling and sensation has been experienced before. You can see in every direction and the light shines in every nook and cranny. There are no surprises around non-existent corners. The darkness that falls just beyond that light, perhaps you have peeked at it once or twice, that is where the new year exists. Not in a day but in whatever moment your courage and will intertwine and you slip a toe, just one toe beyond the circle of light.
And when you do, BAM, the flood lights switch on and bathe you; the darkness is dark no more – all it needed was your attention to be fully and completely illuminated. It was only dark because you were unwilling to look, drawn to the familiar light of where you have already been. This newly illuminated space, its always been there, always waiting to be seen and experienced, always a part of your ever whole, ever growing self.
I have the great privilege of being present for many people’s New Years Day. Not only on January 1, but whatever day their courage and will intertwine enough to meet me and slide their toe across the line. I bear witness to circles of light expanding and conscious self awareness flooding in, over, and through body mind and soul. I hold space for the discomfort and elation of expansion, release, and growth as they rise and integrate and rise some more.
I hope our paths meet in 2021
Occasionally Erica manages to capture her bursts of inspiration in writing - you'll find them here.