Inez Milholland Boissevain preparing to lead the March 3, 1913, suffrage parade in Washington, D.C. Harris & Ewing. 1913.

Inez Milholland Boissevain preparing to lead the March 3, 1913, suffrage parade in Washington, D.C. Harris & Ewing. 1913.

In November it will be 2 years since a designer friend urged me to design my own line. With Reid Miller Apparel I’ve married my love for clothing design with my faith in the power of women. It has been an interesting ride to say the least, learning about myself and how to create and live to the best of my abilities. For a while now I’ve held onto the belief that unleashing the power of women is key for changing the world. I still believe this. And yet I often wonder, what holds us back? Why are so many of us not working and living to the best of our abilities? Why are there so few women calling the shots in government and business, when there are so many amazingly talented women around? I know there are lots of answers here, but I’ve learned over the past 2 years that there are a few things I can do better that hold me back that I would like to share. Here goes:

#1 Advocate for yourself

This has been a big theme for me in the past few weeks. Somehow I can advocate like a 1st class lawyer for friends, family, boyfriend, strangers, but when it comes to advocating for myself I am paralyzed with fear. The words get stuck in my throat and come out as a silly, self-belittling giggle. A few weeks ago I realized that this was an unacceptable way for me to operate. I turn 32 this week. Enough is enough. I have to push myself to get better. Where did this come from? How do I overcome an enormous fear of advocating myself? I don’t have any brilliant insights here. The only solutions I’ve come up with is to be mindful and stay with my breath during uncomfortable moments when I say that I am the best person for the job and that I deserve what is out there for the taking.

#2 Stop soldiering on alone

Other women are not our competition. It is time to put to bed the myth that we have to knock each other down to get ahead in this world. The only thing more powerful than one woman is many women. Much of the work worth doing in this world requires many hands. It is just never going to be as good as a solitary endeavor. For me, this realization has been huge. I am seeking out partnerships with other insanely awesome women to build something we could never build as solitary units. So stop spreading the catty gossip about the woman down the hall, or trying to outdo your friend (I am not pointing fingers – this lesson is devoted to me just as much as anyone). Imagine what would be possible if we woke up and realized we were all in this together – that unimaginable beauty can be created in our togetherness.

#3 Redirect time spent on the way you look 

Lately I’ve been resisting the urge to have to put on make-up before I leave the house during the workweek. I still do put on makeup some days but I am trying to break the habit of having to do this to feel ready to work – like for some reason the world won’t accept me without makeup. What this means is that I have about 15 extra minutes for any number of things – to devote to that important email, to meditate, to listen to jazz music and really enjoy my short mealtime, to spend having breakfast with my boyfriend. Do you ever wonder what men do with all that time that they are not blow drying their hair, putting on makeup, getting their nails done, waxing their pubic hair. WHAT DO THEY DO WITH ALL THAT TIME?! More importantly – what would you do with all that time, not to mention money? I am not suggesting that we all abandon our cherished pedicure or bikini wax, it is just useful to play around with and question the time we devote to things and decide which things really serve us.

#4 Take up space

Be strong, be powerful, really own the space you occupy rather than shrink away from it. I already wrote a whole post on this. When I can marry this one with #1 I will really have something. I’m still working on this.

#5 Resist the urge to go above and beyond the call of duty for everyone but ourselves 

This is another one that has come up lately. It has been really striking to be in my first serious relationship and witness the difference between the way I think about things compared to how Drew thinks about things. Example: We are attending a wedding together. HIS friends. I’ve already thought through and worried about what to get and whether it is thoughtful or expensive enough and Drew says “oh I hadn’t even thought about a wedding gift.” Other examples – I’m trying to figure out how to make an extravagant salad to bring to a party and Drew says, “Can’t we just bring beer?” I don’t believe this is specific to just Drew and Reid. Women love to bend over backwards to do things for other people. For the most part this is probably a good thing, but maybe we could find a happy medium. Take care of ourselves, be enough without hand-making the salad dressing. It is nice to do this, but we don’t have to be a slave to it.

Library of Congress - Suffragette Inez Milholland Boissevain

Library of Congress – Suffragette Inez Milholland Boissevain

You may see some things on this list that look familiar because we have been saddled with similar cultural values, messaging and beliefs about what it means to be a woman. I imagine that in casting off the ones that have been holding us back we free up all kinds of energy and take bolt cutters to the heavy cultural lock on our toolboxes. I bet if women everywhere could do this, we could right the world.

Please note: There will be no weekly letter next week. I will be in the mountains to celebrate my birthday!

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