As women, we are naturally hard on ourselves. We expect to be perfect at everything; at mothering, at wifing, and at womaning. But our kids insist on being imperfect, other wives seem to be better at wifing, and there will always be a woman who is more successful, more together, prettier, skinnier, and more perfect than we are. And likely, she’ll be all of that without even drinking coffee.
This is why we are so susceptible to contracted consciousness, negative inner dialogues, and self-deprecation.
As women, we have high expectations for ourselves, and if we come up short, we tend to focus only on our failings and ignore our successes.
As a Transformational Speaker, I travel around the world teaching Torah and trying to inspire personal growth to large groups of (mostly) women. (I have never been to Australia yet, so if you’re reading this, and you live in the Land Down Under, please know that I have never been to your country yet, and this is not a hint ‘cuz that would be rude; it is me telling you straight out that I would like to be invited there.) So, where was I? Right. The very first time I was invited to speak, I was somewhere on the West Coast, and after the event, I was brought to the home of my hosts, where they sat down and pulled out the couple of hundred feedback papers that they had given the guests to fill out. The participants had to check off how much they enjoyed the talk, measuring the whole future of my self-esteem from zero to five.
As they flipped through the stack, I peered over their shoulders to catch a glimpse of the responses, and I was feeling pretty good about myself after seeing five, five, five, five, five…but then suddenly there was a four. A FOUR. Someone had decided that I was only good enough to be a four. I swallowed my pride and my self-esteem all at once, and then continued reading from my perch behind their backs. Five, five, five, five.
And then they drove me to the airport.
Can you guess what I was thinking about the entire plane ride home? That’s right. The big, ugly Four. Why did that person give me a four? She gave me a FOUR!! The only thing worse than a four would be…nothing. There was nothing worse than that four.
Now, please realize that that was one person out of 200. And it wasn’t even a One. It was not a two. It was not a three. It was almost a Five! But it was a FOUR. And that imperfection was all I could think about.
This week’s parsha, Vaeschanan discusses the Ten Commandments. In that spirit, I decided to create my own Ten Commandments for Women. If you follow these laws, your lives will be lighter, calmer, happier, and you are guaranteed to be much more successful at failing.
The Ten Commandments For Women:
1. Thou shalt not worship other women because thou will always compare thyself to them and never be good enough. Also, ironically, the other women are busy comparing themselves to THEE.
2. Thou shan’t wait to lose ten pounds for thy life to start.
3. Thou shalt not wear a paper bag over thy head. I promise: no one else sees that brand new wrinkle other than thee.
4. Speaketh not poorly of thy fellow women, for have thou also not gone out that one time last year wearing two different shoes?
5. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s handbag collection, shaitel or cleaning lady.
6. Thou shalt enjoy the Simcha, despite the fact that the flowers do not match the dresses after all.
7. Thou shalt not define thyself by thy weaknesses and wrongdoings. That is the job of thy teenagers.
8. Thou shan’t wait for external circumstances to create thy happiness. It must come from within. Shoes will never make thee happy for they are external to thee, whereas pizza gets internalized, so it will always make thee happy.
9. Honor thyself, respect thyself, love thyself. Self-love is not about narcissism. It’s about seeing thyself the way Hashem sees thee.
10. Remember the Social Media and keep it holy. Discretion is thy friend, oversharing is thine enemy.
11. Thou shalt not substitute coffee for a good night’s sleep. Even when Pesach is upon thee.
12. Thou shan’t expect kids not to act like kids, even when thy mother-in-law is visiting.
13. Thou shalt not fill thy present with regret or longing for the past. The things that thou regret were probably not as bad as thou remember, and the things thou long for are probably not as great as thou would like to believe.
14. Thou shalt not murder thy children, thy husband or thy dreams.
15. Thou shalt never take thyself too seriously. Nobody else does anyway.
16. Oh! Did I get to 16 already? Seriously, I am terrible at math. There, I said it. I am terrible at math. And I’m OK with that.
Thou shalt accept the entire package of thyself; the positive, the negative, the weird and the awkward.
Because Hashem made you exactly the way you are supposed to be. He made you perfectly imperfect. And it is from those places of imperfection that He wants us to become the people we need to be.
Whatever you have, you need. If you don’t have it, you don’t need it. And if you do have it, you are meant to use it.
Our lives are filled with Fives. We are blessed with so much goodness. But sometimes we get so blinded by the small, insignificant Fours that we can’t even see the Fives.
17. Thou shalt focus on thy Fives; but also love thy Fours.