I have been told that I am too sensitive or too emotional. I’ve been told that I use too many capital letters. I have been told repeatedly that my emails scared someone, that I should tone it down to appear professional. (I was even named “Most Likely to Clap Her Hands for No Reason” in my high school yearbook.)
It’s true: I have always been enthusiastic and had more obvious feelings than others in a room. That’s why I loved reading The Feminine Revolution: 21 Ways to Ignite the Power of Your Femininity for a Brighter Life and a Better World, by Catherine Connors and Amy Stanton, which flipped the narrative—and encouraged women like me to reframe old standards that have claimed that “traditional” feminine traits are weak or bad.
“Femininity isn’t some pre-determined, universal condition,” the authors assert, “nor is it a set of one-size-fits-all rules about ‘what it means to be a woman.’ Femininity is an experience that flexes and moves and evolves according to the terms of the person who is living and defining it.” The definition Connors and Stanton offer throughout the book’s 21 sections is radically subversive—and illuminating.
“Femininity is powerful,” they write. “It’s really powerful. And being in that power doesn’t only feel good and lead to better relationships and a more fulfilling life—it can change the world.”
I cry in public. I love stickers and emojis and being a cheerleader for my project teams. I am tired of people trying to shame me for being a sensitive person who shows her emotions, and I am ready to claim my own feminine power and admit that those very traits that others have disparaged are some of the very reasons I have accomplished so much.
Connors envisions sensitivity as a superpower in the first chapter of Feminine Revolution, which felt personally revelatory. I notice things, but I often do not share them—because people have tried to convince me that it is inappropriate. Now, I can see that I have superpowers: that what I observe is special, and that I have the upper hand in many situations because of what I can see.
“Your emotional sensitivity connects you to the world,” Connors and Stanton remind readers. “It gives you insight into your own experiences and those of others. It is both a means (a tool and an ability that helps you get what you want) and an end in itself (the rich experience of being in tune with the world and with others is its own reward). Cultivate and enjoy it.”
I am ready to openly own my powers.
Nearly every chapter in the book spoke to me—from “Cry Openly” to “Flirt Freely”—but the fifth urged me to continue considering one of the things I have been focused on since my divorce: how to “Own Your Intuition.”
I have not always trusted my inner voice, but it has always been the right path. Clarissa Pinkola Estes urged readers of her legendary text, Women Who Run With Wolves, to “practice listening to your intuition, your inner voice; ask questions; be curious; see what you see; hear what you hear; and then act upon what you know to be true.”
Connors and Stanton pick up where Estes left off in chapter five. “Why should we trust these powers?” they ask. “Your ‘sixth sense’ isn’t extrasensory—it’s supersensory. Your ability to draw insight from what seems intangible or mysterious is in fact just heightened sensory ability: you’re using your finely honed skills of observation to pick up on cues that others miss.”
This is something I have always been good at as a teacher, a speaker and a writer. It is part of what makes me great. It might look like magic, but it is possible.
More than ever, I am determined to listen to myself. That determination continued to resonate as I worked through chapter six: “Express Yourself.” I have been told repeatedly and by many people that I am “over-expressive.” I have been told to “contain and control it” if I want to be taken seriously. Connors and Stanton urged me to do just the opposite.
“As social animals,” they clarify for readers, “we crave meaningful communication and are gratified when it is embedded with clear cues and signals. Especially in today’s digital world, when there’s so much room for miscommunication (in texts and emails), we would all benefit from more awareness, attention, and intention in how we communicate with each other.”
I am going to continue to express myself in my enthusiastic way—with colors, capital letters and even stickers. I am going to insist the world take me just as seriously anyway.
Connors and Stanton also continue to channel Estes in a later chapter aptly entitled “Unleash Your Wild Woman.” I’ve traveled to 101 countries. I once lived on a ship for seven years. For 18 months, I traveled in Asia on one journey; in another, I traveled for 11. I have been often been in the state the authors describe as “being free-spirited.” I am the woman they describe who can “go with the flow.” And I agree with them: “It’s wildly powerful.” I know that we need to roam and wander.
My choices to leave graduate school or work on a cruise ship seemed extremely poor to many family and friends, but they were the right choices for me. I had to follow my inner voice and create a path that worked for me. The authors suggest more of us do just that, as much as we can and in every way. “Do something that scares you every day,” they prompt us. “Push yourself to the limit. Know that it’s going to be uncomfortable. Embrace the experience. Be emotional and overwhelmed.”
When I left my marriage in Asia and returned to America alone, I joined a performance salsa dance team in Los Angeles. I wasn’t sure it was a good idea, but it turned out it was one of my best ideas. I was part of a group, part of a functional team. I had to show up every time and work as hard as I could. These were things that had stopped happening in my relationship, and I was practicing them on the dance floor. These were the things I remembered as the book closed out, and I reached one of the last chapters: “Sing and Dance.”
“Singing and dancing allow us to let go, to share ourselves, to be truly in the moment,” Connors and Stanton note. “The freedom we experience from taking time for ourselves and letting ourselves go physically and emotionally is distinctly feminine.”
I have my own advice for you: Be more wild. Dance more. Use as many exclamation points as possible. And grab a copy of The Feminine Revolution today, right after you hit “send.”