by Victoria Pynchon
So why does this preface to the Manifesto irritate me?
Friends, and strangers reading this, listen to me:
Stop being your own worst enemy.
Stop being the force that keeps you immobile.
Stop being the cause of failure before you start trying.
The reality is, in most cases no one will be there to give you permission to act. To try. To succeed. And to fail. No one will take you by the hand and say, “Now it’s time. You’re ready.” No one will be so sure to say, “Don’t worry, you won’t fail.” No one will lay their hand on yours as you click that submit button, as you fill out that form, as you sign up for that chance, as you raise your hand.
It irritates me because I am an adult.
It irritates me because I don’t know any women remotely like those being exhorted to stop acting like such paralyzed, cry-baby nincompoops.
It irritates me because I was once married to a man who needed this advice and all the exhortations in the world didn’t make a bit of difference.
Because most people who are this stumped by life’s ordinary challenges need psychotherapy, not a “good talking to.”
What irritates me the most is the suggestion that women’s failure to leap to the top of the heap in the few short decades we’ve been permitted to start at the bottom of the ladder is all our fault.
It’s not your fault.
Getting women fully integrated into positions of political and economic power is one of the great projects of the late 20th and the early 21st century.
And that expansion of women’s role in civic, commercial and political life continues to be one of the shortest routes to a more peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
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As Steven Pinker opined in The Better Angels of Our Nature, the rights revolutions of the mid-20th to early 21st centuries have expanded our circle of who is “us” and narrowed the realm of who is “the other,” raising the value of all people in all places, which has decreased violence toward formerly marginalized groups.
The rise in the status and role of women, says Pinker, has been one of the major factors in the reduction of violence to resolve conflicts.
It’s not easy to learn about and appreciate the work women have been doing for the betterment of society since we rose up out of the bondage of biology to take our place in civic and global affairs. Our revolutionary effect on local, state, national and world peace does not get factored into the statistics counting what percentage of CEO’s, AmLaw 100 equity partners, or members of Congress are women.
Celebrate Our Achievements
If we stop for a moment and consider the profound effect we’ve had on the well-being of people and governments globally, we will not be so downhearted nor so self-critical for not having achieved the Presidency in ’08, not having made a million dollars by the time we’re 30, or not having invented Facebook.
But please, be kind to yourselves.
If you’re paralyzed by indecision, fear, anxiety, panic, or depression, please seek out the services of a professional who can help you resolve the source of those impediments to your economic self-sufficiency.
I do not say that lightly.
I worked, impaired but determined, for a couple of decades before I resolved that type of hinderance in my life. I was and am quite deliriously grateful that I finally found someone able to help me find my own idiosyncratic but stable emotional well-being.
The rest of us who are trying to crack a ceiling that’s been firmly held in place – primarily by our biology – for the entire history of the world, should be patting ourselves on the back for having achieved so much in so short a time.
We need encouragement, recognition for our hard work, and the support of our sisters.
Now let’s all get back to our busy women’s day.
2012 MA Conference for Women speaker Victoria Pynchon is the co-founder of She Negotiates, a training workshop for women which nests today’s most effective negotiation strategies and tactics in the context of the gender culture in which women do business. This article originally appeared here