Every month, Women’s Republic will write a letter to its female readers, aiming to empower women by having honest conversations about how we subconsciously put men on a pedestal. The series will help women to de-center themselves from the men in their lives, unlock their ‘shakti’ (power) and re-focus their energies on enhancing their own mental and physical wellbeing. Please reach out to us if you want something covered or have a question you’d like us to answer.
In our previous letters, we’ve established what it feels like to be a dependent woman. In this letter, we’re going to paint a different picture. What does having independence mean for women? How does it feel to be an independent woman? This month I’m asking these questions instead of answering them myself. I spoke with life-coach and author Charlie’s Toolbox about female independence, self-love, and her advice to women feeling broken.
Women are conditioned to be dependent on men in some shape or form. How would you define an independent woman? Why is being independent so crucial for women?
“A woman who chooses from her own internal guide is independent. Her decisions aren’t based on society’s standards. She doesn’t choose based on whether this action makes her more appealing to men. She is the main character in her story and her voice is the only one being heard. If a woman can block out the noise of politics, society, misogyny, and other structures that repress women, that is a courageous, brave, and independent thing she is doing.”
Strong, independent women are caricatured as self-centered, high maintenance, and undeserving of romance. Why are independent women resented so much?
“Like all forms of oppression, people create images to keep the status quo. If the status quo is to have women provide free labor in the home, tend to the male ego, and never challenge power structure, then society will mock any image that is a direct threat to those benefits. Unfortunately, an independent woman is a direct threat to those benefits and so we see these characters that are presented as off-putting, though fundamentally they are not.”
There is a misconception that independence only applies to the career or income of a woman. What are some of the ways that women can learn to practice independence in their everyday lives?
“Simply choosing for you is independence. Women are taught to be agreeable, and often, it is to our own detriment. So, choosing for you is a form of resistance – especially when women are taught that our whole purpose is to nurture everyone around us. So, if you wake up every day and say I am going to do what makes me happy, you are practicing independence.”
In what ways can men hinder the progress of an independent woman?
“Men hinder independent women by upholding patriarchy. They do this by enacting violence, being quiet when their friends are violent, protecting predators and violent men. Also, not checking people in public when they are harassing women, undermining women’s authority, constantly questioning them when they are in positions of power, and creating a space where there is unequal labor in the household. These are all ways in which they harm the progress of independent women because violence like those described above keeps women contained and unable to live as fully as they’d like.”
Healing is such an important theme in your work to empower women. What is the one piece of advice you would give to a woman who’s lost sight of herself because of a man?
“I would tell her not to be ashamed. Shame is such an odd tool. It not only tells you that you are the only one who has experienced this but also tells you that because of that, you are somehow less than everyone in the world. So, you hide and never get help, never reach out to friends, never tap into your community because you are embarrassed, and can’t believe you are where you are now.”
“Shame pushes you deep in a hole, and even when you want to get out, it tells you that people will laugh at you if you tell your truth. So, I’d tell that woman to let go of shame because patriarchy is a powerful force, and not even the most brilliant mind has escaped it. After that, I’d tell her to start reading about self-love, self-worth, childhood trauma, and boundaries.”
“For me, Psychology Today is a great resource because they have a blog post for anything you want to know more about. I strongly believe that information can push you into a better person, so be informed.”
What role does self-love play in becoming an independent woman?
“It is the most essential part of becoming an independent woman. Without self-love the world can easily manipulate you, harm you, and in all honesty, destroy you. You need self-love to know what you want. You need it because it pushes you to cultivate a community that loves you. You need it to receive love because when you don’t have self- love you often reject love, reject loving yourself and you end up doing a whole lot of self-sabotaging.”
Your social media accounts, website, and books speak volumes about how much you understand and cherish women. How did your own journey lead you to become an independent woman who values herself?
“My journey started in college. I entered into a space I had no knowledge of and at once all of these insecurities started coming up. I began to isolate myself, tried to find refuge in men, or gave up. I realized that this mindset would get me nowhere so I started reading and making little tweaks to my life. Quickly, I saw that life can be constantly joyful, peaceful, and colorful but it requires essential beliefs and practices like self-worth, and self-love. I worked on valuing myself every day and still am!”
Charlie is an older millennial who has developed tools to help other women be their best selves. Charlie is a researcher who has studied all forms of human behavior and relating.
Every woman possesses enough Shakti to become a thriving, independent woman. Ladies, you have the key to unlock this state of being!
Until next time,