Are you an “I’m fine” woman? A woman who says she’s fine, even when she’s falling down with exhaustion? Ireland, in particular, is full of women who use this as a life mantra; “I’m grand,” almost comes out before you’ve realised you said it aloud. Self-care isn’t just a buzz word, it’s essential if we’re to lead happy, healthy lives. Why do we insist on saying we’re fine, even when we’re not? It’s really inherent in women; we just keep going. And while this works for a while, there comes a point when you’re forced to stop because you can’t always be fine. But society makes it seem like it’s not okay to not always be fine. Look at all the glamorous lives you’re friends are living on social media! You must be fine and keep up. And be superwoman. And have it all. Only, it turns out; they’re not all that fine, either.
Thanks to the book We: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere, co-written by Gillian Anderson and her friend, British journalist Jennifer Nadel, you will now want to stop saying you’re fine when you’re not. Because it’s a book that encourages you to make simple changes within yourself, through various helpful exercises, so that when you say you’re fine, you actually mean it.
When the book arrived on my desk, I didn’t know what to expect. Is it a feminist memoir or a self-help book? It can really be described as neither because I feel it was intended as a sort of map; a guide for women through tasks and positive affirmations that mean we can be happier as individuals and thus work with our fellow women to improve the world around us. So, instead of the “me” culture that currently exists now, it develops into a “we” culture where we’re we support one another. Both women are unfailingly honest about their struggls in life, from menopause to mental illness and motherhood – every reader will find the book useful and uplifting in some form.
Overall, the book intends to teach you nine life principals — honesty, acceptance, courage, trust, humility, peace, love, joy and kindness. I started out with a simple exercise. I have a Post-It on my desk that reads, “My Name Is Jennifer. I am a good and kind person. I do not need to please everyone. I do enough. I am enough.” The idea is that you write down a negative thought about yourself, and physically cross it out, replacing it with this positive one. As you move through each exercise, you should begin to feel more in tune with the best version of yourself and hence more content and open to aiding the women around you. Here are just a few of the other standout self-care tips to put into practice:
ACT (“Action Changes Things”)
It’s not enough to read advice — you have to actually take action. “You read a book and you feel uplifted for a moment, and you think, OK, I’ve got it sorted,” Nadal says. “But … knowing something isn’t enough in and of itself. I have to change how I behave. And then it’s, how do we change how we behave?” Our Lauren Heskin summed it up recently when she spoke of “SLACKTIVISM.” Whereby supporting the women’s movement means more than just saying or thinking you support it, it’s the action, and the doing that really counts towards change.
The book argues that making an effort to show gratitude, an essential practice if we are to be truly content, can give you an overall more positive outlook on life. Each day you’re instructed to write down ten things you’re grateful for. It may be tricky at first, but the whole point is to notice the everyday things that you can be grateful for, instead of automatically seeing the negative. Anderson said she was a big complainer and her gratitude lists helped change her life outlook permanently. So, it can be as simple as saying at the end of a hectic car journey, “thank you for getting me home safely,” as opposed to “the traffic was terrible!”
Create Time For Yourself
Yes, “me time” is essential. It’ essential so that you feel fulfilled and tended to and open to the things that only come when you take time for yourself – creativity, joy and peace can only flow easily if you use your time well. “I push myself pretty hard, and one of the things I have to work at most is just, on a daily basis, trying to create that space,” Anderson adds. “The minute that I have a spare 20 minutes, I [don’t have to] jump on my phone or answer emails.”
“No matter what age you are with women, we’re always trying to be perfect,” Nadel said. “How we look, how we dress, how we behave. We use perfectionism to beat ourselves up. The word needs to be banned.”
We: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere is out now