What is your story of strength?
I think about myself compared to the other women in my life, my mom, for example. I love her more than anything and she is the best mom and best friend in the world. I also don’t think she is a great role model for me when it comes to being independent. She does not take care of herself and does not have an identity outside of me and my brother. She went from living at her parents’ house and sharing a room with her sister, to living with a roommate in college, to living with my dad. She has never lived on her own or been by herself and doesn’t have a sense of self really.
I’ve learned to truly trust myself in a way that people tell you the trust yourself and know yourself growing up. It wasn’t until I moved to a new city, lived alone, started a new job, broke up with my boyfriend that really understood what that meant. Making that decision to be by myself when I had the option not to. I could have stayed in that relationship; I could have moved home or in with friends. I intentionally made it harder for myself and would not be the person I am now if I had not done that. There is no other way to learn what makes you tick. I learned that once when I moved to Boston, and am re-learning it now having just moved to NYC in August.
My story of strength is not a single point in time or monumental moment. It comes from challenging myself over and over again to make the decision to do the hard thing even when it is uncertain and scary.
What can MEN do to better support women?
They just have to get out of the way…in every sense of the phrase. Physically they take up too much space. On the subway, on the sidewalk, on the elevator—they physically occupy everywhere they go, and they need to make room for people to be in those spaces.
And also when I think about the times I’ve seen men being allies for women or at least trying to be, its about them being like, “Kristin, why don’t you chime in?” In situations where they understand or want to understand how hard it is to speak up for yourself. They interject, and they create the space for you to do that. Even something as simple as being in a meeting. You’re with a group of people. You are trying to speak and someone is speaking over you. A man says, “Kristin, you were saying something.”
That is so powerful and it says that I see you, you’re valued, you are clearly important, what you have to say is important and I am clearing the way for you to literally bring that to the table.
I don’t think men need to do much else. I’d like them to acknowledge that my feelings exist; that my emotions to exist; that I exist. I want men to validate my voice and presence by allowing the space for me and for other women.
What advice would your adult self give your younger self?
I’ve dealt with mental health stuff for a long-time, anxiety, depression. It started when I was in high school and I didn’t know what was happening at first. We went to the doctor. We did all these tests and blood work. They were convinced it was something with my heart…turns out it wasn’t. It was anxiety. That was when I was 17. Throughout high school and college, I didn’t deal with it in a productive way. And even when I graduated from college and started teaching. Poorly managed doesn’t even describe it. It was not being managed; there was no management.
Related to the story of strength I shared, when I was in those stages of my life, when I was in high school, college, teaching, I had other people to rely on and support me and prop me up. When I moved and lived alone and peeled away those supports, I realized how uncomfortable I was being alone, by myself, with my thoughts, in my own head. So, I had to ask for help. I realized this is unmanageable. I can’t do it I shouldn’t have to do it.
Up to a certain point I was like, “Everyone was dealing with this. You can too.” But actually, it’s okay to ask for help and just own it and be proud of the fact you are trying to do something about it, the fact that you are taking ownership of your life.
Anyways, I’ve been in therapy for three years consistently and I have a lot of great one-liners and bits of advice from that. One of the ideas I’ve taken away is that there are no good or bad choices. There are choices. What happens as a result of those choices maybe positive or negative. I used to be so indecisive, questioning myself constantly and always having so much trouble with this idea of is this is the “right” choice. Ugh I broke up with my boyfriend was this the right choice? I decided to move, was this the right choice? I ate a second cookie; that was a bad choice.
When you disassociate the values from it though, it’s just a choice. It takes the stress away from the decision and puts the emphasis on how you deal with it. I wish realized that sooner. It takes the anxiety away from making choices because it’s way less of a big deal when you think about it that way and put the meaning on how you deal with situation vs. how you got there in the first place. The advice I would l keep with me (and advice I often share with others) is there are no good or bad choices there are just choices. Send the text. Eat the cookie. Apply for the job. Say yes, and see what happens.
What’s something you’re working on or trying to improve in your own life?
Something I am working on trying to improve on in my own life is letting myself feel my emotions regardless of what they are. Allowing myself to feel joy and not feeling guilty about it, even if the rest of the world is a mess and it feels irresponsible to feel that joy; but even sadness too.
When I was poorly managing my anxiety, I would have bad days and they would be worse because I would feel bad about feeling bad. I’ve been working on feeling things and allowing yourself to feel those things and just ride the wave of whatever it is. If you wake up and think, I’m sad today or I miss my ex or I’m homesick today, letting yourself feel those feelings and process those things is so important to get to the other side of that. Acknowledging the emotion, positive or negative, has helped me better understand myself in some ways too; I’m much more aware of what brings me joy or what causes me pain.
Letting yourself feel those things is allowing yourself to feel emotions like joy, love, happiness, excitement, pleasure. If you are constantly telling yourself not to feel, you are shutting down the good and bad. You are keeping out sadness, but you are keeping out the joy of living life. I am trying not to suppress my emotions and allow myself to feel things when I feel them and not feel guilty or sad about it. I am trying to give myself a break. I think it’s important for us to give ourselves a break because the world doesn’t give women breaks.