My daughter and I often joke about people (usually men) telling women to “smile more.” We make sarcastic jabs about this slimy suggestion camouflaged as sage advice. It’s our way of trying to laugh off the subtle sexism – of trying to feel tough. I’m not feeling so tough today.
What do we tell our young adult daughters?
Here’s something that my mindfulness practice has taught me: When you most feel like curling up in the fetal position, don’t. The bully wants you isolated, the bully wants you feeling helpless. You are not. Do the opposite of curling of up, and defending. Reach out with compassion. It cuts the fear in half.
This morning I reached out to my dear sister-in-law, someone whose spiritual practice and way of being in the world I deeply admire.
“Anne,” I said, “My poor children…. A pussy-grabber for president.”
You see, there I go again, trying to look smart and unafraid by being sarcastic. Not what you’re average Buddha would do. But I’m just a householder, trying to stay calm, doing the exact wrong thing, and forgetting about mindfulness.
Anne’s response, “Not for long if we can do anything about it. Elizabeth Warren, Michelle Obama.”
“I’ve been thinking about Warren a lot this morning,” I replied. Anne cut my fear in half.
Inhale, take a longer exhale, repeat a few times.
There’s a subtle, positive internal shift that I must pay attention to “Go to Elizabeth Warren’s website,” I tell myself, “and focus on the grace and compassion of the Obamas, particularly Michelle, on this day.”
Now I know what I can say to my daughter, and it’s something constructive, compassionate if maybe a little vulnerable. I can tell her to look to the compassionate people with pull (that would make a great website dear twenty-somethings!) They’re still out there.
The snarky teenager inside me may still show up over the next few weeks. There will be some eye rolling and some fake smiles – I guess it’s the girl version of locker room talk. But the snarky one needs some guidance from the older, wiser one.
Inhale, longer exhale, repeat a few times. Take compassionate action.
Donna Torney is a mind-body psychotherapist based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the founder of mindfulhub.com, and author of the upcoming book, Center Points for Emerging Adults: Finding balance, belonging, focus, and meaning in the digital age. Contact Donna
We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness, even today.