For the November issue of Marie Claire, Golden Globe-winning Parks and Recreation star Amy Poehler dispensed advice via the mag’s “20 Questions.” And, while she handed out plenty of insight both funny and spot-on, her response to one question in particular truly made us stop and think.
Throughout the interview, Poehler naturally cemented her status in our hearts as our perpetual girl crush. How does she define success? “A good parking space.” (Us, too). What makes her cry? “Videos of soldiers returning home and surprising their kids.” (Us, too!).
It was her response to question No. 19, though — What should every woman try at least once in her life? — that gave us serious pause.
“Treating herself as kindly as she would her own daughter.”
How we should treat ourselves
In exactly 10 words, Poehler tapped into an emotional minefield of the female psyche… a notion that inevitably leads to a chain reaction of introspective scrutiny.
How do we, as women, treat ourselves? If we have to strive, at least once, to treat ourselves as we would our daughters, what does that say about the example we are setting for our daughters?
If treating ourselves kindly makes it onto our life’s bucket list, we can’t be reinforcing the importance of self-worth, can we? Rather, are we perpetuating a cycle of self-deprecation, doubt and martyrdom?
When I look in the mirror, I no longer see the beautiful face that once started back.
I see a mother, beleaguered by lack of sleep, with bags underneath her eyes. I see faint lines starting to splay out like lines of demarcation — defining not geographical boundaries but, instead, the limitations of lost youth. I see imperfections and blemishes.
Even now, referring to myself as beautiful at any point in my life feels somehow wrong. Vain, perhaps? Inaccurate, maybe? It makes me uncomfortable, regardless.
But, my daughter… my sweet 3-1/2-year-old daughter. How many times a day do I tell her she’s beautiful? Fifty? One hundred? No matter the number, it could never be enough.
I tell her she can do anything she wants to do in this world. I tell her that life is a magical journey and she should fill it with wondrous adventure. I assure her that no dream is too big and no challenge is too daunting for a heart like hers.
I tell her she’s smart and she’s brave and she’s special, and to never let anyone convince her otherwise.
Do I need to amend that to include myself?
Because, if the implication of Poehler’s response is accurate, it would seem that I should. If my own experience is any indication, I should.
Eleanor Roosevelt reminded us that “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” But what if we are the problem? What if we are making ourselves feel inferior?
I wish I could muster up the confidence to be a cheerleader for myself the way I am for my daughter. I wish I could view myself through the same lens as I see her — all of the beauty, all of the joy, all of the moxie.
I wish I didn’t need to nudge myself to do something nice for me every now and then… and not because taking time for me makes me a better wife or a better mother or a better friend, but because simply being me merits it.
How we should treat other women
What Poehler said resonates with us for another reason, too.
Yes, women often struggle with self-love. We don’t treat ourselves as kindly as we would our own daughters, and that is certainly something we need to address. But how about the way we treat other women? Shouldn’t we also be striving to treat other women as kindly as we would our own daughters?
Collectively, we are so quick to be catty. We’re always at the ready with a sideways glance or a snide aside. Are we just projecting our insecurities on one another? We don’t need to know what the other person is going through, we just need to know that we’re all this together.
As trite as it may sound, women should be building each other up instead of tearing each other down.
How the media (and other women) should treat women
And a cursory glance at any entertainment-oriented website makes it abundantly clear we, as women, are failing woefully on that front where female celebrities are concerned.
It’s remarkable how emboldened we become behind the veil of anonymity or unfamiliarity — as though because they don’t know who we are or even because we don’t know who they are, it’s OK to treat them unkindly; as though it doesn’t matter if the hurtful words we hurl hit their target.
It’s not OK. It does matter. And regardless of whether those words ever make their way to the women in Hollywood personally, it’s the intention with which we cast those aspersions that makes us guilty nonetheless.
I cannot fathom how I might react if someone said the things to my daughter that I have said about celebrities in the past. It makes me ache to think about what she might feel like if she was on the receiving end of the criticism the women in Hollywood (especially young women) are subjected to daily.
So… where do we go from here?
The solution is at once impossibly easy and easily impossible. We must, as Poehler suggests, try to treat ourselves as kindly as we would our own daughters. We should aim to be a living example of the virtues we teach: self-respect, self-love, self-acceptance, self-confidence, self-fulfillment and, yes, self-importance.
We would do well to remind ourselves (and, by proxy, our daughters) that self is not a four-letter word — you can’t be selfless without first having a sense of self.
But we must also try to treat other women as kindly as we would our own daughters. In doing so, we will perpetuate a cycle of sisterhood.
We will remind each other of a profound and everlasting truth: That we are all someone’s daughter. And it can’t hurt to share the kindness we have tucked away for our own with the “owns” of all those other someones.