Culture 23 March 2018
All my life, I thought I wanted to do one big thing. Kind of like Harper E. Lee: up until Go Set a Watchman, she was known for one big thing – To Kill a Mockingbird. One book. One bestseller. A perfect 1.00 batting average. There is something so tantalizing about one big thing: You get to dart into the national spotlight, do one perfect thing, then run away before you mess up that “perfect” performance, your spotless reputation. It’s the equivalent of a mic drop. Or how a stand-up comedian strives to leave on a high note.
When my invention of the Pussyhat took the world by storm – creating a Sea of Pink at the Women’s Marches, landing on the covers of Time magazine and The New Yorker, I thought that was my To Kill a Mockingbird, my One Big Thing.
I thought, maybe like you, that once I had a big success, I would be satisfied and everything I produced afterward would be easier. This was largely wrong. I found myself petrified to release my second project. But when the March for Our Lives was announced for March 24th, I was so moved by the bravery of these high school student activists, and I knew that it was time to launch my second craftivist project: The Evil Eye Glove. The four tips I share below are applicable whether you’re working on your first “freshman” project, your second “sophomore” project, or your 100th project and need some inspo.
1. Gather Your Friends
As I talk about in Chapter 1 of my book DIY Rules for a WTF World: How to Speak Up, Get Creative, and Change the World – everything changes. You are constantly shifting. Sometimes you will vibe big and powerful and sometimes you will be small and intimate and cozy, and sometimes, you will be in between- medium-sized, curious. Identify your friends who love you whether you are big or small. And seek them out.
At the time the Pussyhat spread like pink wildfire, my best friend MILCK sang her song “Quiet” and it went viral at the March. I was a lucky duck who had a fellow artist friend to talk to who was going through the same thing! We check in with each other all the time, and early on, she shared with me some advice she had gotten, which I will paraphrase here:
A man who has just succeeded at the peak of the mountain and a man who has just failed at the bottom of a ditch are in the same place – “What to do next?”
So whether you’re feeling on top of the world or feeling rock bottom, take solace in that you’re not alone. Seek out friends and let them remind you how valuable you are even without your accomplishments, whether it is One Big Thing or Several Pretty Good Things – it doesn’t matter, because your accomplishments are not you.
2. Separate Yourself from Your Reputation – Then Destroy It
Get to know the “you” that is not your accomplishments. If you don’t know what I mean, that means you’re really tied to your accomplishments. Gently unravel yourself from your accomplishments by taking “personal inventory.” Check out Chapter 15 in DIY Rules for a WTF World called “Find Yourself Fascinating: A Personal Inventory.” One of my favorite Personal Inventory exercises is the “Chick Lit Heroine Exercise” in which you fill in a Mad Libs-like form to get the synopsis of the thrilling adventure story that is you. You’ll find that what makes the storybook character of you interesting is not your accomplishments but your personality, your drive, your foibles, your quirks.
Once you get reacquainted with this fascinating REAL You, take a look at the Reputed You – the one with all the accomplishments, and know you get to play with it, you can mold the Reputed You however you want, for fun and you can always start again when you get bored. A woman’s right to choose goes far beyond just reproductive rights.
We have the right to choose how we look at ourselves, and how we want to play with our reputations. Our reputations are our playthings, we are not the playthings of our reputations.
Run from what's comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. -Rumi
Take a page out of Rumi’s book and Destroy Your Reputation.
3. Dance with the One Who Brung Ya
When I nurtured the Pussyhat into being, I followed my intuition, which led me to make surprising choices. The Pussyhat became a big success. My intuition was like my hot date who brought me (and the Pussyhat) to a grand ball! Why would I dance with someone else, like say, Patriarchal “Take the Hard Way” Rationality, when Hot Intuition was my date?
When it came time to launch my second craftivist project The Evil Eye Glove, the tug of Patriarchy “Take the Hard Way” Rationality was strong, and I almost gave in, but I’m so glad that it didn’t feel right, and I immediately understood that I needed to trust the intuition that brought me success in the first place.
Like the Pussyhat, the Evil Eye Glove was born of intuition – it came to me in a dream – a huge peaceful gathering of women with their hands raised – on each hand was a painted eye – it was a Sea of Eyes. Just as the Pussyhat created a sea of pink, the evil eye gloves create a sea of eyes.
After the Pussyhat debuted at the Women’s March, I put the step by step instructions on how to make the Evil Eye Glove into my book DIY Rules, ready to go. I was waiting for the right moment to launch the Evil Eye Glove into full craftivist action, and I got nervous and antsy. I chided myself for sitting on it, for being “lazy” but ultimately, I am so glad I waited because when the March for Our Lives was announced, my intuition knew it was time.
So wherever you are in your career, look back on the successes you’ve had and honor what brought you to those successes. And if intuition is a key ingredient to what brought you those successes, I suggest you keep dancing with it.
Look at the that “success ingredient list” and decide which ingredients you still want to use – perhaps you had a vendor who helped make you successful but your heart thuds to your stomach when you imagine working with them again – feel free to take that ingredient out! But also let yourself be inspired by the ingredients that worked and still excite you. For example, with the Evil Eye Glove, I worked again with Kat Coyle who made the pattern for the Pussyhat, and I worked with Aurora Lady who did all the drawings for the Pussyhat manifesto. Kat made a new pattern for the Evil Eye Glove, and Aurora Lady did gorgeous drawings in less than 24 hours. I also reached out to the people behind the Pussyhat success – the knitters and women’s rights supporters across the land who knitted up a storm! - and asked them to get behind my sophomore project if it was something they believed in. They responded hugely! Check out the hashtag #evileyeglove on Instagram to see what I mean – a huge diversity of gloves. You can also check out the map of evil eye glove makers across the world on my website – people are making them in Maine and in Morocco, Boise and Bangkok, it’s phenomenal! And you can join in by making a custom commitment on the website and then making some super easy evil eye gloves solo or with your besties.
4. Don’t Rank Your Children – Connect with Them
Your creations are like your children, and you’ll probably have many in your life. Just like with real kids, don’t set them against each other in competition. Can you imagine having 2 adorable young daughters, dressing them alike, and doing a “Who Wore It Better” Poll on Instagram? So hurtful! So why do you do that with your projects? Instead of comparing and ranking your children, connect with them, find what makes them tick, what they love, where they thrive. And nurture them.
Whenever I compared the Pussyhat and the Evil Eye Glove, I got really freaked out and totally unproductive. But when I loved each project like my children, I got SO excited for them. They are sisters and they love each other, but they’re also different beings with different life plans. And that’s exciting! The Pussyhat is the sassy welcoming older sister who blares her personality out wherever she goes and creates community – she loves a good party! The Evil Eye Glove is the younger sister who is wry and mysterious, and chooses when to show herself, she is super expressive because she is on the hands (all the gestures the evil eye glove can make! For example, put out your hand in a “stop” gesture and with a slight bend, your hand is then in a gesture of blessings) – she is flexible and her goal is to be watchful and protective (the evil eye is ancient symbol of protection).
Try anthropomorphizing your projects into human beings that are your children. Describe their personalities. What they’re good at, how they like to have a good time. You’ll find that you are proud of them, and want to brainstorm ways for each of your projects to have a good time, each in their own way! Listen to each project and see what they need; just like with children, a younger project might not thrive with the same treatment of an older project, listen and find out!
Now, instead of chasing after One Big Thing (and then feeling tied down preserving and memorializing it), I think of my life’s work as One Big Happy Growing Family. Try thinking of your projects the same way. And remember, you’re the head of this One Big Happy Growing Family, so be sure to be kind to yourself along the way, Mama needs nurturing too! Good luck!
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."