Friday, April 24, 2009

Love the Skin You're In

I've been grooving on the Already Pretty blog. It fulfills my desire to read more positive, constructive, how-to messaging rather than thinking too much about what I can't do, all the ills of the world, etc... There's a particularly good post I want to share with you all, especially after the grimness of my last post. It's particularly good because she talks about something I think it's good for mindful people (I would say grownups, but it works at any age) to do - realize you're making a knee-jerk reaction and stop yourself. Think about why you're reacting that way and if reacting that way is helpful to you, your friends, or society as a whole. And if the answer is "no, it's not helpful", go about changing your response to certain stimuli. (A concept well described and used in Suz Brockmann's "Into the Storm" by main Character Jenk.)

In this case, allow women to be self-confident in their bodies without doubt, mistrust, or disdain for their confidence. I think a lot of what holds women back in some areas of life is other women. "I had to go through the horror of experience X, so you will too!" is a destructive social construct. It should be no surprise to you that I also think hazing is one of the worst things we do to people we should be supporting. Passing tests for a purpose is one thing, but beating people down because you were and you don't want to look retroactively silly is unconscionable.

This is also the same self-reflection that I used when I realized that I needed to decide whether or not to be homophobic and chose not. Previously, I'd only ever knee-jerked my reaction. Once I thought about it and realized that my societally conditioned response wasn't fair or helpful, I set about changing it. Some changes come easily and some are hard fought. Helping ourselves and other people see the beauty of themselves should be something to strive for.

One of the best things I learned from my communications class at Harvard Extension (where you too can get a Harvard degree! for cheap!) was this sequence
  1. Unconscious Incorrect (UI)
  2. Conscious Incorrect (CI)
  3. Conscious Correct (CC)
  4. Unconscious Correct (UC)
We all have unconscious behaviors or thoughts we do or think all the time. Not all of them are bad. They're unconscious because they are quotidian and habit frees up time for our brains to think of other, unusual things. But every so often, we have unconsious bad habits. When we realize that that we have these habits, they go from UI to CI. During the CI phase we can make a decision to change it or not. Usually it involves doing it twice - once wrongly, then once corrected. I had to do this when learning new de-gowning procedures at my new job after 10 years of doing it a different way. Going from top down to down up de-gowning was a challenge but I do it mostly UC now, but still occassionally CC. For a long time I'd come out of the fab, take my hood off, then put my hood back on, take my boots off and work up. I found if I just left my hood off, I didn't improve, but by being a bit of an idiot for a while, I was able to change my habit to match the new company's protocol.

If it's something you're learning new rather than changing, you might even start at the CC stage. But for new learning or re-learning, going slow correctly allows you to build the skill to do it faster correctly. Like in practicing the piano, it usually involves taking longer to do something. Yes, it can be frustrating because it's slower than you're used to, or slower than you do other stuff. Eventually you get consistently to the CC stage where you do things the right way, but you always realize it and it still takes a bit of effort on your part, which can make if feel slower even if it's not. The real party should happen when you move to the UC phase - but it often doesn't because "unconscious" means you've stopped thinking about strutting your stuff the way you want to! These stages aren't fully clean. The next time you want to change something and are frustrated by how long it takes, think of this sequence and how far along it you are. It might be that it looks more like UI, CI, UI, CI, CI, CI, CC, CI, CC, CI, CC, CC, CC, CI, CC, CC, CC, UC, CC, CC, UC, UC. Think about how often you've done it right and give yourself props for even realizing you need to change, even if you don't do it right yet. And be nice to you - and your friends.

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