Friday, August 6, 2010

"Set 'Em Free"

“I know not how I seem to others, but to myself I am but a small child wandering upon the vast shores of knowledge, every now and then finding a small bright pebble to content myself with.” Plato

Okay…so I preface this blog posting with an apology to my male friends, readers and colleagues. The content of this may bore you, embarrass you or simply seem irrelevant, but I’ve got to “go there” because I’ve been “going there” a lot lately and when I have to “go there” that means I’ve got to write about it, talk about it and then if I’m really moved by it, do something about it.

What is the “it” I’m talking about? I’m talking about the physical ways the Girl Box continues to show up in my life. When I started Girls on the Run I was 36, right in the thick of it…only then coming into an awareness of how the Girl Box held me captive. Slowly but surely, things that I thought were important have simply fallen away. My need to conform to the unattainable standards of the Girl Box are joyfully surrendering to an attitude of “who cares” and I’m becoming child-like again…less concerned with the status quo. (Pretty soon I’m going to be that lady wearing the sweat pants, red hat, striped toe socks and Birkenstocks. Whoo Hoo!)

So what am I trying to say? Dare I say it? Does it matter? Alright so here goes…I’m beginning to let go of my “morning ritual.” What do I mean by my “morning ritual?” That daily process I undergo of putting on my game know that thing I/we do every morning to tackle the day. The list goes a little something like this:
1.) The drying and straightening (or curling) of the hair;
2.) The application of make-up and wrinkle-defying creams;
3.) The application of numerous body lotions. There are now lotions specifically designed for feet, hands, face, belly, cellulite, elbows and knees…keeping track requires a journal.
4.) The choosing of (this can take hours) and stepping into clothing that is relevant for whatever the day brings. This could be a suit or perhaps something a bit more frivolous but however it lands on the frame it is sure to accentuate certain body parts;
5.) The choosing (this process can often determine the choices made in number 4) and climbing into shoes that may be terribly uncomfortable but are really cute
6.) And yes (alright guys, here’s where it gets a bit awkward) strapping on the bra, that lovely contraption that holds ‘em in, pushes ‘em up and in some cases makes ‘em bigger! There are bras for every occasion and these often can, according to fashion experts, make or break that first impression, whether in a professional business meeting or on that first date.

Undergarments apparently have a lot of power over other people.

Now before everyone goes running for the exits, let me explain what’s really going on here. Lately, I’ve found myself returning to the world of the girl. I watch with wonder the way an 8 year old girl navigates the world. With eyes wide open, she sees things as if never seen before. There is an open stance, a fresh approach, a completely untainted and “unstoried” perception of the world around her.

What I love, too, about girls are the various physical ways they show up for life. They appear to me to be very much in charge of their morning ritual. Every one of them has their own unique style. You can on any one given day see lots of: pink, curly hair, straight hair, unbrushed hair, T-shirts, plaid vests, giggles, seriousness, smiles, tears, high-tops, glitter, purse, no-purse, sunglasses, bows in hair, baseball cap, knee socks with sandals, Halloween costumes, princess tiaras, skirts, pants, lace, jewelry…there are as many ways to show up for life as there are 8 year old girls.

And as I write to you, I find that somewhere over the last five to six years I’ve allowed myself to be, even in the work that I do (how ironic!!!), more tangled up with some of the physical expectations of the Girl Box. The need to appear as if I’ve got it SO together has restricted my ability to laugh, dance and get goofy.

I’ve been more inclined to shake hands rather than hug, hold back rather than speak up and actually found myself afraid to do an energy award even when I feel this intense desire to do one! (Any upcoming sponsors don’t know what they are in for!!!!)

So…while make-up, hair traditions and pushing ‘em up in a bra may appear to be mundane and seemingly irrelevant acts I carry out each morning, what I’m discovering NOT going through the process is how liberating it is to let them go. I find myself physically walking/running/skipping/hopping through the day like an 8 year old girl…totally comfortable in my skin, unafraid to be who I am.

This physical freedom manifests in my actions. I really am more inclined to dance through the grocery aisle (particularly if my daughter Helen is there), laugh out loud and for several minutes during Yoga, sing really loud in my car with the windows down and walk up to an older couple and tell them that the way they are lovin’ on each other has totally rocked my day.

So I invite you to see what it feels like. Seriously, try eliminating one piece of your morning ritual (if you have one) or if you are willing to go full-on, skip the whole thing! Go without the suit and wear something that feels easy and unrestrained. Skip the mascara or foundation, blush or lip gloss. Don’t burn your bra, but leave it at home. Set those puppies free and see how it feels. Let your hair air dry and see what it looks like, feels like and how it shows up. You might be surprised. Be aware of how AWESOME it feels to show up for life, like an 8 year old…unstoried, uninhibited and best of all un-boxed…and see if something else has space to emerge. A laugh? A tear? A dream? A totally new perspective perhaps?
What part of your morning ritual are you willing to release? What have you been holding back, afraid that others will thing you too child-like, unrealistic or maybe even “crazy”? Let me know at

(Postscript: The moment I posted this, someone sent this to me. I had to share. Smile, won't cha?)


  1. Changing *whatever* has been one's box is the challenge in becoming more yourself.

    For me, that has meant taking *more* care in the ways you describe letting go, because the only "beauty routine" I followed was to wash my face with aloe-infused baby wipes and Chapstick with SPF 30.

    Trying new products has been a nurturing experience that I had boxed myself into believing were "frivolous," "selfish," "unnecessary," a waste of money and/or time I should be spending on practical things or things that "matter." Or somehow meant something about the nature of my identity.

    But I've come to believe if it matters to you, and it makes you feel better, that's where your authenticity lies. And it may change at different times in our lives. The questions, I think: Does it lift you up rather than bind or restrict you? Is it coming from inside vs. outside? The answers may mean scaling back thoughts about beauty and use of cosmetics, products or cultural fashion and body "standards. Or, it may conversely mean allowing oneself forays into "beauty" without buying into ideas that doing so (or not) means any particular thing about you (me) as a person or personality.

    I applaud people who risk change, of any kind, and the self-evaluation and growth that is nearly necessarily inherent in the "new" or "different." Not better; not worse ... just differently suited for different people at different times in their lives, and that's the beauty of choice :)

  2. Beautiful commentary and plays right into the notion of "evolution." To allow others (and myself) to be in whatever space they explore, choose, challenge and grow. While my choices have certainly changed over the years, the essence of me...the soul of me has remained ever constant and beautiful just because it is... Thank you for sharing.

  3. Hi Molly, I'm glad you felt comfortable enough to hug me at the Garmin event in Chicago! I'm the mom who started crying when I told you about how meaningful GOTR is for me and my daughter. Then you took the time to explain to my daughter that my tears were actually happy tears! We are all going to Lollapalooza today and I will jump, skip and dance just like my 9 year old daughter! Planning on having a grand time! Thanks!

  4. Wow, I almost skipped over this post, just because, hey I am guy and this was a "girls" post. What it did is made me realize first that there is a huge "Boy Box" as well, now we dont have to deal with Mascara, Bra's and uncomfortable shoes, we do deal with Image. especially being a business owner and living in an affluent area. We care about how others see us, how we act in a social setting, what our neighbor's, colleagues, and friends think of us, especially the "guys" When I first volunteered with GOTR, I didn't mention it to the "guys" or was low key about it. One thing. I overcame that hurdle, when I realized that if I keep myself in that box, I will always try to be someone I am not. and will waste my life away, trying to be what I think is accepted by others. Just remember, you can wear the perfect mascara, bra and shoes, have your hair done up a certain way, and there will be at least one or two people that think you look bad. we were not put on this earth to people please. I think we are created to inspire one another, feel comfortable with one another and be helpers to one another in this race called life. My beautiful 11 year old daughter Lianna, has helped me to see that boxes were made to be broken. From an early age, she would mix and match styles and ask for our approval, I came from a very image conscious family and would get criticized for wearing jeans to a social function, so you can imagine the boxes I had to break out of. so my daughter says, her fashion style is unique, she blends styles, that breaks the common "fashion magazine's" dictations of what style should be and yet, everyone seems to like her eclectic style. She also forgets to brush her hair on purpose some days, she is a true out of the box girl. I have and am still learning to hold my tongue back and just smile and celebrate her uniqueness.She is teaching me so much through her pure unbridled spirit. So I don't shave every day! i wear the same outfit for a couple of days, providing it is clean, and I hop and skip in the supermarket with my kids and make up parody songs to the Black Eye Pea's "I got a feeling" I love watching "grownups" reactions out of the corner of my eye. some have a look of disgust, but for the most part, they all have a look of longing to be free like I am!

  5. Beautiful post with a beautiful message. I just wrote a post about eating like a child - intuitively and with wonder, free of restriction. I hadn't thought about living like a child as well. I've often thought in the past, usually when I'm running late and stressed that my hair straightener keeps shutting off, that the "morning ritual" may be in some ways a means of holding women back in our patriarchal society. I realize this might seem the notion of an extreme feminist, but if we consider what we could do with all the lost time we devote to "primping", we could change the world even more.

  6. Guy on the Run...just so you know, you have brought tears to my eyes...and Ashley! You are connecting dots that we, as empowered women, we must always connect. Thank you for sharing!

  7. I recently spent two years in the Peace Corps and discovered the joy of not having mirrors everywhere. As I struggle to find my happy morning routine (a compromise between my simple developing world routine and my previous America routine), this post really rang true to me, Molly. Thanks for drawing attention to an issue that continues to be a struggle for so many women (be that to maintain or to restrain from the societal expectations of female upkeep!)
    I love how you inspire so many, regardless of whether you've put on your mascara. ;)

  8. This post completely inspired me to make a big change. :) I wrote about it here:

  9. Get over it and don't think so much!

  10. Thinking is the problem isn't it? Thanks for the reminder!