Achieving integrity, made up of public and private acts in sync with a woman’s true self, is life’s journey.
How do we present to others who we truly are? How to we make decisions reinforcing what we believe in? And sometimes we ask: How do we discover who we truly are? Integrity is a representation of an authentic self. It is a consistent display of our beliefs, values, and moral codes. But the path to integrity is littered with diversions and obstacles, making it challenging to truly live in step with ourselves.
First is the task of discovering who we truly want to be as a human being. We must strip away all the layers of other’s expectations, all our own weaknesses and fears, and then take a look at who is left. Do we like what we see? Is the woman who was buried beneath expectations and rules a woman we would like to spend time with?
Authors help us in this discovery processes by leading us through worlds, characters, and situations we might not otherwise meet. How does our integrity fit into a book’s representation of life? Do we agree or disagree with the action taken by the characters? Do we admire the character? Do we wish to emulate the character? Contrasting our own selves with fictional characters can help us discover who we really are. I focus on women writers, whose experience and tone help me define womanhood and whose wisdom or lack thereof help me define my authentic self.
The new book “Women Who Write” by Stefan Bollman explores the influence of femininity on writers. He writes: “Overcoming the traditional image of a woman is no more than the first milestone in a woman author’s struggle for her integrity. The second is to be able to speak openly about her own passions, or in (Virginia) Woolf’s words, to tell the truth about her ‘own experiences as a body.’”*
It is the second struggle Virginia Woolf spoke of, the struggle to speak openly about our own passion, that trips most women. Do you feel you can openly share your opinions and desires? Do you subjugate your own voice to others, maybe even doing it without realizing it? Are you the last to vote on a family decision? Do you find yourself saying “It doesn’t really matter to me” often? Why does it not really matter to you? Is it because you prefer a peaceful resolution to a situation and for some reason you think that contributing your own preference would rattle that peace? Why? Why are the preferences and opinion of our loved ones valuable but ours “not as important”?
When we withhold our own voice, our own opinions, our own preferences, when we fail to openly share them with others and to insist that they carry as much weight as anyone else’s, we fail to remember who we are. We are not the only ones who forget who we are, our loved ones and our co-workers do not know us either. Why? Because we refuse to share ourselves with them. We refuse to live openly and tell the truth about ourselves. We refuse to live with integrity.
* Women Who Write, by Stefan Bollmann, 2007 Merrell Publishers Limited, p.38
About the author: Allison Frederick is a writer and online marketing educator for other creative women. www.FaMissWomen.com offers free Web 2.0 resources. She is also the author of an upcoming novel, A Portrait of Josephine, an academic-lite thriller. Find out how to receive a free copy of the novel by visiting www.portraitofjosephine.com