By Marcia Reynolds, PsyD
Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame gave the closing keynote at the Women’s Conference I spoke at in Omaha. Her brief yet powerful speech left us all feeling a little less crazy and immensely more content with life. I don’t think she would mind if I shared the secret with you.
She started by saying, “People think my life is together so I should be able to help them get their life together.” She didn’t disclaim the idea. Instead, she launched into her sense of where women stand in the world today.
“We, as women, are living in a most interesting time in history. We are the subjects of a social experiment. Suddenly we have choices, self-sufficiency, freedom…we don’t have thousands of years of role models, or even 50 years.”
She reminded us that our lives used to resemble each other’s whereas now our lives are very different from our sisters and old friends. We struggle with making decisions and then live with worry or regret over the decisions we made.
It is no wonder many of us are neurotic and keep seeking to find the one person who can tell us how to put our lives together and feel happy ever after.
She shared stories of how this ambiguity shows up in all of our lives no matter what choices we make.
Then she described what her day looks like. She starts with an hour of meditation, then an hour of yoga, and then a wonderful breakfast before sitting down to write. Or maybe she sees friends before summoning her muse.
Then she said, “Do you believe this is true? It’s not. I get up every day and do my best, just like you.” She said she often falls short of what she had hoped to accomplish and the days go too fast for her to keep up.
She ended by telling us to “Let go of the knife you are holding at your throat, the knife of shame, blame, fear and remorse.”
There was a long, deathly silence, a clear acknowledgment of how solid her words had hit home with the more than a thousand women in the room.
“Be kind to yourself,” she implored, “especially now. You must give yourself unconditional self-friendship.”
She said a few more things about putting the knife of judgment away and then ended her speech. The room burst with applause. They didn’t mind that she shared nothing new and no secret formula of success.
She shared her humanity. She shared how much she cares about what women are doing to themselves. And she shared a simple, profound truth that we need to hear over and over again.
I have the wonderful opportunity to be in Trinidad and Tobago this week — I will be speaking at A World of Possibilities™ on Thursday — the launch of a yearlong event — speaking directly to the needs of women — just as Elizabeth Gilbert described — all of you at a crossroads in your lives and confronted with so many different decisions that you can’t help but feel a little crazy. It’s my first time to your country and I look forward to sharing and meeting as many of you as I can.
After that Women’s Conference I have even more admiration for Elizabeth Gilbert, as a speaker and a wise woman (and of course, as an author). I will do my best to put the knife away today. What about you?