By a Junior League Active Member
Let it go. Three words and the title of a popular Disney song, but truer words have never been spoken.
As women we are advised to lean in, but follow our passions, achieve work-life balance, but not break a sweat. To aim for the corner office and covet the designer bag, but be humble about our ambitions. We are expected to break glass ceilings for future generations of women, but very rarely are we given the advice to slow down enough to enjoy the process.
There is no finish line where we can reflect on our achievements and allow ourselves to be proud of our accomplishments. Rather, we are encouraged to continue pushing ourselves to the highest level of success, regardless of whether society’s definition of success aligns with our own. And in the process, it is quite easy to lose sight of what matters.
As a teenager, I aimed for success. In one short summer I lost 40 pounds of weight I did not have to lose, because I sadly believed that being thin would make me a success. As my hair fell out and my collarbone became more pronounced, I congratulated myself on my determination. I was one of the elusive thin girls. But it was never enough to be thin. I wanted to be the thinnest girl in my class. My self-esteem plummeted as I realized I would never be the thinnest girl – with each pound loss my body rebelled, and I was plagued with headaches and chills that could not be fixed with medication. But I refused to give up because to do so would mean failure. It was only after a high school boyfriend helped me understand that it was okay to let go that I started accepting myself for who I was: a smart, lovable young woman with a support group who liked me as I was. Many of those people are still friends today.
The theme of Disney’s Frozen resonated with me because the movie was not about the princess undergoing a makeover, landing the handsome prince, or achieving success as a career-driven woman. It was about accepting yourself just as you are and trying to be the best YOU that you can be. The characters in Frozen support other women, are strong, and have the courage to do what is right. They let go of trying to change themselves and focused on what mattered – and learned to enjoy the journey.
I’m much different than the girl I was in high school. I joined Junior League so I could have a positive impact on other women, of all ages. Part of that means being authentic and sharing my own struggles so that others know they can let it go and be okay.
Letting go does not mean giving up. Rather, it means letting others help you and recognizing your true worth, regardless of whether you have the corner office or are the thinnest girl in the class. I’m proud to be part of a worldwide organization and our focus on increasing young women’s self-esteem. Some members have had their own struggles with depression or anxiety, others have watched loved ones struggle, and as a result, we want to help other young women define their own notions of success, so they can let go of societal expectations and embrace their true awesomeness.
“The Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc. (AJLI) is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers”. That’s a pretty amazing cause to be part of. By letting go of trying to be perfect, I’m learning new skills and pushing myself to do things I normally wouldn’t, because I’m not afraid to fail. I’m surrounded by a generous group of women who encourage me to be my best self, every day. As a group, we are catalyst for change.