Have you read Amy Poehler’s memoir Yes Please? If so, wasn’t it great?! If not, quit reading this garbage and go read that instead! Okay, that’s a little hasty, I’d really like you to stay here and read this, too, but then go immediately to your library or your Kindle or your actual brick and mortar bookstore and get a copy. I can’t be enthusiastic enough about encouraging people to read things that are written by intelligent, engaging, kind, passionate, fearless, modern women and Yes Please delivers.
I received my copy as a Christmas gift in 2014, not long after it was published. It may or may not be signed by the author herself (it totally is) and I may or may not keep it on my desk, referencing it often for inspirational purposes (I totally do).
Believe it or not, my intention today isn’t to create a one-woman infomercial about the life-changing power of Poehler. Although, I would be very good at that and Amy’s people should call me.
There’s a specific phrase that Amy uses in her book, and which she invites us all to use, too. It’s one that has stayed with me and become a sort of mantra in my life as I watch my path unfold differently than the paths of those around me. “Good for her, not for me.”
As women, we are expected to compete with each other. Society has programmed us in such a way that we are in constant competition, even when we don’t realize it. We choose not to wear certain clothes because someone we know owns something similar and don’t they probably look better in it than we do? We secretly, obsessively doctor our photos before posting them on the internet, because we want to look as good as the other women who secretly doctor their photos, too. We intrinsically dislike and distrust women who we perceive as threats to us, even when they aren’t, and we devalue them. Imagine all of the female friendships that never were because of this cycle of cynicism.
“Good for her, not for me” is a simple way of positively acknowledging others as they live their own truths. Becoming a professional bodybuilder, or raising six children, or choosing to live overseas may not be the journey that is meant for me, but each is a valid and authentic choice, nonetheless. And just because it’s not meant for me, does not imply that it’s meant for no one.
Even among feminists, a group whose ideology intends it to be inclusive, we find ourselves splitting hairs about who is more right and who is more wrong, who should speak more loudly and who should take a seat.
I was recently discussing feminism with a friend when she asked me if I had ever seen the television series Girls.
“I have,” I said, anticipating where the conversation would lead.
“And what do you think of Lena Dunham?” she asked.
I thought, wanting to be articulate in my response. And at that moment, Amy Poehler and her words of wisdom appeared in my mind: “Good for her, not for me.”
“Well,” I began. “Lena Dunham doesn’t speak for me, but I do think she provides a voice for a lot of women. And I can’t argue that she’s creating art that’s representative of who she is and I think that’s awesome. The world needs more of that. If her message resonates with people, then that’s even better.”
“But what do you mean that she doesn’t speak for you?” this friend pressed.
“I mean that I’m glad she uses her voice. But I use mine, too. I speak for me. And my thoughts might align more with someone else’s. I don’t need to agree with every stance that every feminist takes in order to be supportive. What works for her is good for her. What works for me is good for me. And there’s room for both of us.”
When we’re faced with the opportunity to share our judgements or our hearts, lets choose our hearts. Let’s be compassionate and create space. We have so much to learn from one another and we can’t do it alone.