Hate. It is a strong word.
It may be the word you use in a sentence describing your least favorite subject in school or a gross candy you are not a fan of. But hate is also something often directed towards people.
In Melinda Gates’ book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, Gates addresses the topic of empowering women and how this action uplifts society. Now, uplifting society may sound like an impossible task considering all that is happening in the world today.
To make this idea more approachable, here are three ways, according to Gates, that women can uplift other women in their lives.
- Be Intentional When Listening
The type of listening that Gates talks about in The Moment of Lift is not the type where a person listens to see when they can interject their own thoughts. Instead, it “means listening to people, learning what they want, what they’re doing, what they believe, and what barriers they face. It means paying attention to how people live their lives” (43).
Most people know the pain of feeling alone, but also the relief that comes when a person listens to your problem and walks alongside you. Intentional listening leads to greater understanding and this is what creates change.
A way to weave this into your life is to catch yourself thinking of when you can respond if a person is talking to you. Instead, actively encourage yourself to remain present in the conversation. Validate the person’s feelings and ask how you can best help them if they are struggling.
- Push Against the Pressures to Fit In
Fitting in can look a lot of different ways, from the way you dress to the way you talk about others. Fitting in can be a lot of work, but it can also lead to a lot of hate. Hate can appear in the negative way a person talks to themselves if they are not fitting in or it can surround a person’s words because joining in gossip is easier than stopping it.
The pressure to fit in can feel like an exceptionally heavy burden, especially for women to carry as societal expectations seem unachievable or unrealistic. Gates addresses many ways that she too has felt left out, confused, or uncomfortable in her daily life.
She “realized much later, paradoxically, is that by trying to fit in, I [Gates] was strengthening the culture that made me feel like I didn’t fit in” (210). In other words, by pushing herself to constantly be liked by other people, Gates was giving more power to people who made others feel this same way.
How can you take away the power from people like this in your own life?
Be yourself. The words are simple, but taking action looks different for each person. By letting your own personality run free, you are giving the people around you the same permission to be themselves. Imagine how much stronger the relationships in your life would be if they were founded on honest thoughts and feelings instead of filtered emotions and the fear of being judged.
- Think For Yourself
Think for yourself is a phrase that many people have been told, but not all are given the opportunity to put it into action. In The Moment of Lift, Gates talks about the difference it makes when women are given the opportunity to think for themselves.
An empowering education teaches a girl “she is not who she’s been told she is … she has rights she needs to assert and defend.” Going further, Gates adds that social change is made “when outsiders reject the low self-image society has imposed on them and begin to author a self-image of their own” (108). [bf_image id="qalkyc-7r6oug-13splf"]
Has a comment someone said to you ever made you feel insecure about something you were otherwise confident in?
Thinking for yourself helps bring fresh ideas and positive thoughts to yourself and those around you. Instead of repeating the hateful words you might hear, think of some new, positive ones that create a fresh foundation for the week.
Not only can this help uplift your own self image, but positive words will slowly filter into conversation you have with those around you. Instead of feeling like they are constantly bombarded with societal pressures, your peers will feel confident in thinking for themselves.
At the end of her book, Gates says that “it’s my women friends I come back to, especially in groups, when I’m facing my fears and need friends to help me through; they’ve walked beside me on every path of growth I took. … inclusion begins with women” (261-262).
It’s empowering to realize that women hold the power to delete so much hate from the world. Wherever you are in your push towards creating change, include these three steps in your daily routine and watch as the pressures of societal expectations and hate slowly lift.