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What's Your Name, Goddess?

 

In a Venice, CA juice bar, a girl peeked over the counter to ask me a question:

“Wha sh ss gwen-ed?”
To which I replied, “Excuse me?”
“What’s your name, Nosshneis?”
Confused and frustrated by the whizzing blenders, I looked at her carefully for a moment. Did I know her from somewhere? After a pause I realized I’d never before seen her lovely face, and asked again, “What?”

To which she replied, clearly and loudly, “What’s your name, Goddess?”

Shocked by what she’d said and how rudely I’d ruined her delivery I said simply, “uh, Katina, what’s yours?” She told me and made another smoothie. I didn’t amend our awkward interaction, but what she said stuck with me for days.

Wonder Woman: “An amazon princess comes to the world of man to become one of the greatest superheroes of all time,” losing 90% of her clothes in the process.

Wonder Woman: “An amazon princess comes to the world of man to become one of the greatest superheroes of all time,” losing 90% of her clothes in the process.

We’re all trying to be better people. For me, specifically, a better woman, and a better Katina. There’s our little goals to be more healthy, get a better job, have a healthier relationship, but what if there’s a current running through all of us, that can make us become the better selves we want to be? What if there’s a secret?

Depending on the situation, a woman can become either a “goddess,” or a “bitch,” says Naomi Wolf in her latest novel, Vagina: A New Biography. Though there have been mixed reviews of this book, I find this tidbit anecdotally and personally kind-of-true.

If I’m happy, confident, well nourished, and un-stressed, I act loving, kind, generous, and healing to those I’m around me.

But if I’m tired, stressed, disrespected, insecure, resentful, or overwhelmed, I can become snappy, judgmental, pushy, impatient, and borderline rude. Dare I say it, bitchy.

We’re all dynamic, unique souls, and I don’t mean to generalize. But what I do want for myself and for all the women in my life, is to be more of a “Goddess,” more of the time.

Why I’m a Bitch:

I’ll admit it to you. I can be hard to be around. Sadly though I have many angelic, goddess-like qualities, I have perhaps an equal amount of the opposite. And all we can do is admit it honestly to ourselves, embrace it, and find sympathy for any pain causing us to act that way.

But aside from those deep inner wounds, I have some other, very basic needs.

In 1943 a man named Abraham Maslow introduced a concept called a “hierarchy of needs,” in which he depicted the stages of human development based on the order of how our needs need to be met. For starters, the lowest and largest box on his pyramid, the block on which all the others stand, is our physiological well being.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs start with the physiological.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs start with the physiological.

This may seem incredibly rudimentary to everyone, but to me it’s been a slow reveal of epic proportions. The concept that 8 hours of sleep, a healthy diet, good sex, and “homeostasis” are non-negotiable factors in my well-being and potential for greatness is actually a bit shocking. No one told me that if I wanted to achieve my career goals I needed to get a good night’s rest and 60 grams of protein!

But if Maslow’s hierarchy has even a semblance of accuracy, then we all have some work to do.

Luckily, it’s certainly not rocket science. How difficult is it to drink eight glasses of water a day, have three well-balanced meals, sleep eight hours, and maintain healthy habits?

Judging from my own experience and from our nation’s health problems, it’s VERY DIFFICULT. But why? If you ask yourself why you aren’t able to do what’s best for your physical needs, you’ll find lots of lame excuses. Mine are:

“It’s kinda hard”
“I don’t have enough time”
“I forgot”
“It’s confusing”

So the truth of the matter is: I don’t make it a priority. Which is to say, deep down I don’t believe that my body and my health is important enough to be a priority. Now there are lots of cultural and gender-specific iterations and reasons for this. However, for the sake of my plight to become more-“Goddess-like,” I’m going to say that:

Why I’m a Goddess:

Again, people are complex, dynamic, and unique, there’s no separating us into categories (Picasso said, ‘There are only two types of women – goddesses and doormats.”) However, I do know the difference, in the spectrum of my life, to be on the Goddess side versus the Bitchy side, and I want to spend more time at the former. Here are three tips for becoming more of the goddess you already are:

GODDESS TIP # 1: MY HEALTH AND PHYSICAL WELL-BEING IS A NON-NEGOTIABLE PRIORITY

If we don’t make our physical well being a priority now, then when will we? When we have our first health crisis? When we start lamenting the physical signs of aging? Why wait for something negative to occur, especially if spending more time and energy on our own health can support our greater goals and ambitions?

 

“God may be in the details, but the goddess is in the questions. Once we begin to ask them, there’s no turning back.” Gloria Steinem

The majority of people reading this right now have the resources to prioritize their health, if they want to. Sadly, 1.2 billion people around the world (70% of them women) are living in poverty and have lifelong battles struggling to meet just their physical needs. I’m grateful for the privilege I have to write this article, and put my own health first. Click here to donate to one of my favorite women-empowering charities.

Take a moment to think of three ways you could take better care of yourself. Write them down and commit to how and when you will do those three things this week. Our physical well-being is the foundation for building rest of our life. If it’s not healthy, everything else can crumble.

GODDESS TIP #2 MY OWN SAFETY AND SECURITY COME FIRST

I hate to say it, but I know way too many women who have half-assed their ambitions because they are waiting for someone to come “save them,” namely a husband with a lot of cash. Sure, we’ve come a long way from the 60’s, yet I’ve caught myself thinking “does my career really matter, if I’m eventually going to get married, have kids, and set my ambitions aside?”

Here’s the truth. The answer is the same for every person, of every gender, every place in the world. Your unique gift and your purpose on this earth is the most important thing in your life. That’s not to say that we’re all meant to be CEOs making six figures or that it’s not okay to be a full-time mom. Having purpose and passion for your life simply means being confident and excited with who you are and what you bring to the world. Every day.

Now most of us don’t know exactly what that is – or rather, we’ve forgotten. Some of us are on the right track but not exactly satisfied. And rarer, are those people fully alive and thriving with passion for what they’re doing, every day they wake up.

It doesn’t matter where we are on this journey. Whether it’s the first lap or the final stretch, what matters is that we respect ourselves enough to listen to our intuition, consider taking risks in the direction of our dreams, and empower ourselves with the tools and an environment to get there. Though we may have multiple jobs, passions, and hobbies, feeling confident and sure about ourselves and what we offer the planet can bring joy, security, resources, health, and prosperity.

But there’s a loophole. We can get these things other places, as well. Hence the knight-in-shining-armor dream we hold on to when we’re unhappy with our own lives. But in this world, you can never count on anything, including the people around you, so why not place the majority of our energy and faith in who we are on the inside, and how we want to offer it to the world?

Our purpose and passions can change, we require growth and immense strength, but committing to ourselves and our own personal purpose is a big secret behind the most successful people in the world.

Each moment of our life, we either invoke or destroy our dreams.” -Stuart Wilde

Take a moment to write down your most secret dreams for yourself. The things that nag at you sometimes, but you’re too afraid to tell anyone around you. Or maybe you told someone and they squashed your dream because they’ve squashed their own. Bring those deep dreams out in to the open, and write them down, just to see how it feels. It’s the first step to honoring the true you.

GODDESS TIP #3: RESPECT IS A MUSCLE THAT NEEDS TO BE EXERCISED


You’ve heard all the statistics about body image in the media and what a f*ed up sense of beauty we’re spoon fed all our lives.

But I’d like a statistic for how many times a day I say something negative and derogatory to myself. How often do you? I’d put myself on the high spectrum of self-esteem and yet I am constantly subtly judging my physical appearance, putting myself down as a failure, and pushing myself instead of practicing sympathy and kindness.


And when I’m around other women, I hear us do it all the time to each other, reiterating our lack of self-worth. “Hi I haven’t seen you in so long, you look so great!” (as if that’s the most important thing there is.) Or talking about a mutual friend, “I love ___ a lot except for the fact that _____(insert bitchy, judgment or gossip).”

It’s all over the media about women being bitchy and mean to one another. It’s in the media constantly. Aside from that, I’ve experienced my own pandemic of female friendships my entire life. So I’m pretty sure there’s an epidemic of strong, supportive female bonds. (If you disagree, please write to me!)

Well if you look at how we’re treating ourselves, there’s no wonder. We act nice, polite, and sweet to each other, but under it all, we’re thinking the same things about each other that we think about ourselves:

“You’re not good enough”

“It’s all going to go downhill eventually”

“You old/fat/scrawny/saggy”

“You couldn’t if you tried…”

ON and ON….

RESPECT |riˈspekt|: verb [ with obj. ] to admire someone deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.

ORIGIN late Middle English: from Latin respectus, from the verb respicere ‘look back at, regard,’ from re- ‘back’ + specere ‘look at.’

Respect means looking DOWN at ourselves and admiring our abilities, qualities, and achievements. And when do that, we can also do it for those around us, starting a new era of positive, supportive relationships.

It takes work, commitment, inner-growth, and forgiveness to turn ourselves into positive, supportive beings. MEanWhile the world doesn’t make it any easier and our habits and addictive behaviors do everything they can to keep us on the negative spin cycle.

But with introspection and honesty we can form true friendships with both OURSELVES and people we trust and admire. And until then, FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT. I recently read that our postive thoughts are ten times as powerful as our negative ones. So if you think to yourself “I’m ugly” ten times, it only takes saying “I’m beautiful,” ONCE to win the battle. Write it down, sing it, scream it, paint it on the wall, and tell every person you know that they’re beautiful, too, and we’ll be on our way to winning the war.

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Successful Careers For Women: Do We Sabotage Ourselves?

There have been many articles over the years and of late dealing with the issue of women wanting to “have it all” – a career and a family life.  So I was extremely excited to find Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook’s commencement speech to Barnard College graduates on May 8, 2011, which shed incredible new light on the issue. 

Sheryl is 42 years-young and happily married with two kids. In the meantime she’s been Chief of Staff of the U.S. Treasury, Vice President at Google, and now COO at Facebook, where she’s credited with turning the social network from “just another MySpace” into a $104 billion dollar company. (Regardless of your feelings about Facebook,) Sheryl has some extraordinarily insightful things to say to women about sticking with their careers and “having it all.”

Many of us would be happy raising five wonderful kids and spending a lifetime devoted to home, family, and friends. But almost every person I know has a yearning not only to have a family but to give their unique gift, whatever that is, to the world. We’re not all meant to be the CEO of a multinational company, but Sheryl points out that many women, myself included, sabotage their own careers, knowingly, and unknowingly, giving into the outdated idea that men are meant to have careers, and women aren’t. Check out her amazing speech, challenging us all to value and feed our inner voice that says “I’m special, I have something to give to the world, and I must give it.”

Commencement Speech to Barnard College Graduates*

by Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook

…Pulitzer Prize winners Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof visited this campus last year and they spoke about their critically important book, Half the Sky.  In that book, they assert that the fundamental moral challenge of the 19th century was slavery; of the 20th century, it was totalitarianism; and for our century, it is oppression of girls and women around the world.  Their book is a call to arms, to give women all over the world, women who are exactly like us except for the circumstances into which they were born, basic human rights.

Compared to these women, we are lucky.  In America, as in the entire developed world, we are equals under the law.  But the promise of equality is not equality.  As we sit here looking at this magnificent blue-robed class, we have to admit something that’s sad but true:  men run the world.  Of 190 heads of 2 state, nine are women.  Of all the parliaments around the world, 13% of those seats are held by women. Corporate America top jobs, 15% are women; numbers which have not moved at all in the past nine years.  Nine years.  Of full professors around the United States, only 24% are women. 

I recognize that this is a vast improvement from generations in the past.  When my mother took her turn to sit in a gown at her graduation, she thought she only had two career options:  nursing and teaching. She raised me and my sister to believe that we could do anything, and we believed her.  But what is so sad—it doesn’t just make me feel old, it makes me truly sad—is that it’s very clear that my generation is not going to change this problem.  Women became 50% of the college graduates in this country in 1981, 30 years ago.  Thirty years is plenty of time for those graduates to have gotten to the top of their industries, but we are nowhere close to 50% of the jobs at the top.  That means that when the big decisions are made, the decisions that affect all of our worlds, we do not have an equal voice at that table.

So today, we turn to you.  You are the promise for a more equal world.  You are our hope.  I truly believe that only when we get real equality in our governments, in our businesses, in our companies and our universities, will we start to solve this generation’s central moral problem, which is gender equality.  We need women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored.

So my hope for all of you here, for every single one of you, is that you’re going to walk across the stage and get your diploma.  You’re going to go out tonight or maybe all summer and celebrate.  You deserve it.  And then you’re going to lean way into your career.  You’re going to find something you love doing, and you’re going to do it with gusto.  You’re going to pick your field and you’re going to ride it all the way to the top.

So, what advice can I give you to help you achieve this goal?  The first thing is I encourage you to think big.  Studies show very clearly that in our country, in the college-educated part of the population, men are more ambitious than women.  They’re more ambitious the day they graduate from college; they remain more ambitious every step along their career path.  We will never close the achievement gap until we close the ambition gap.  But if all young women start to lean in, we can close the ambition gap right here, right now, if every single one of you leans in.  Leadership belongs to those who take it.  Leadership starts with you.

We will never close the achievement gap until we close the ambition gap.

The next step is you’re going to have to believe in yourself potentially more than you do today.  Studies also show that compared to men, women underestimate their performance.  If you ask men and women questions about completely objective criteria such as GPAs or sales goals, men get it wrong slightly high; women get it wrong slightly low.  More importantly, if you ask men why they succeeded, men attribute that success to themselves; and women, they attribute it to other factors like working harder, help from others.  Ask a woman why she did well on something, and she’ll say, “I got lucky.  All of these great people helped me.  I worked really hard.”  Ask a man and he’ll say or think, “What a dumb question.  I’m awesome.”  So women need to take a page from men and own their own success.

That’s much easier to say than to do.  I know this from my own experience.  All along the way, I’ve had all of those moments, not just some of the time; I would say most of the time, where I haven’t felt that I owned my success.  I got into college and thought about how much my parents helped me on my essays. I went to the Treasury Department because I was lucky to take the right professor’s class who took me to Treasury.  Google, I boarded a rocket ship that took me up with everyone else.

Even to this day, I have those moments.  I have those moments all the time, probably far more than you can imagine I would.  I know I need to make the adjustments.  I know I need to believe in myself and raise my hand, because I’m sitting next to some guy and he thinks he’s awesome.  So, to all of you, if you remember nothing else today, remember this:  You are awesome.  I’m not suggesting you be boastful. No one likes that in men or women.  But I am suggesting that believing in yourself is the first necessary step to coming even close to achieving your potential.

You should also know that there are external forces out there that are holding you back from really owning your success.  Studies have shown—and yes, I kind of like studies—that success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women.  This means that as men get more successful and powerful, both men and women like them better.  As women get more powerful and successful, everyone, including women, likes them less.

I’ve experienced this firsthand.  When I first joined Facebook, there was a well-read blog out in the Valley that devoted some incredibly serious pixels to trashing me.  Anonymous sources called me a liar, two-faced, about to ruin Facebook forever.  I cried some when I was alone, I lost a bunch of sleep.  Then I told myself it didn’t matter.  Then everyone else told me it didn’t matter, which just reminded me of one thing:  they were reading it too.  I fantasized about all kinds of rejoinders, but in the end, my best and only response was just to do my job and do it well.  When Facebook’s performance improved, the trash talk went away.

Do I believe I was judged more harshly because of my double-Xs?  Yes.  Do I think this will happen to me again in my career?  Sure.  I told myself that next time I’m not going to let it bother me, I won’t cry.  I’m not sure that’s true.  But I know I’ll get through it.  I know that the truth comes out in the end, and I know how to keep my head down and just keep working.

Men make far fewer compromises than women to balance professional success and personal fulfillment.

If you think big, if you own your own success, if you lead, it won’t just have external costs, but it may cause you some personal sacrifice.  Men make far fewer compromises than women to balance professional success and personal fulfillment.  That’s because the majority of housework and childcare still falls to women.  If a heterosexual couple work full time, the man will do—the woman, sorry—the woman will do two times the amount of housework and three times the amount of childcare that her husband will do.  From my mother’s generation to mine, we have made far more progress making the workforce even than we have making the home even, and the latter is hurting the former very dramatically.  So it’s a bit counterintuitive, but the most important career decision you’re going to make is whether or not you have a life partner and who that partner is.  If you pick someone who’s willing to share the burdens and the joys of your personal life, you’re going to go further.  A world where men ran half our homes and women ran half our institutions would be just a much better world.

I have a six-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter.  I want more choices for both of them.  I want my son to have the choice to be a full partner not just at work, but at home; and I want my daughter to have a choice to do either.  But if she chooses work, to be well-liked for what she accomplishes.  We can’t wait for the term “work/life balance” to be something that’s not just discussed at women’s conferences.

Of course not everyone wants to jump into the workforce and rise to the top.  Life is going to bring many twists and turns, and each of us, each of you, have to forge your own path.  I have deep respect for my friends who make different choices than I do, who choose the really hard job of raising children full time, who choose to go part time, or who choose to pursue more nontraditional goals.  These are choices that you may make some day, and these are fine choices.

But until that day, do everything you can to make sure that when that day comes, you even have a choice to make.  Because what I have seen most clearly in my 20 years in the workforce is this:  Women almost never make one decision to leave the workforce.  It doesn’t happen that way.  They make small little decisions along the way that eventually lead them there.  Maybe it’s the last year of med school when they say, I’ll take a slightly less interesting specialty because I’m going to want more balance one day.  Maybe it’s the fifth year in a law firm when they say, I’m not even sure I should go for partner, because I know I’m going to want kids eventually.

Women almost never make one decision to leave the workforce.  It doesn’t happen that way.  They make small little decisions along the way that eventually lead them there.

These women don’t even have relationships, and already they’re finding balance, balance for responsibilities they don’t yet have.  And from that moment, they start quietly leaning back.  The problem is, often they don’t even realize it.  Everyone I know who has voluntarily left a child at home and come back to the workforce—and let’s face it, it’s not an option for most people.  But for people in this audience, many of you are going to have this choice.  Everyone who makes that choice will tell you the exact same thing:  You’re only going to do it if your job is compelling.

If several years ago you stopped challenging yourself, you’re going to be bored.  If you work for some guy who you used to sit next to, and really, he should be working for you, you’re going to feel undervalued, and you won’t come back.  So, my heartfelt message to all of you is, and start thinking about this now, do not leave before you leave.  Do not lean back; lean in.  Put your foot on that gas pedal and keep it there until the day you have to make a decision, and then make a decision.  That’s the only way, when that day comes, you’ll even have a decision to make.

What about the rat race in the first place?  Is it worthwhile?  Or are you just buying into someone else’s definition of success?  Only you can decide that, and you’ll have to decide it over and over and over.  But if you think it’s a rat race, before you drop out, take a deep breath.  Maybe you picked the wrong job. Try again.  And then try again.  Try until you find something that stirs your passion, a job that matters to you and matters to others.  It is the ultimate luxury to combine passion and contribution.  It’s also a very clear path to happiness.

At Facebook we have a very broad mission.  We don’t just want you to post all your pictures of tonight up there and use Facebook to keep in touch, even though we want that, so do a lot of that.  We want to connect the whole world.  We want to make the whole world more open and more transparent.  The one thing I’ve learned working with great entrepreneurs—Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Google—that if you want to make a difference, you better think big and dream big, right from day one.

We try at Facebook to keep all of our employees thinking big all day.  We have these posters in red we put around the walls.  One says, “Fortune favors the bold.”  Another says, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”  That question echoes Barnard alum Anna Quindlen, who said that she majored in unafraid.  Don’t let your fears overwhelm your desire.  Let the barriers you face—and there will be barriers—be external, not internal.  Fortune does favor the bold, and I promise that you will never know what you’re capable of unless you try.

I hope you find true meaning, contentment and passion in your life.  I hope that you navigate the hard times and you come out with greater strength and resolve.  I hope that whatever balance you seek, you find it with your eyes wide open.  And I hope that you—yes, you—each and every one of you have the ambition to run the world, because this world needs you to run it.  Women all around the world are counting on you.  I’m counting on you.

I know that’s a big challenge and responsibility, a really daunting task, but you can do it.  You can do it if you lean in.  So go home tonight and ask yourselves, “What would I do if I weren’t afraid?”  And then go do it.

* This excerpt has been slightly edited in the introduction and conclusion to remove pieces of the work pertaining to graduating seniors. To read the full transcript of the speech as well as a video, click here.

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