Hey girls! You are never going to change the world by just sitting down and shutting up.
Historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich reminded us of this when she said, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” The same sentiment is repeated in the great little book “Nice Girls Don’t Change the World” by Lynne Hybels, co-founder of Willow Creek Church near Chicago.
March has been designated as Women’s History Month. As I look over the many lists of famous women in history, while they all had widely differing personalities, religious leanings and political affiliations, one thing that they had in common was the ability to dream, strong beliefs and tenacity.
They broke through molds, glass ceilings and the expectations of others.
There is not one dream or direction or focus of interest that is more valuable than any other. We are created to be unique. We are constantly battling against a society and culture that says, “Fit in,” “Look like everyone else,” “Make sure everyone agrees with you before you open your mouth.” We are even told to make sure you are right before you launch out because you don’t want to fail or to appear foolish.
I have never been able to figure out why on earth we give permission to other people, who are just as insecure as we are — quite possibly more so — who have no idea where we have been or why we think the way we do, to judge our ideas and actions as being acceptable or not. You know that’s crazy, right?
The problem is that same voice, that same belief, that same thought process is loudly raging all around us and is difficult to ignore. However, there are many women throughout history that have heard that voice and dismissed it, or at least pushed past it in order to live their destiny and change the course of history.
What would have happened if Susan B. Anthony had decided it was just too hard, and the naysayers were just too loud, and decided to just sit down and shut up? She spent 60 years of her life fighting for equality and died without having achieved her goal. But we, now, benefit from her tireless persistence.
Anne Frank knew the powers that be, at the time, were just plain wrong. Living in the midst of a culture that was chaotic and hate-filled, she was known through her diaries as having an indomitable spirit filled with hope and joyful expectation, claiming “It’s utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death.” She was all about living your truth and not waiting for permission, or holding back, expecting circumstances to change. “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world,”she said.
Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India for four terms, warned against rivalry against others in our quest of fulfillment. “To be liberated, woman must feel free to be herself, not in rivalry to man but in the context of her own capacity and her personality.” Your only competition is you. Your only detractor that can hold you back is your own collection of thoughts and beliefs.
Coco Chanel, encouraging the differences between us is known to have said, “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” She decided that the fashion had to be changed and followed her vision to do just that, encouraging each of us to be our own genuine, unique self.
Mother Theresa saved her world, one person at a time and opposed a culture of indifference and changing family patterns by simply following her call to ministry. She didn’t care what it looked like. And she resisted being bought by big donors. She was never looking for fame or position, just the fulfillment of what she felt called to do.
Called crazy and delusional, Joan of Arc lived her reality, and in so doing, changed the course of French history, and was burned at the stake as a witch because of it. She said, “One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.”
The first woman to fly across the Atlantic, Amelia Earhart, while also setting many other records, as well said, “The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” She encourages us to just make a decision, and move forward from there.
These women came from different times, different religions and nationalities all with a different dream, goal or calling. What they had in common was:
- They had a strong belief in their dream or calling.
- They did not let opposition stop them.
- They refused to be pulled off target by the opinions of others.
- They were not distracted by pettiness or discouragement or fear.
They simply kept their eye on their goal. Some of them did not live to see their victory. Some were not validated like they could have been. But each one of them advanced the cause of righteousness, the power and capability of women, and made the world a better place in a diverse and enriching way.
You don’t need anyone’s permission to change the world. Just do what’s in your heart, refusing to be knocked off track by opposition or judgment or opinion or pettiness.
Keep your eye on your goal. Don’t allow yourself to be squeezed into a mold that you don’t fit into. Create your own mold and blaze your own trail. The world needs more independent thinkers with focus and determination. We are making history everyday, just by being who we were created to be.
What’s stopping you?