Whether you are a beautiful budding woman of 11, a gorgeous Grande Dame at 111, or somewhere wonderfully and precariously in between like moi, being a woman is always interesting and even fabulously adventurous at times.
When I was 10, I was excited about everything that life had to offer and I was ready to conquer the world. I even played Wonder Woman in a school play.
When I was 20, my life was exciting and I began to make some mistakes, which I now understand were crucial for learning the ropes of an amazing and colorful life, a life I would not change for anything in the world, even though back then I was quite dramatic about everything.
When I was 30, I struggled and succeeded, and my life was a whirlwind colored feverishly by my career, young children and new dreams. These were both terrible and terrific times, but I know that each experience happened for a reason.
And today, I can honestly say that I am happier and more at peace than I have ever been.
Because I finally know who I am, and because I know that each day that I am a thinking, emotional and thoughtful woman is a gift that I value.
The following 10 pieces of advice includes well-earned wisdom that I share with my own daughters, as well as life lessons that I have learned from the many wonderful women that I have had the invaluable opportunity to know.
1. Love your Body
From near infancy to infirmary, the reality is that as women, we obsess about our bodies.
From the time we are little girls with barely budding breasts, we look at our mothers and wonder if we will also have the same large, medium or small decolletage; if we will be as petite or vastly framed, and if we will somehow fit into whatever mold we are yearning for to feel “not just okay,” but absolutely perfect and beautiful.
We compare ourselves to film stars, models and the seemingly perfect girls at school who we rate our own self-worth by. We notice other females and size them up by every inch and crevice, each compliment or genetic curse, and even become jealous if their is too little or too much crimp in their hair.
And even though we intellectually know that in the grand scheme of life, it doesn’t much matter whether we are a size four or 14, we drive ourselves mad and cannot even be happy when we are told that we are beautiful just the way we are.
“What does that mean?” we wonder. “Does that mean that there is a lot of room for improvement, for adjustments, for plastic surgery? Just the way we are?” Just the way we are obviously implies that we are in some sort of “as is” category, we challenge.
As for myself, I look back at photos of my young 11-year-old body as a ballet dancer when I actually thought I was fat. Fat? I was a prepubescent pinkly-dressed nubile child who had no curves at all, except for those that airily existed in my tutu.
But this is the curse we women have allowed ourselves to endure, whether we are seven or 107 . . . it never ends. And if there is one thing I have mastered after years of torturing myself, it is this lesson my dear ladies . . .
Love your body right now whatever state it is in, because you are truly beautiful right now, more than you will ever be.
Face it . . .
At 15, you might have wished for a boy’s body again—the good old days of androgyny
At 30, you will call yourself a fool for thinking you were chubby or fat at the age of fifteen
At 50, you’ll wonder why you weren’t in love with your female shape when you were 30 and did not saunter around in a thong in front of the UPS man. And when you are 90, you’ll wonder why at 60 you didn’t jump around constantly in a naked state!
I am fortunate that I have had strong and positive female role models both as a child and as an adult.
My mother is 79 and still flirts and dresses stylishly because she can, and looks more beautiful and youthful than I can ever remember, because of her knowing and confident smile.
My grandmother at 96 was still purchasing new bathing suits every Spring to show off her curves at the Senior Center. I once went shopping with her while she beamed and told me she was going to buy three suits because she looked “so darn pretty” in all of them.
So what’s the point?
You’re only as old or unattractive as you decide to be.
So why not decide to be a hottie and feel absolutely gorgeous at every age?
Because you can and because you are!
As for me, I must take off my robe now as I am expecting a pizza delivery.
2. Not all Men are Bad
Yes, there are a few bad apples in every bunch, but most men are not only “not bad” but even quite wonderful if you give them half or even a quarter of a chance.
And if you have female friends or family members who constantly put men down men as a whole, you can best bet that they are bitter and have joined a club you do not want to belong to. Like-minded people tend to attract the same, so if you only put forth the energy that all men are bad, than only the bad ones will apply.
Take it from me, a woman who has been through a divorce, and has experienced my share of passing up princes for frogs. Many of the so-called boring, seemingly un-committing or unsuccessful men turned out to be the best husbands and partners of other women, sigh.
Yes, the old adage that you cannot judge a book by its cover is indeed entirely true. Whether you are 14 or 114, the best chance you have of meeting Mr. Wonderful is to be simply Ms. Wonderful yourself on all fronts.
In other words, get caught up in being your Best Self and you will attract the Best of Men.
While this may seem like a foreign idea in our modern age wherein both sexes spend more time tweeting and texting as opposed to loving and learning. Men by and large are no worse or better than women for the wear, so look at them the way you might a new girlfriend.
Ask yourself questions like.
Is he polite, kind, reasonable and funny?
Can you see yourself engaged or married to his family?
Is he respectful?
Is he sane or insane?
Can he carry on an interesting conversation with different people?
Is he interested in your life, and are you interested in his?”
Can you also see being his best friend?
Take it from me, a woman who has passed by a few good men in my youth that I still pinch myself over, while wishing they were around to pinch me now.
3. Have a Sense of Humor about Yourself
If you can’t laugh at yourself, no one will ever take you seriously.
This is the great philosophy that drives the power of my now-happy life and the reason I believe that I have survived through more than a few near tragedies, largely unscathed. Realistically, the reason I believe I have such a humorous take on life is because of the hard times I have faced.
And with age, I have also gathered wisdom to know the difference between knowing when to take my life seriously, and when to simply laugh right through it. Not only will you be happier if you learn to see what is humorous about yourself and the problems you “think” are insurmountable, but you will have a deeper sense of peace and calm as well.
As a daughter of parents who lived through The Great Depression and World War II, I was raised not only to buck up, but to make a joke or two even when life seemed darkest.
In addition to the emotional benefits of humor, medical research now reflects what our parents and grandparents instinctively knew—that having a sense of humor also helps slow the anti-aging process, and makes people look more attractive as well.
The late Norman Cousins, most famous for his book Anatomy of an Illness, was at one time diagnosed with an incurable illness. After no such luck with various medical treatments, Cousins checked himself out of a hospital against the advice from doctors, went home and for one month did what he simply enjoyed doing most . . . he laughed.
He watched his favorite comedies including films by The Marx Brothers, read funny books, and miraculously, after one month, a checkup revealed that he no longer showed traces of the disease.
So have at it! Laugh those worry lines away and have fun in spite of yourself, and you will gain not only happiness and a more youthful and beautiful glow, but might even gain a healthier immune system as well.
Another plus to having a sense of humor is that you will attract people who also have a sense of humor, spreading happiness and good vibes all around!
4. Invest in Great Friendships
This is one piece of advice that I would give equally to myself as both as a young and older girl, and often!
When I look back upon the trials and tribulations that undoubtedly comes with being female, I can say without a doubt that having reliable friendships has helped get me through life. But just as importantly, both my short and long friendships has allowed me to live a happier, joyous and more peaceful life as well.
There is a saying that my aunt used to say, “Life is not just about surviving, it’s about celebrating.”
From the innocent friendships of young childhood; to the angst-filled years of adolescence with my often-crazy friends (as we are all a bit crazy then), and to the the child-bearing, child-rearing and career days of today, my female friends have always been there.
Like light-bearing and bright ships in the night, I can recall countless memories of women who have lent an ear when I most needed just to vent; sometimes cry, and sometimes just to hang out with and spend what I still affectionately call “girl time.”
My mother has always had many friends, as did my aunts, sisters and grandmothers. As a little girl, I would sit stealthily by and hang on their every word as they chatted about household troubles, husbands, dreams both fulfilled and unfulfilled, and watched how they supported one another.
And now through the magic of technology and social media, I am thankful that I have rekindled some of my old friendships from elementary and high school, college, and other friends along my seasonably-lived path of life. I have also acquired some wonderful friends I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting in person.
Whether you are a little girl or a saucy older femme fatale who lives in a retirement home, having female friends that you can learn to count on, be there for both your sure and sad periods, and just to have that girl time with is precious and priceless, as you are to them.
Take this advice from a medium-age girl who looks forward to many more friendships to come, as well as the invaluable memories that I already have.
5. Listen to your Mother and Grandmothers
Every generation of young women starts off thinking that they know much more than the previous one, and claims to have little time for lengthy, as well as short bits of advice from older women.
They think that elderly women are old fashioned, out-of-date, expired, and even somehow backwards as they repeat again and again their shared experiences of life, warnings, fears and their hard-fought lessons.
With some things, this may be true. Certainly our mothers and grandmothers did not grow up in a drug culture, in a Cyber-world of the Internet and cell-phone dependency, or with the many comforts as well as chaos-inflicted angst of our modern, fast-paced world.
But as far as the most important lessons of life, our older female counterparts can teach us all a lot, including some of the most important aspects that helps us to live life with more wisdom and a firm peace of mind.
Yes, I know that the words of older women can sometimes be annoying, but that is usually because what they say rings so true and wise in our ears.
While we all want to be big girls on our own and experience our own adventures and mistakes, listening to some of what your mom and other elderly women have to say will save you a great deal of suffering and unnecessary heartache.
Trust me, I have learned this lesson the hard way.
As much as they might appear old-fashioned or out-of touch, advice they might give you about the staples of life such as love, child-rearing, finances, cooking and even politics may surprise you with their frank wisdom and tested-and-true life lessons.
For example, my mother has always preached to me that mates should share the same values, and like each other’s families. If only I had listened to that one piece of advice, rather than shoo it away as old-fashioned, I would have saved myself from years of pain and anguish.
I am the first to admit that some of what your dear ma’ and grandma says may sound absolutely strange, as all people have their weird and off-the-wall moments, but I am sure they will have at least a few pieces of advice that will do you good!
An added plus is that your mother and grandmother will appreciate being listened to. And the next time Aunt Betty, your mom’s bossy best friend, and even your senile grandmother takes the loving time to lend some advice or even give you a piece of their mind
Listen . . .
It is free, it’s well intentioned, and it might just be the advice, knowledge and love that you were looking for.6. Be Fearless
Whether you are 15, 50, somewhere in between or much older, learning to be fearless can truly make for a Happier and a more Successful you, as both a woman and a human being.This does not mean that you have to jump off airplanes, walk on hot coals or devote your life to the Peace Corps in war-torn countries, by the way—all goals of mine.It simply means that that you should approach your life with a fearless attitude.Whether you want that great promotion, dream of a sublime Yoga Body, long for a better marriage, or plan to start your own million-dollar company, as in the wise words of President FDR, “There is nothing to fear, but fear itself.”I admit that this step is more easily said than done, but then again, all of the most worthwhile things in life are.
Another thing I will admit is that I believe a lot of the decisions I have made in my early life were based on fear:
Fear of what others may think if I did not succeed at a given task . . . Fear of not being loved . . . Fear of being found out; and the worst of all fears . . . Fear of not loving myself.
It is only through the trials and errors of living through many painful experiences that I learned that living in a state of fear was not getting me anywhere in my life. If anything, it was keeping me from being my best self.
It was a glorious epiphany!
One day I woke up and decided that if I feared something, that I must “especially” do the things I feared, and from thereon in, my life has been more fulfilling, joyous, adventurous, sometimes scarier, but always more interesting!
Some of the things that I feared and have now become fearless about include:
Writing, writing, writing every day, and knowing that it does not have to be perfect
Telling my family and friends my dreams and goals without fearing their reaction
Connecting with more positive people, rather than those who are just users or nonreciprocal
Learning to say both “No and Yes,” without becoming defensive or having to apologize
Yes, those are big fearless choices that have truly changed my life!
And you can all do the same thing . . .
Just have no fear, begin, and each day you will become the you that you were meant to be!
As Dr. Seuss said, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.“
I did not travel anywhere until recently, and now that I have, I am in love.
I used to live my life, as said above, in a state of fear. I was scared of flying on airplanes, felt guilty about leaving my kids, worried I may appear selfish, and just fearful of the unknown.
I believed that traveling the world belonged to the lives of others; the cultural elite, the adventurous, the uncommitted, the tirelessly romantic and the eternally ungrounded.
But everything changed after the end of a long marriage wherein I had devoted my life to my family. Nothing wrong with that! But I could have lived a more well-rounded life in which traveling might have even changed my perspective and even might have led to a healthier self.
Since I have begun my travels, I have had the opportunity to travel to Hawaii, Mexico, New York, Florida, Paris, Italy and trips for the coming year planned for Israel, England and maybe Jamaica.
Not bad for a girl from the very cautious side of the tracks, is it?
During my adventures in traveling, I have met so many amazing and spiritual people: fearless, free-spirited and open-minded folks who have opened my mind and heart to so much more than I would have guessed or hoped for.
Now when I look at maps, view travel commercials and films that take place in foreign lands, and read about people who saunter about the world, I am starting to understand the magic that traveling can have upon one’s life.
And it’s not that I feel a loss of not having traveled thus far, but rather, a wonderful gain as I now understand its value.
I suppose that if I had traveled as a young woman, I might have been inspired to write, love, live and act somehow differently, as there is always something to be learned.
As a mother, I now encourage my own daughters to plan trips when they are still young. Both of my daughters dream of attending college in England as they have romanticized its culture, music, saucy attitude and intellectual bend.
“Great, wonderful, spectacular!” I say.
If you are not so young, it is never to late to begin to travel, as it is never too late to begin to do anything at all, as long as you are authentically passionate about doing so.
8. Believe in Fairy Tales
When I suggest that you should “Believe in Fairy Tales,” I do not mean that you should immediately fashion your life and wishes to becoming Cinderella, Snow White or Rapunzel, and with her impossible to-take-care-of long tresses and dresses.
What I mean is to create your own tale, whatever you want it to be, and set it into motion.
It is a proven fact that if you do not design your own life, that your life will design you, and have designs upon you.
When I was a young girl, my mother read to me all of the Fairy Tales, with young and pretty fair maidens who always started off being mistreated and poor, only to find their y magical ways to kingdoms, Prince Charming and little animals who danced among beautifully flowered landscapes.
But there is another lesson to take from these fantasy-filled stories. My mother always finished them off with,
“There is nothing that you cannot have if you only want it badly enough. There is no dream too big or beyond your reach.”
As I got older, I took from all those fairy tales the best that each had to offer, and wrote in my head what I wanted my own to look like, feel like, and be like. I wanted a husband, beautiful little children and the white picket fence with two cats in the yard.
But I also wanted to work at the kingdom of my choosing, to create beautiful art, write amazing books and poems, and generally just be fulfilled and happy in whatever I did.
Now that I have had the marriage, wonderful apple-cheeked children, a home, and now writing furiously and fearlessly every day, I have written a New Fairy Tale for myself for the next chapter of my life.
And what is so wonderful about it is that I can re-edit it each day, according to how I want it to turn out. That is the power.
When the character Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz asked Glinda the Good Witch if there was a way to get back home, Glinda replied,
“Home is a place we all must find, child. It’s not just a place where you eat or sleep. Home is knowing. Knowing your mind, knowing your heart, knowing your courage. If we know ourselves, we’re always home, anywhere.”
9. Learn about Money
Even though women have always worked, either outside or inside the home, it is thoroughly surprising how many women today do not know about how money works.
This includes fighting for equal pay for equal work, saving and investing money, planning for a financially secure future, and knowing your worth.
Even many modern women who earn more than their husbands and boyfriends leave it up in the air and up to others to manage their money; perhaps the last vestiges of feeling that they are being financially supported by their men, even if they are not.
My mother always worked, but also had hidden cash stored away in coffee cans, laundry boxes and under old boxes filled with sewing supplies. She often said to me, “All woman should keep little nest eggs hidden about the house so that she can have her very own money.”
Well, we may have “seem” to have come a long way since the 1960s and The Women’s Movement, but in reality, many young and even older girls still feel a bit wimpy and overwhelmed at the prospect of simply taking charge and being out in the open when it comes to financial affairs.
As with my other dramas in my life, money was no exception, and I have greatly flailed and failed about insofar as financially throughout my life, until recently.
I have overcome my fears about managing my money by reading a lot about it as if learning a new language, which in essence is what it is like. I now write down with black ink in a notebook what I want my life to look like in terms of raw, hard numbers.
No, this is not romantic or necessarily pleasant, but it’s not supposed to be.
Heck, if Oprah Winfrey can be one of the richest women in the country after coming from nothing, than certainly I can manage my own small monetary worth as well.
Whether you are a young girl just starting out in college or a retired woman ready to take on the world, it is never too late to learn about the seemingly unknown mysteries of cash-flow and everything else that creased and green paper with the ancient men on them entails.
You will feel more empowered, free, and independent as it will free you up to manage the more important areas of your life.
10. Be Grateful
I left this for last because I believe it is the most important lesson of all.
Whether you are a three-year-old child who has learned to say “thank You” after receiving a lollipop, a 30-something single gal who has received an unexpected raise or a grandma who hears an unexpected whistle from a distinguished gentleman caller, learning how to be grateful for what you receive brings true joy to one’s life.
My maternal grandmother said to me often, “If you are not happy where you are, you aren’t going to be happy with where you’re going.”
This one saying has helped me more than I can possibly express, but I will try.
Even in the darkest of days, because of these wise words, I can remember waking up before dawn to think about what I am grateful for and thankful for in my life.
On some occasions during particularly dark days, I will be honest that it has seemed nearly impossible to think of what I was grateful for.
These times included:
Losing three people I loved deeply within one year
Feeling devastated and lost after a painful divorce
Preparing my infant daughter for open heart surgery
Hit head-on by another car and sustaining severe injuries
Learning that my best friend had stolen far more than just money from me
I am sure that you have your own list, as we all do. What is important is that I have learned how to find something to be grateful for, even if at the time it was simply that I was alive enough to feel the pain that I was having.
The joys of a fulfilling life come from knowing that one is able to face the bad with the good, and overcome anything with the right attitude and gratitude.
This morning I woke up and was thoroughly annoyed that I woke up at 4 a.m., knowing that I would not be able to fall back asleep.
But then I heard my grandmother’s sweet words whisper gently into my ear about how happiness is up to each one of us, and that I alone can pave my own way.
Just then, I thought about how I had an extra three hours to be peaceful in the sweet darkness before daylight.
I began by drinking my coffee slowly, took a long bath, wrote the last several paragraphs of this very post, watched the sun come up, and could not possibly remember how or why I might have ever been upset by the dawn’s early light.
Ahhhh, the sweetness of life and all that it has to offer in all of the days that we are so fortunate to be here and experience it.
If you are a young girl, I hope that you will understand that while you may not understand all that you have read, that you will take what I wrote from the heart, and carry my words with you in future years.
If you are a young-at-heart girl like me, drifting away from the perils of youth and towards the next adventures of a life that is worthy of you, I hope that you will fly right along with me on this astounding journey, and know full-well that I feel you in my heart.
And if you are a beautiful, wiser Fairy Tale Queen, I thank you for all that you have done for us women who swiftly walk behind you and with honor. May this post also find you well and serve your pleasantries.
****Today, Francesca Biller is a near-fearless mother, daughter, granddaughter, sister, friend, girlfriend, writer and superhero who believes that anything is possible if you only believe.
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Ed: Kate Bartolotta