We, A Manifesto for Women Everywhere by Gillian Anderson and Jennifer Nadel
Actor Gillian Anderson and writer-activist Jennifer Nadel, longtime friends, collaborated on this step-by-step guide designed to help women create better lives. Starting with a foundation of gratitude, meditation and self-care, they outline nine principles for daily living. The first four address issues within yourself, including being honest and accepting life as it is. The last five address being in the world with humility, peace, love, joy and kindness,which they define as “love in action.” Anderson and Nadel offer exercises in each ideal to help you connect with yourself. Women seeking ways to move beyond societal – or self-imposed – stereotypes will find an open door and a clear path.
- Reconnect to yourself to build your strength and to strengthen other women.
- You need four fundamentals to begin the path of self-discovery: be grateful, be gentle, be responsible for yourself and meditate.
- Four principles can help you remove the emotional scar tissue that impedes your growth: “honesty, acceptance, courage and trust.
- The principles of “humility, peace and love” help you forgive, be more centered and connect to others.
- The principles of “joy and kindness” allow you to access and share your spirituality.
- Apply the WE spiritual precepts to yourself and the world.
We Book Summary
Reconnect to yourself to build your strength and to strengthen other women.
You can lose touch with who you are. The me-culture ideals of material wealth, success and competition can corrupt your self-esteem. Reorient your life by adopting an approach that melds your spiritual, political and psychological self and benefits not only you, but also women around the world.
“WE is…a female-led revolution: a quiet, peaceful about-face that doesnt require the consent of those in power.”
Envision bolstering and emboldening yourself and other women without judgment to heal wounds and foster compassion. To reconnect with yourself, apply the following nine principles.
You need four fundamentals to begin the path of self-discovery: be grateful, be gentle, be responsible for yourself and meditate.
Gratitude shines a light that allows you to see your life anew. Acknowledging what you are grateful for changes your perspective, how you think and how you interact with other people. Gratitude focuses your thoughts on the real, positive aspects of your life.
You may think the voice in your head criticizing some plan or problem-solving idea is pragmatic, but more likely it springs from trepidation and self-doubt. Recognize and change your thoughts when you’re being unkind to yourself. Taking responsibility includes nurturing your physical, mental and emotional well-being. You may not see your physical body in a positive light. People spend billions of dollars in the erroneous belief that their lives will improve if they alter their appearance.
“We can think we’re trying to solve a problem…usually were digging ourselves deeper…into a painful mental rut.”
Become your own friend by performing one self-nurturing act each week. Consider your body and how it serves you as you walk, breathe and live. Take two minutes daily to sit quietly alone in silence and observe, rather than dwell on, any thoughts that arise. Even this short respite provides a refuge from daily concerns. If you perform this ritual daily, your mind and body will grow accustomed to being calm.
Four principles can help you remove the emotional scar tissue that impedes your growth: “honesty, acceptance, courage and trust.”
Use the four principles of being honest with yourself, accepting what you can’t change, having the courage to rewrite false stories, and choosing trust over fear to cement your connection with yourself. You probably lie to yourself consistently. This can be as simple as saying you’re okay, when you’re not, or as complex as molding yourself into a socially defined ideal woman. People create sub-personalities to protect themselves. Acknowledge those personas, thank them and let them go.
The principle of honesty includes unveiling truths about what you enjoy and what makes you happy. Identify even rustlings of emotion that connect to an activity or aspect of your life that you find uplifting. Think of this as being “an archeologist in your own life.”
When you find a truth about yourself, notice and name it. Writing down what you’ve excavated helps keep it from slipping away. This applies to negative and positive discoveries. Celebrate who you are instead of cowering behind social or parental messages you may have internalized. Learn to identify what you can’t change, and accept it. This doesn’t mean being passive in the face of something you dislike. You can’t change reality, but you can change your actions to give yourself peace, and improve your behavior and emotions.
Many women experience mentally generated apparent pain that derives from past incidents. This is the opposite of genuine pain you might feel – for example, regarding the death of a friend – and it is part of being human. Experiencing actual pain leads to growth and emotional strength. Accept the reality of a situation, and acknowledge where you may lack control over it. Otherwise, denial can cause you to rerun difficult episodes in your mind, generating dream alternatives.
To identify what you need to accept, write down the issues that bother you, no matter how petty. Ask if you can do anything about each situation. If you can’t affect a particular issue, write an A next to it and put the paper in a container. If you can change some bothersome circumstance, write what you need to do on a separate page. As you review your acceptance list, feel the freedom of acknowledging that you’re not in control of this issue. This will feel like releasing your end of a rope in a tug of war. The rope falls to the ground, and you are still whole.
Learning to accept reality requires the courage to free yourself from tales you retell yourself, whether they are true or not. Often, these tales overlap, making you feel like a victim instead of a heroine in your life.
“Your story is not who you are, but it is often who you think you are.”
You have repeated inaccurate internal stories your entire life, so hold an intervention with yourself. Choose one story. Write it down repeatedly until any emotional jolt of pain is gone. Find the crux of the story, and write an affirmation to counter it. If the crux suggests, for example, that you’re not lovable, write a sentence stating that you are.
Courage calls for feeling, expressing and releasing anger productively. Many women have problems with anger. Expressing anger may not be socially acceptable, and could draw derisive comments from men. Do not let that deter you. Use the process of seeing and naming something to understand when you are angry, identifying the source and releasing it. Discharge the feeling physically by hitting a pillow or by writing the story down. Failing to express your anger can make you more likely to react strongly to smaller issues.
You need courage to let go of resentment. Holding on to it can poison you emotionally. Write a short description of the incident you resent, and how you participated in it or why you’ve held on to it – particularly if you were a child when it happened. Write about how you wish it had been different, and let go of the emotions that arise. Recognize any sorrow while telling yourself, “This is how it is.”
Trust allows you to live freely. You can decide not to give away control to its opposite forces, fear and anxiety. Fear can erode your sense of self and enlarge the importance of other people’s opinions. Two mnemonics illustrate the difference. “FEAR” is “false evidence appearing real,” while “TRUST” tells you “to rely upon spiritual truth.” When you decide to trust, you are embracing the belief that love is stronger than fear.
For a week, assume that things will work out for the best, and you’ll find yourself taking more risks. You’re likely to feel heightened resilience and zest for life. When you’re fearful, you may avoid your emotions. Don’t concentrate on could have beens. Instead, tell yourself that no matter what outcome unfolds, you can handle it.
The principles of “humility, peace and love” help you forgive, be more centered and connect to others.
People’s egos often control their thoughts. Comparing yourself to others or becoming self-critical affects you negatively. When you have a negative thought about yourself or someone else, remember that you can choose serenity over any anger you feel.
Humility balances ego. Instead of being better or less than someone else, or not doing what your ego thinks you should be doing, humility lets you realize you are great as you are. It allows you to be present instead of trapped in recounting a past injury, and it provides an opening to forgive yourself and others. Like acceptance, forgiveness means that you choose to let go of emotions that curtail you. Peace builds on humility to enable you to go beyond your thoughts to a place of spiritual healing. Meditation, a way to be at peace, can be secular or religious. Connect with yourself calmly to create a protective zone to deflect problems when they arise.
“Like gratitude…the more loving you are, the more loved and loving you feel.”
Serenity helps you realize how to define things as good or not. Moving through your day, take time to breathe calmly when you have a strong reaction to something or someone. Love binds you to yourself, your family and all humankind. This love is not a romantic ideal that you center on an individual. By acting with love, you access an endless supply of warmth within yourself. Your childhood and family define your attitude toward love and how you understand it. Don’t expect someone else to heal you. Connect with the child inside you and listen to what she says. Love exists everywhere, and you can experience it if you act lovingly. When in doubt, ask yourself how love would act.
The principles of “joy and kindness” allow you to access and share your spirituality.
Joy helps you care for your spirit or soul. When you’re tired or experiencing stress, joy will replenish you. Enjoying life isn’t indulgent – it’s necessary. Cultivate joy when you’re being creative or spending time in nature. If you access a feeling of wonder, you generate joy. Make room for joy in your daily life. Write down activities that give you joy and when you last did them. Find time to do them again. If dancing brings you joy, take 30 minutes to dance in your house.When you feel restless or dissatisfied, take it as a signal that you need to connect with joy.
Kindness provides connection to others in your life. Write down an account of your most significant experiences. Which of these do you still make time for in the present? Keeping this list in mind will subtly change what you prioritize.Use kindness as part of your evaluation when you make decisions that reflect your values and beliefs. This might change where you bank or shop, or with whom you work. For a week, write down when you do something that doesn’t reflect your true morals. You can truly be kind only when you care for yourself. Otherwise, even kindness can become co-dependence, an ego boost or an effort to please others.
“Kindness allows love to flow…so that we become channels for a greater purpose than our own limited wants and needs.”
Consciously practice kindness to find ways to influence change in your personal sphere and the larger world. If people around the world followed WE’s spiritual concepts, seeking fairness instead of following the desire to have more, how different might the world be? While living often involves suffering, people working in unison can eliminate a lot of pain.
Apply the WE spiritual precepts to yourself and the world.
As you apply these principles to your life, imagine what would happen if the world did the same. The global obsession with the “me” culture elevates individual material possessions and wealth far above group welfare. Affluent nations fight increasing obesity as 800 million people worldwide go hungry. In the United States, more than 48 million people live in food-insecure families. Extrapolated globally, individual human efforts to achieve a secure, equitable community have resulted in conflict and vast migrations.
“Were no longer prepared to tolerate…that others are suffering due to problems that have solutions.”
Women face additional challenges. The United States has more CEOs named “John” than female CEOs. If caregivers in the United Kingdom earned salaries, their total take would be £119 billion, dwarfing the defense budget. The United States, Oman and New Guinea are the only three countries that don’t provide nationalized paid parental leave. Instead of requesting equality within governments and corporations that don’t account for human needs, create systems that rest on a foundation of fairness, regardless of your beliefs, gender or nationality. If all people accepted kindness as their guiding value, the world’s priorities would change for the better.
About the Authors
The X-Files actor Gillian Anderson is an activist. Writer-activist Jennifer Nadel’s book on domestic violence, Sara Thornton: The Story of a Woman Who Killed, became a BBC movie.