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I can't believe that I'm even writing this down, never mind actually going to send it to a real person. But it's 1 am and I'm 41 and it seems like I'm never going to make any progress with this issue. Nor the women friends I discuss it with, all of who are similarly stuck. OK, here goes.

I am very smart, very energetic, highly motivated and seem able to get absolutely nowhere near success. I studied engineering but let myself be intimidated out of the program. I nearly got a degree in public policy but quit at the last minute despite having done some very good work (via the work study program) lobbying for both Aids Service Organizations (VT) and people with disabilities (MA). I've cooked professionally, but never anywhere that would allow me to do or be anything special. I've written reams of poems, stories and essays, many of which I have been encouraged, by various people, to submit for publication.

I have not done so. WHY? I'm not the only woman I know who seems unable to ... let their light shine. There is a LOT of us. How come? Why can't I imagine myself being a successful legislator, or writer, or chef, or accountant or anything else that smacks of professionalism, fame, or success? Why can't my immensely smart friend who is studying biology even begin to believe that she will ever be able to get any kind of a job in the field? I am stonewalled. WE are stonewalled. And at 41 I'm sick of digging around in my psyche trying to find the answer. I know it isn't just me personally. Most of the women I know are in the same boat. So what's with us????



As you know -- sadly, you are not alone. I think that this is the precise reason that men traditionally succeed in greater numbers -- not because they are more qualified, but they are more willing to try or follow through. In a similar way, part of the reason there is a great pay disparity between men and women is because men ask and women don't -- so that, too, comes down to not necessarily thinking we are worthy. However, in this instance, I put some onus on the employer for recognizing these injustices and some how working to diminish them.

As for your situation -- have you read Gloria Steinem's book -- Revolution From Within? I have heard from many people who have found themselves in situations similar to yours that this helps to sort things out. And she directly links this to a sexist culture or to politics that allow certain things to be valued over others. I think that the solution lies in not only recognizing this, but committing to confronting it and trying the thing that seems most difficult. For instance, a friend and I are starting a business and I have said repeatedly that "I can't/we can't" -- but we won't know until we try. Doing things in partnership helps to surmount the seemingly insurmountable. I hope that helps -- take care.

-- Amy


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