“Wherever she went she seemed to take joy and brightness with her. In the cottages of the poor her fair face shown like a sunbeam…[she] was blessed with the magic power of fascination, by which a woman can charm with a word or intoxicate with a smile. Every one loved, admired, and praised her.”
-M.E. Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret
When I think about the attitude a woman should strive to have, I tend to think about the above quote. Of course, Lucy Graham isn’t exactly the best role model, but her attitude and personality in the very beginning of the novel demonstrate how a sunny disposition can so easily win people over. So, as the first point in my self-improvement series, I want to address one of the most important lessons in being feminine: being pleasant.
While health and beauty are important for attracting a partner, those things are temporary. This isn’t to say that once you’re in a long-term relationship or marriage you should stop taking care of yourself (you shouldn’t! It’s incredibly unfair to your partner!), but as you grow old, you won’t be able to rely on what’s on the outside to get you through the bumps in life and in your marriage. Your personality and attitude are the foundations on which the rest of your self-improvement are built, and so are the perfect starting point in improving yourself.
Today, women are taught that loud, brash, aggressive behavior is the way to get male attention and to get ahead in life. We’re taught that in order to succeed, you have to be a b***h, which leads many young women oscillating between trying to come across as sweet, and feminine (or helpless) and lashing out in verbal or physical attacks when they don’t get what they want (or worse trying to ruin others’ lives over minor disagreements or rejections). Selfishness and entitlement are rewarded–but only up to a point. Young women with little to no self-control, respect or care for others, or heed for the future tend to fall into four camps once they hit “the wall” and find out they want a husband: bitter, lonely old cat ladies, unhappily married to a man they don’t respect and/or love, single mothers with no stable relationship possibilities, or dead. Those “loud and proud” dog moms you see on social media are lying to you and themselves. There is no happiness in a future settled for rather than worked for.
But, you can start today to become a better person for a better future, just by making an effort to be a nicer, more pleasant person to be around. Being feminine and pleasant earns much more attention from good, masculine men than being aggressive and dour. A truly feminine woman radiates happiness and light to those around her, and so can you by:
- Stopping your complaining and nagging. One of the worst qualities a person can have is finding fault in everything and everyone. Constantly picking apart your environment and the people around you turns people off and makes them want to avoid you. Over the next few days, do your best to notice when you complain and make a note of it in your phone or in a journal. Then, try to see how many days (or hours for those of you for whom complaining is a serious habit) you can go without making a complaint. For those of you in a relationship, take note of whenever you complain to or about your boyfriend or husband, or when you nag him about doing (or not doing) something. Then, see how long you go without nagging him or complaining to or about him.
- Smiling through troubles and working hard to find silver linings. If something doesn’t go your way, don’t pout, sulk, or throw a tantrum. Take a deep breath, remain calm, and try to find a way to spin it into something positive. Or, laugh it out! Don’t take yourself too seriously to laugh if you get caught in the rain and soaked (admit it, you probably look funny), try to make the best of it if you break down (look at it as an adventure if you’re somewhere safe and just playing the waiting game), or take having a lot on your plate as a challenge to prove yourself and be proud of yourself once you complete everything you need to do.
- Working on being unselfish. It’s easy to get caught up in what I want, what I feel, what I need and ignore other people’s wants and needs. In fact, its encouraged for us to think this way. But, the world would be a better place if people thought even a little about what others might need in the moment. This doesn’t come naturally to everyone, so taking time out of your day to get out of your head for a bit, and trying to do something nice for someone else (random acts of kindness are always appreciated!). You can also take a day (or a morning/afternoon) each month to volunteer. Spending most of or a whole day doing something for others is definitely a way to get yourself out there and forget about your own wants for a while.
- Working on being happy if you’re not. Smile at yourself in the mirror in the morning, work on improving yourself and your life, and look for little things to be thankful for and to appreciate during the day. Happiness comes not from what you have but from your outlook and from being happy with yourself and your life. Exercise, draw, paint, read, play an instrument, whatever gets you out of a rut and away from Netflix binges or a bottle of wine before passing out at night or on the weekend. (Disclaimer: I’m not talking about depression. If you believe you may be clinically depressed, please talk to a professional.)
Being pleasant can easily change how other people see and treat you. A girl who isn’t that conventionally pretty but is feminine and sweet easily wins out over a girl who is hot but terrible to be around for extended periods of time. And, in the end, when both are old and nearing the ends of their lives, which girl is more likely to be happy with how her life went? Spoiler alert: it’s the first girl.