The messages we receive have a great impact on our lives and performance.
They influence us on the conscious level of our mind and the subconscious level as well. As women firefighters, it pays to ask, “What messages are we receiving”overtly or subliminally?
Men grow up receiving certain messages from the time they are little boys. Messages which make it clear that to be a man means to be brave, to be strong, to protect others, and to fight. They are told it is their nature to be this way, and they are expected to embody their nature. Whether they do or not is the issue of their own lives.
Women receive messages from the time we are little girls that tell us we are delicate, emotional, and in need of protection. We are the one’s usually being rescued and not the one’s doing the rescuing. Of course, these images of womanhood are changing, but when I was growing up, that change was just gathering steam. The Sarah Connor’s of the world were the exception. Even today, almost every weekly crime shows has a woman as it’s victim, either of rape or murder. The message is: men are the predators, women the prey. Men are the rescuers, women the victim. Men are strong, women are vulnerable.
The messages are changing, but have they done so fast enough to keep up with our careers? How many people in your life or on your department believe it is unnatural for women to be fighting fire? To me, that is the equivalent of a female Olympic athlete whose friends, family, team mates, or coaches don’t really think she belongs in the Olympics. Can you imagine how well gymnast, McKayla Maroney, would perform if she was surrounded by people like this in her life? Yet, we, as women firefighters are surrounded by these people, many whom we love dearly. We cannot move to an elite controlled training environment where only those one hundred percent dedicated to our success surround us. We must navigate and perform in a world where many people think we don’t belong.
Pay attention to the messages you receive and evaluate them on a conscious level.
Don’t let them pass unnoticed to work upon your subconscious. We cannot tune them all out and maybe we shouldn’t, but awareness is the tool that will teach us discernment. With awareness and discernment we can filter out the messages which make us weaker and focus on the messages that make us stronger. We can consciously decide what input will act upon our consciousness and shape our self-image. Fire fighting often feels like an Olympic sport. So, like an Olympic athlete, let us be proactive when it comes to shielding and developing our mental outlook and strength. Control the narrative. We will decide who we are and what we can do. We will define ourselves!