#1000speak, 90210, compassion, Scandal, self-compassion, self-love
Once a month the 1000 Speak for Compassion blogging movement aims to flood the Internet with good by posting about compassion.
This month, posts are focusing on love.
I’d been thinking through possible topics while binge-watching Scandal on Netflix, when THIS scene from Season 4 happened:
Here Olivia, who both the married President of the USA and the somewhat less complicated hotty who heads the Super Secret Spy Agency (who she’s dancing with in the video) are in love with, declares that she ISN’T going to choose between these two men.
Despite, at various times up until this moment, having demonstrated she loves both. Despite possibly being happy with either. Despite knowing either would be there for her if she just steps up and DECIDES.
She channels Kelly Taylor from Beverly Hills 90210, and in a grand profession of self-love ….
The part I found most surprising?
First? Incredulity and laughter:
Oh, come on!
I yelled at the screen.
She might as well have told us she likes scary movies. Or given up her virginity prior to asking “what’s that noise?” and wandering off into the dark alone to find out!
There’s no way this is ending well!
Next? A bit more reflection on why I felt that way.
On face value, it’s a wonderfully affirming and empowering statement.
Let’s watch the original, shall we?
It was 1995 and Season 5 of Beverly Hills 90210, so that would put the cast in college. Jennie Garth’s character, Kelly Taylor must choose between the two main heart-throbs of the show: Jason Priestley’s Brandon had proposed marriage, prompting Luke Perry’s Dylan to confess his feelings and ask her to leave with him on a trip around the world.
She chooses herself.
And young women around the world cheered.
We shouldn’t be boxed into a corner and forced to choose if we aren’t ready.
We should be ourselves, find ourselves, define ourselves, be true to ourselves – and so we shouldn’t settle for anything that might make us less uniquely us, stunt our growth, or take away from the possibility of achieving all our dreams.
In 1995 I was 18. I then spent my early twenties in clubs dancing to TLC’s No Scrubs and Destiny Child’s Independent Women.
Compromise for the sake of a relationship? Why?
Which brings me to watching Olivia 20 years later.
I still believe it is important and in no way selfish to love yourself and make sure the choices you make in life reflect and nurture your needs.
But that’s not what was going on here.
Kelly’s statement for a young college student still figuring out who she is and what she wants to be?
I can give a nod of approval to that level of self-awareness and the courage it took to (at least in that moment) stand by those words and walk away from both of them.
Olivia’s statement as a woman who has had at least a decade of adult living to find herself as well as three seasons with both Jake and Fitz to figure out which – if either – she wants?
This felt like failure to launch and pandering to the female audience by selling them the fiction that Mr. Right will just wait out there forever for you so you are free to be as self-centred as you like.
Her statement was also different in that she doesn’t free both men by telling them she chooses neither. She instead, rather cruelly, tells Jake that she wants Fitz, but also him, thus not letting any of them move on.
Olivia’s “choosing herself” isn’t about self-love.
It’s about not wanting to choose.
Perhaps desperately hoping “fate” will somehow intervene and decide for her in a way that will enable her to live happily ever after without hurting anyone’s feelings.
There’s nothing self-loving nor loving of anyone else about that.
That’s just plain old fear.
Which brings me back to me, 20-years out from cheering Kelly Taylor’s “I choose me” moment, discarding Olivia’s.
Because if Olivia’s moment is what “choosing me” is now about?
I don’t choose me.
In fact, my life – functionally – involves hundreds of moments where I don’t choose me.
Each time I watch the kids while my husband’s shift finishes, knowing that not being able to work late impacts my advancement, I choose my husband and our marriage over my individual needs.
Each time I struggle through homework with my eldest, or watch a Barbie movie, or read one last story at bedtime when I’m exhausted, or bake, or organize a birthday party at Cosmic Adventures, or wait online for hours to register my kids for courses, I choose them.
The fact that I’m not a director, that I shop at Wal-Mart, that we don’t have a garage, that I don’t get to travel as much as I’d like? All because I choose my family over myself individually.
But I CHOSE that.
Not those moments individually, but the whole package.
Because that package also got me a husband I’ve loved for over 12-years who GETS me and who equally raises our kids and gives me the space I need when I need it, a job I find rewarding, and two daughters I can’t imagine life without.
Which brings me to TRUE self-love, which is based on honestly knowing yourself, what you really want in life, what you need to be happy, and then going in eyes open and figuring out your best bet for getting it.
And when you find it? Whatever IT is. CHOOSE. And invest.
Because, when I step back and look at my big picture? All those many moments of not choosing me, are exactly how I get to be where I choose to be.
What about you? What are your thoughts on self-love and “choosing yourself”.
Be sure to read the other posts from this month’s link up here.
Great post! I am with you on this one. I think most wives and mothers tend to choose others before themselves. I believe it’s a natural instinct for most women.
I choose my family and their needs over mine every day because I CHOOSE to. My family will always be my first priority and although my career and my own self improvement & awareness is important to me, I will always choose my children’s needs over mine. I also, thankfully, have a dear husband who supports me in every way & parents equally. In fact, without him, I would be lost. I wouldn’t have the benefit of making that choice.
So I do find myself at this stage in life asking how important is my career & my advancement within my industry? Do I want to continue stressing through the politics of it all & trying to continue managing to keep my family #1. What does it mean to make a choice like that one? It’s a bit more complicated than choosing between men I think, but it’s comforting to read your post & know I am not alone in not fully choosing me right now & that’s totally okay with me.
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Thank you so much for sharing so many of your thoughts here. It sounds like we struggle with a lot of the same issues as far as figuring out what really matters as far as work/professional fulfillment vs. family. I think I’m getting closer to what that choice looks like for me, but it’s certainly a continual work in progress and it’s HARD to re-evaluate things that I thought I knew I wanted.
As far as choosing between men, I was thinking of that more as an example here – I think the decision (or lack of decision) there can also transfer to other big decisions – ie: work or stay home, this job or that one, live here or there, high power career or also pursuing a family, solely focusing on family etc… knowing when to make a choice rather than to “just keep on doing what you are doing” is both hard and scary – and so I feel for Olivia (to bring it back to my fictional example) but I think in order to get what you want – so to really love yourself and invest in what you want we need to look for those moments and try to recognize them when they are happening.
Thanks so much for your comment.
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I was only eleven in 1995 and was just newly into 90210 at the time, but that is a classic episode. When she finds the ring in the roller skate…I love travel, but I also loved Brandon, so tough choice.
Was it a roller skate? I’d forgotten the details, but that SOUNDS right! As for Team Brandon or Dylan – I’m for Brandon 🙂
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This is a fascinating perspective, Louise. I really like it. I don’t know either of the shows you referenced, but I get it, and I can see the juxtaposition. I fear that I’m more in Olivia’s position than anything else right now, and choosing me is a bit selfish, but at the same time you’re right – I need to figure out what *I* want, and I only know some of that.
I *thought* I knew what I wanted, but the reality was so different and so not good for me…
Thank you for this post.
Hi Lizzi! I don’t actually see you as being in Olivia’s position at all because I don’t think you wouldn’t choose in that position – rather you’d have the compassion for everyone involved (including you) to figure out a way forward.
Also – taking the time to honestly decide what you want isn’t selfish – and again, I think, different from simply NOT deciding and somehow hoping things are going to work out anyway.
Realizing what you thought you wanted isn’t what you wanted is a game changer – and being able to both recognize that and figure out what to do to change the situation – that’s huge. Changing your situation once you have honestly invested and tried to make it work because you’ve realized it doesn’t and cannot work is brave.
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Okay, that’s true, I would hope to have compassion for everyone involved, yet have discovered lately that I’m not as ethical as I always thought I was. Which is a difficult place and also one I don’t care to change at the moment.
But thank you – I appreciate you thinking me good, and on the whole the path you describe is the one I’d aim for.
Yes. I need to take time to decide what I want. I will do that.
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