TIME Careers & Workplace

3 Things Women Leaders Say About Work-Life Balance

Ivanka Trump at the Valentino Sala Bianca 945 Event on Dec. 10, 2014 in New York City.
Ivanka Trump at the Valentino Sala Bianca 945 Event on Dec. 10, 2014 in New York City. Dimitrios Kambouris—Getty Images

Smart takeaways from Ivanka Trump, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and others

Last Thursday, Jennifer Szalai of The New York Times explored the origins of the phrase “having it all.” She traced much of it back to a 1982 book by Helen Gurley Brown titled Having It All: Love, Success, Sex, Money . . . Even if You’re Starting With Nothing. Since then, the phrase persistently comes up in discussions revolving around the pressures women face in their careers as well as at home.

I tend to shy away from asking female leaders what they think about “having it all,” yet I find it is brought up naturally in interviews. Perhaps this means that the phrase is not devoid of meaning as I sometimes feel, but is just evolving alongside work/life dynamics.

Here are three of my favorite takeaways from interviews with female leaders on the topic:

1. You can have it all, but not at the same time.

I heard from execs as diverse as Trump Organization EVP Ivanka Trump and Dee Dee Myers, the former White House press secretary who is now the head of corporate communication for Warner Bros, that it’s a losing battle to think that you can have it all in every moment of the day. There will be periods where work will be the top priority and other periods where children will come into sharp focus, they say. Yet women can have it all throughout the course of their lives.

2. What exactly are we ‘having’?

My favorite interview on this topic last year is when Senator Kirsten Gillibrand told TIME’s Nancy Gibbs why she hates the phrase. “I think it’s insulting,” she said “What are you ‘having?’ A party? Another slice of pie?” Gillibrand’s remark gets at one big point: Having it all means entirely different things to different women.

3. Having it all may be overrated.

And on that note, it could be entirely possible that removing yourself from the pressures of having it all could be the best thing to happen to some women. “The choice not to have it all, far from being defeatist, is extremely liberating,” Melanie Healey, Procter & Gamble’s group president for North America, told Fortune’s Jennifer Reingold after announcing that she was retiring. “Slugging through a decade of work but losing touch with your family and friends or with your community creates its own sense of failure.”

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME relationships

Why Your Self-Esteem Matters More Than a Compliment

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A lot of women are guilty of fishing for compliments or looking to partners for praise

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

One of my recent guilty pleasures is this dating show where the participants meet, naked, on an island, and try to find love. In one episode of Dating Naked, a female contestant seemed to be hitching her self esteem to the compliments of the naked meathead with whom she was riding horses. “He told me I was beautiful, so that made me beautiful…” she said.

I wanted to throw a pillow at my television screen and yell, “NO! You’re beautiful, period!” The premise of the show is pretty ridiculous in and of itself, but what I found even more outrageous was this woman’s inability to feel beautiful without her guy’s assessment.

And yet, a lot of women are guilty of fishing for compliments or looking to partners for praise. I’m certainly not exempt from this. The fact is, it’s not easy to only look within ourselves to affirm our beauty. I often talk about how confidence is complicated. I know from experience that being confident is a journey, not a destination, and I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a tough road. While I try to be self-assured and poised, others’ opinions (men’s especially), have had an impact on how I feel about myself and my appearance.

(MORE: This Is How We Should Be Talking About Beauty)

My dad raised me to believe that I’m beautiful, inside and out — and I’m grateful for that. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay in that protective bubble forever. Growing up, if someone I was crushing on didn’t feel similarly about me, I questioned my attractiveness. But, if a boy asked me to a dance, I could feel my self-esteem sky-rocket. In college, when I was single, I wondered if it had something to do with how I looked. But, when I started dating a guy who told me I was beautiful, well, then it was easy to believe I was.

Eventually, I began to realize: I was doing myself a disservice by allowing the men I dated to determine how I felt about myself. I mean, they call it self esteem for a reason, you know? Wanting to get off this exhausting roller coaster (feeling good about myself one month, lousy the next) I decided to return to what my father had taught me so many years ago: I’m beautiful — period.

(MORE: The Dress That Made Me Like My Body)

The thing is, I can appreciate the boost I feel when a man compliments my appearance, but it’s far more important that I feel good about myself regardless. I don’t want my positive self-image to be defined by the way a man sees me. I was able to put this idea to the test about a month ago when I decided to take out my hair extensions and rock my short, natural hair (you can watch that process if you’re interested). As I went from hair that fell down my back to a short cut that hits just below my ears, I knew I loved it.

But, although I felt gorgeous and had a spring in my step when I walked out of the salon, I worried that if my boyfriend didn’t like it, my bright mood would dampen. More than that: I knew that I wanted him to be attracted to me with my new ‘do. Still, I also told myself that what mattered most was how I felt about it. And, I meant it. The minute my man saw me, though, I could tell by the look on his face that he loved it. That took me from cloud nine to cloud 10.

And, it hit me: When our partners make us feel beautiful, it’s not a bad thing — as long as we also feel beautiful on our own. It’s kind of like that pair of jeans that makes your ass look amazing. Those jeans aren’t magic, but they might just have the power to make you feel hotter than you already know you are.

(MORE: Body Image: The War Nobody Wins)

TIME women

I Am Taking Up Running Again — At 250 Pounds

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What is different about the attempt this time is that I can see my excuses and fears very clearly

xojane

In my dreams, I run without my feet touching the ground.

I’m not quoting a bad motivational poster, that is really how I get around in my dreams — legs churning, hoping no one will notice that I’m sort of levitating.

In reality, it takes a lot of force to shift my inertia from a body at rest to a body in motion. At 250 pounds, I require even more force to get moving than a typical runner. The “typical” runner I imagine is rock-hard and glistening, a lunch-hour runner who makes mortals wonder what breed of insanity motivates her.

I, however, probably make mortals wonder how this body manages to move at a jogging pace at all.

While the need for physical energy to become a runner may be obvious, I require a great deal of mental energy, too. Each day is a battle with my own mind’s powerful attempts to keep me stationary and hidden inside the house. The excuses begin to flow: Is it too hot today? Or maybe it’s going to rain? What if I get a headache? Maybe I will collapse in the street.

In the past, these excuses limited my route to the streets in the direct vicinity of my front yard. I comforted myself by thinking if I had a physical or medical (or emotional) emergency, I would at least be close to home.

Before now, these three fears often kept me from firing my jets:

  1. Fear of judgment: What must people think when they see someone like me bouncing down the sidewalk? Now I just answer, “What people? And who cares?” If anyone is paying attention to me and has mean energy to burn, it can hardly negate the boost I feel from jogging on a nice day with my happy baby rolling along in her stroller ahead of me. (Also, so far, no one has actually said anything mean to me.)
  2. Fear of failure: Running is something I’ve always wanted to be good at, but what if I never am? To fight this fear, I have to define what it means to be good at running. I used to want to be fast. Now I just want to be fast enough. I want to be fast enough to keep up with my (fairly slow) husband. I want to be fast enough to stay in the race, even if I’m dead last.
  3. Fear of pain: What if I end up miles away from home and some part of me really hurts, but I have to retrace those miles to get back? When my confidence to complete a certain distance is low, I have even circled the same few blocks around my house over and over so I could get back quickly in the event of an injury. I don’t know what injury I expected to occur as I shuffled at a near walking pace. The fact is running has never hurt me except for a few headaches due to heat and poor hydration.

As an aspiring runner, I face many more mental challenges than physical ones. Now that I don’t care about speed, and I don’t worry so much about potential injury, I have only one physical challenge to conquer. No, it’s not my weight! My personal challenge is to run farther, longer, and more often, building by tiny increments at a time.

I just started running again in September, as a 39th birthday gift to myself. When I say I started running “again,” you might imagine I was once one of those taut athletic types, and that I’ve only recently found myself in this overweight condition. Not so! I’ve been about this size for at least a decade, and I’ve “started” running at least a handful of times. At my best, I completed a relay half marathon with my husband. At my worst, I dropped out at mile 6 of a half marathon because I was too slow, and they were closing the course behind me. Or you might say the worst moments in my running life were the times I wanted to do it but didn’t have the courage.

I started this time with a fresh short-term goal — to run an entire 5k in March 2015 without walking.

Training Day 1: I insist that my husband run with me to boost my confidence when I try to bail, to help me feel less conspicuous as a very non-runner-looking person, and to distract me as I huff through a minute of running, followed by four minutes of walking.

Day 3: I repeat the one minute running/four minutes walking intervals without my husband-coach. I do, however, rely on my daughter in the jogging stroller to deflect attention from me. I assume people must think I gained a ton of weight while I was pregnant, and now I’m trying to work it off. The truth is I gained only 12 pounds when I was pregnant, and I lost every ounce during birth.

Day 10: OK, I can run two minutes, but can I run another two minutes after catching my breath for four minutes? And then do it again? Turns out I can. I want to say, “Suck it!” to my doubters, a.k.a. myself.

Day 15: Run three minutes, walk three minutes, then run three minutes again? And repeat the whole sequence for a total of 30 minutes? Thank God for riveting podcasts, counting breaths, just getting to the next driveway, the next corner, the next three minutes of walking.

Day 70: After weeks of viruses, travel, cold weather, flat stroller tires, I’m still at the three-minute interval stage. It’s a pace I’ve become submissive to, as the old confidence demon tells me I probably couldn’t last four or more minutes. Each time I stretch the running interval and shorten the walking interval, I drag along that demon. Once I achieve a new goal, I question whether I can repeat it the next day. The only way I can fight my demon is to keep going out and proving him wrong.

What has changed with this most recent attempt at becoming a runner? Not my body — it looks about the same as always, though it does feel stronger and more capable. The difference is that this time I can see my excuses and fears very clearly. Because I recognize them when they try to block my way out the door, it’s easier to slip by them than it was in the past. I used to think they were solid, immovable walls, but now they are paper-thin.

In November the San Antonio Rock ’N’ Roll Marathon and Half-Marathon course passed within a few blocks of my house. We walked over with the baby to watch the runners and walkers at Mile 6, the same point where this race defeated me five years ago. All I could think about this time was signing up again next year.

Anna Lee Beyer is a writer in Texas. This article originally appeared on xoJane.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME women

I’m Done With Self-Loathing New Year’s Resolutions

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A resolution about accepting my body was way healthier for me than starting another new diet

xojane

Can I ask a really simple question? Do you know anyone who actually makes a New Year’s resolution and keeps it? I’m not even kidding. If I look back over all the years of my life, I’ve probably been choosing to be resolute about one thing or another for 25 plus years. And, honestly until three years ago I can’t remember succeeding — LIKE EVER. Sometimes I barely even made it to January. (There are probably some of you who are already thinking that I just lack willpower and that’s your prerogative, but I think it’s more than that.)

Consider the resolution to stop smoking. I smoked on and off in high school and college. Eventually I quit, but clearly there were years where I would walk around talking about how smoking was going to end on the first of January. I meant it. I hated that I smoked, even though I enjoyed the act of smoking.

On New Year’s Eve I would head out to one party or another, committed to tossing my cigarettes immediately following the clamor of midnight noisemakers. I’d be with friends; we’d dance and toast and gulp champagne — the clock would strike twelve and there’d be singing, joy and by 12:30 a.m., smoking. Who has the will power to stop smoking when you’re already drunk? I can’t vouch for you but my intoxicated self is really good at rationalizing and justifying bad ideas. So, when you’re addicted to smoking, ditching your cigarettes in the middle of a raucous drunken party is just stupid — it’s a set up for failure.

Basically, most New Year’s resolutions suck. I would argue that at least 90% of my resolutions were about changing a bodily habit in some drastic way – quit smoking, cut calories, exercise more, drink less, fast one day a week. I would also argue that 90% percent of everyone else is making similar resolutions. (Do me a favor, don’t quote that statistic because I made it up. However, the internet told me that only 8% of people are succeeding at New Year’s resolutions, so if you decided I lack willpower, it’s most likely you do too.)

The most popular resolution is to lose weight, and I think I have at least 20 years of failing at diet-oriented resolutions under my belt. Resolutions that focus on changing your body shape or size are the worst because basically, what you’re doing when you make this kind of resolution is starting the year by saying my body isn’t good enough, and this year I will finally make my body good enough – only you fail. Or at least 92% of us fail.

Whatever. I’m so over it.

Three years ago I decided I was done hating my body for a living, so when it came time to make a New Year’s resolution I either had to disband the practice or come up with a resolution that wasn’t grounded in self-hatred and self-loathing. (I had already quit smoking, so that was no longer an option.) I think shutting down the whole resolution idea is totally valid – and for some slamming that door may solidify the road to self-love, but I’ve found that self-affirming resolutions have been a really excellent tool for me on my body positive journey.

So anyway, in 2012, I was new to the whole Love Thyself game, so when trying to create a resolution that resonated self-care, I kept picturing the SNL skit — Daily Affirmation with Stuart Smalley. Basically, that was all I knew self-help to be – gurus and their sheep mumbling mantras at their own reflections. I was a smart-mouthed cynic from New York; mantra mumbling was not going to work for me. I needed practical action. I needed a resolution that would constantly remind me I had my permission to love my body — even if everyone else I knew was still caught in the cycle of being mean to themselves.

In order to find my resolution, I started backwards. I thought about all the times when I hated my body, all the places and instances when I felt ill at ease because I was fat and considered what was making me feel this way. I meditated on the moments when I was feeling self-conscious, big, monstrous and uncomfortable. (Quick recommendation: DO NOT DO THIS. It’s not at all fun and I already did it for you.)

The weird thing was, above and beyond all the emotional misery I traipsed through, I kept coming back to this one physical feeling — my jeans cutting into my belly. You know this feeling; it’s the your-jeans-are-so-tight-that-they-literally-leave-a-red-imprint-of-themselves-on-your-skin feeling. It’s an itchy searing feeling. It’s painful and there is no reason to feel it, except for the belief that we deserve to suffer and feel guilty about our size because God forbid we get bigger than some abstract notion of the size we want to be.

Once I realized this, a resolution was born. I resolved to buy clothes that fit me. I felt certain that one of the key issues I was facing was feeling uncool, uncomfortable, or not fashionable because I was squeezing into clothes that were too small. (Jesus, first world problems, right? That said, self-loathing and body hate feel brutal, so we’ve got to work on it. ) In 2012, I dedicated a portion of my income to buying sassy new clothes that I liked no matter what size they were, clothes that fit well — nothing tight, nothing that would fit in a few pounds, and nothing that I chose because it was “slimming.”

For those of you who dissed my willpower earlier — I nailed this resolution. I was a clothes-that-fit superstar. And while resolving to buy clothes might seem superficial and ridiculous, it wasn’t. It was amazing. As soon as I tossed my too-tight favorites, I started to forget to be self-conscious in private spaces. In other words, when my jeans were too tight, I could sit alone in my car at a red light — feel the tightness — and be reminded that I thought my body was wrong. Once my clothes fit, the “wrongness” I felt with regards to my body was rarely present unless other people or media made me feel that way.

I’m not trying to oversell this idea — all my problems with my body weren’t magically solved by clothes that fit, but I was loving myself more and I was treating my body like it deserved nice clothes, like it was okay to live and be happy and enjoy fashion at my size. So yeah — a resolution that was about accepting my body was way healthier for me than starting another new diet.

Just in case you’re interested in choosing a 2015 resolution that emphasizes self-acceptance, here are the other successful resolutions that I’ve embarked on since choosing to break the bonds of self-hatred:

2013: Stop Moralizing Food and Start Focusing on Nutrients

In the fall of 2012, I listened to a student of mine extol how she was “so bad because she had a brownie for breakfast.” I realized that I thought that way, and it seemed ridiculous to me.

Brownies, pizza, french fries — these aren’t “bad” or “good;” they’re food. They have no moral value so eating them doesn’t make you bad, just like eating salad doesn’t make you a better person. Instead of moralizing what I ate, I started thinking about how I could incorporate foods into my diet that gave me the nutrients my body needed. I resolved to eat veggies everyday — even if I only wanted them with dressing. I focused on nutrients and when I felt like it I ate brownies — because they have nutrients too.

2014: Spread the Message of Body Acceptance and Shut Down Body Hatred

Some of you may have read my last article for xoJane — so you know that I’m not okay with people saying super mean stuff about other people’s bodies. I think it sucks and I want it to stop.

Last year, I resolved to speak up when I could and inform those suffering from body hatred that there was another option. Also, I decided to kindly tell people — friends, strangers, colleagues etc. — that I have chosen to love my body and respect the bodies of others so my air space is a body-hate free zone, which means that I’m gonna call you out if you ill speak of your body or someone else’s body in my presence. Finally, I committed to participate in movements that forward body-positivity, like @fyeahmfabello’s forthcoming social media campaign #NORMALIZEFAT2K15.

2015: ????

I know I only have a few days but I’m still working on my resolution for this year — I want to focus on sexy. Not like, sex (I’m more than good with that). But that sexy glamorous feeling, sometimes I still misplace that and have a hard time finding it. So, I’m going to resolve to do something that makes me feel that powerful sexy charge — I’m just not sure what that is yet. As long as they’re all about body acceptance, I’m open to your suggestions.

Lindsey Averill is a writer and contributor to xoJane. This article originally appeared on xoJane.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Why 2014 Was Actually a Great Year for Women in Tech

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Despite the reported incidents of sexism from hackathons to boardrooms, 2014 finally got women to talk and people to listen

This story was originally published at the Daily Dot.

Technology has a sexism problem.

In 2014, revealing investigations and heartfelt admissions ripped the wool off the eyes of the industry and exposed the extent of this very raw and very real truth.

The news about women in technology this year was so dispiriting that you might’ve thought twice before encouraging the women in your life to pursue careers in the field. Countless incidents of sexism from hackathons to boardrooms have demonstrated just how exhausting and insufferable the industry can be for women: harassment lawsuits against companies like Tinder and Zillow; advice to women from the CEO of Microsoft saying they shouldn’t ask for raises, and harassment at GitHub that led to the public departure of a popular female developer—to say nothing of Gamergate.

At first glance, it’s just another year full of a number of very high-profile events highlighting how toxic the tech industry can be towards women.

But look again: 2014 was actually a great year. Not because of the things that happened, but because women are finally talking about their experiences. Perhaps more importantly, people are listening…

Read the rest of the story at the Daily Dot.

TIME Politicians

Hillary Clinton Is Named America’s ‘Most Admired Woman’

The presidential contender beat out Oprah

Americans named Hillary Clinton the woman they admire most of anywhere in the world, a new poll found, for the 17th time in 18 years.

When Gallup asked a random sampling of Americans who is the living female they admire most, 12% named Clinton. The former Secretary of State was followed by Oprah Winfrey at 8% and Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafazi at 5%.

Gallup

Obama was named the most admired man, garnering 19% of votes.

The presidential contender held the top women’s spot every year between 1997 and 2014 except following the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, when the title was awarded to Laura Bush. Clinton also held the designation when she was First Lady in 1993 and 1994.

TIME Love & Relationships

What I Learned When I Called Off My Engagement

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Let's just say that if you have major doubts about being engaged, you probably shouldn't be

xojane

My life with David* was a surprise. I had returned from a six-month stint in Osaka, Japan, to my small-town family home just out of Sydney, Australia. All my energy was focused on how I would get back to Japan — my life was there; all I had to do was graduate. When David offered to buy me a drink one night, I told him “My conversation is free — I’ll buy my own drinks.” He liked that. Independence had always been my jam, even in relationships.

We started dating and I went from playing it cool to love sick in four days flat. Wanting to hear from him all the time, to know he was interested, that I was valued. From someone who didn’t care about marriage to thinking constantly about my imaginary future children and what I would cook for my man that night.

I quietly shelved my dreams of returning to Osaka for the white picket fence. All this time I was waiting, hinting, wondering when he would pop the question.

We were in my late grandfathers’ home one night when David told me to close my eyes and he led me to the lounge. I could see the warmth of candles glowing behind my shut eyelids and all of a sudden, I was filled with a mix of “YES! It’s happening!” and a gut feeling that said “I don’t want this.”

READ MORE 5 Strange But Effective Ways to Get Over a Breakup

Opening my eyes to the man I loved on one knee, ring in hand, I knew that the only answer was “yes.” I couldn’t afford to lose my dream life with my dream man, but I was utterly bewildered by this nagging feeling and worse, it wouldn’t go away.

Let’s just say that if you have major doubts about being engaged, you probably shouldn’t be. I’m not talking about your standard nervousness; I mean debilitating, undermining doubt.

My ideas about marriage made me beyond uncomfortable. I was outright scared. From the price-per-head to musing over what makes a “good wife,” I was afraid. Without ever planning to, I set about sabotaging the whole thing, the very thing I had wanted…and one day, didn’t want any more.

I realized that my whole world was based on him. I had put aside my plans for myself to force myself into an identity I didn’t fit, all in the hope of impressing him enough to stay. Sure, he stayed, but I was directionless and depressed, jumping from one shaky job to another and running myself into the ground trying to make a meaningful life. He wanted a support person, I wanted to blaze trails. I didn’t know how to reconcile my values with who I had become. Slowly, I began to resent him for it.

One day, David told me “This should be enough for you.” It wasn’t, and I utterly despised the arrogance that dripped from that comment — that a good man should be enough for a woman.

The last straw came when I asked him to visit Osaka for a week with me. I was meeting up with my best girl. She lived halfway across the world from me, and she needed to get out of Missouri after a string of bad luck. My soul was exhausted, and this girl was my conduit to the me I had lost. At that moment, nothing was more important to me. He wouldn’t come, but he was vicious when I suggested I go alone. My blood boiled. I went anyway.

READ MORE The One Word That Sums Up Everything You Need to Do to Be Happier

I called off the engagement before the relationship ended. I took my fears to mean that it wasn’t the right time yet. He put on a brave face and said that was okay. But, dear reader, pro tip: If you end your engagement, you will hurt the other person. Even if you love them. Even if you still think you’ll marry them one day. While you’re saying “I’m not ready for this,” they may hear “I’m not ready for you,” and, wait for it, they may leave.

I spent a long time trying to reconcile my thirst for freedom and adventure with the image of domesticity that marriage presented me. I began to seriously wish I was “free.”

Then it ended, he moved out, and I was. I didn’t know what to do with all that space. I was lonely and doubly afraid. That’s what happens when you wrap your self-worth up in someone else and then they’re not there. I knew I had to set about recovering, so here’s what I did.

  1. I cried. I cried at home. I cried at work. I cried on the treadmill. I had so many feelings.
  2. I banned love songs and negative self-talk. I was so frequently bubbling with rejection and rage and unspoken hurt, I didn’t need to wield those two oh-so popular weapons.
  3. I lived day to day. I couldn’t cope with this “no plans” business without someone to fill the space (he was my plan), so I just disengaged and took each day as it came. Until I saw cheap flights and then I made plans…
  4. …and caught planes. Lots of them. It was lonely and beautiful and I could then cry in planes, too.
  5. I rebounded. The first post-breakup kiss made my stomach flip. I thought I was going to be sick. Next tip: If your body says it’s wrong, listen up!
  6. I travelled more. I walked more. I cried less.
  7. I made new friendships and re-learned that I wasn’t totally wretched and unlovable. I was just hurt.

There were setbacks — phone calls that I sincerely regret making — made in part to get him back, in part to punish him for leaving me. If he was going to break my heart I wasn’t going to make it comfortable for him. Still, I wouldn’t hear other people speak badly of him and publicly I kept a straight face, the whole while trying to grasp onto some idea of what on earth I had done. Last tip: Don’t make that call, you’ll regret it. Even if you think they deserve it, it’s self-deprecating and will do nothing good for your morale.

My recovery meant a million references to the “stages of grieving” and I realized that they really don’t work in a linear way. You’ll think you’re all healed up and then you’re a total mess again. Grief and rejection are vicious jerks and they will wear you out. And occasionally they are more powerful than memory, fact and rationality.

“One day it will be okay” was my mantra. And one day it was okay.

READ MORE 10 Things That Will Change the Way You Think About Love

The biggest thing I learned in this roller coaster is the value of listening to myself, knowing what is right for me and the importance of having the courage to act on that intuition. To grow my personal capital before I bank on someone else. And to honour that voice that says “Something’s wrong.” It’s better to listen up than to find yourself Googling “trapped and unhappy” in ten years.

It was close… and weddings still make me that little bit uncomfortable.

____

*Not actually called David, obviously.

Ruth Harrison is a writer. This article originally appeared on xoJane.com

Read next: The Science of Dealing With People You Hate

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Research

10 Surprising Health Benefits of Being a Woman

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Being a woman carries a host of health and body payoffs

Members of the so-called weaker sex, listen up. Thanks in part to the protective benefits of female hormones, as well as the lifestyle choices women tend to make, you’re afforded a host of body payoffs guys don’t get. “Men notoriously pay less attention to their health and prefer to take a macho approach rather than go to the doctor to get things checked out,” says J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society. The following 10 ways women come out on top health-wise will make you glad you were born with two X chromosomes.

Women blow out more birthday candles

When it comes to longevity, chicks rule. A girl born in 2012 (the most recent year statistics are available) can expect to live until age 81.2; a boy is likely to hit 76.4, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Researchers aren’t entirely sure what accounts for those extra four years. “It might have to do with the fact that women have lower rates of heart disease compared to men, though women are catching up,” explains Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director of the women’s heart program at the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. “But it may be a result of women maintaining stronger social ties to friends and family, because social ties are linked to longevity.

Women have a higher pain tolerance

The notion that men face pain with unflinching stoicism while women are more sensitive to every ache is not exactly reflected in research. Though the jury is still officially out, numerous studies back up the fact that women appear to have a higher pain threshold than men, says Dr. Goldberg, with pain threshold defined as the amount of pain it takes to register in the body. Of course, it makes sense that females need to be able to withstand pain, considering how much of it is typically experienced during childbirth. “Women have to be able to sustain the agony during labor and delivery,” says Dr. Goldberg.

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Head and neck cancers strike more men than women

The statistics tell the story: the National Cancer Society estimates that this year, about 30,000 men will be diagnosed with oral cavity or pharynx cancer, while just 12,000 women will. And when it comes to esophageal cancer, 14,000 men can expect to develop it this year, compared to only 3,000 women. Why do head and neck cancers discriminate so openly based on sex? Cancers that occur in these body areas are strongly linked to tobacco and alcohol use. “Though women are catching up, men still indulge is smoking and drinking in higher numbers, so they develop these cancers in higher numbers too,” says Dr. Lichtenfeld.

Melanoma rates are lower in older women

Before age 45, rates of melanoma—the least common yet deadliest form of skin cancer—are higher in women, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. It’s a trend researchers attribute to the popularity of tanning indoors and out. But after that point, it’s men who bear the brunt of the disease in more significant numbers. “It’s unusual for melanoma to strike at a young age, and by the time they reach their 50s and 60s, we start to see high numbers of white men with it, probably due to accumulated skin damage over time after decades of working outside, or playing outdoor sports, without the benefit of sunscreen,” says Dr. Lichtenfeld.

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Women have a keener sense of smell

No wonder candles, soaps, detergents, and perfumes cater to female noses. Compared to men, women appear to have a sharper odor detection, with women having up to 50% more cells in their olfactory bulb (the first region of the brain to receive signals about odors), according to a recent study in the journal PLOS ONE. The study lends weight to the idea that women are superior sniffers, but it doesn’t explain why. One theory: a keener sense of smell helps women detect the pheromones that help her pick the right mate; another postulates that being able to detect rancid odors helps a woman protect her offspring from infection and disease.

HDL cholesterol levels are higher in women

HDL cholesterol, the good kind, is associated with strong heart health. It’s credited with preventing plaque buildup in the arteries of premenopausal women and protecting them from the early heart disease that may already be developing in men in the same age group. “Estrogen raises good cholesterol throughout a woman’s childbearing years, when estrogen production peaks,” says Goldberg. Estrogen output drops off following menopause, and HDL cholesterol goes with it. But if you continue to eat nutritiously, stay at a healthy weight, and have your cholesterol tested regularly, your HDL cholesterol numbers can continue to stay in a healthy range so you can maintain that estrogen-fueled head start against heart disease.

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The female brain has better recall

Several scientific studies suggest what a lot of women already know anecdotally: women are simply better at remembering things. A 2014 Norwegian study of about 37,000 people from the journal BMC Psychology bears this out: though older people in general had more memory issues, men of all ages, young and old, were more forgetful than their female counterparts. Why that is isn’t exactly clear, but previous research has suggested that it may be due to brain degeneration caused by cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure, both of which strike more men than women.

Women are less likely to become alcoholics

“Men are up to twice as likely to develop alcoholism as women are,” explains Holly Phillips, MD, New York City women’s health specialist and medical contributor for WCBS News. One reason for a guy’s increased risk of addiction to booze has to do with the brain chemical dopamine, says Dr. Phillips. A recent study of male and female social drinkers found that men had a greater dopamine release than women in an area of the brain called the ventral striatum, which is strongly associated with pleasure, reinforcement, and addiction formation. There may be a psychological component as well. “While women are more likely to become depressed than men in response to common environmental triggers such as illness or grieving a death—a process some psychologists see as turning pain inward—men may be more likely to numb the pain with substances,” adds Dr. Phillips.

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Women tend to accumulate less belly fat

Instead of bemoaning the fact that you tend to pack extra pounds on your butt, hips, and thighs, be happy about it—it means your risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other chronic diseases is lower than if fat tended to develop across your midsection, as it generally does in men. “Apple-shaped bodies, which more men have, hold more fat around the heart and upper abdomen, increasing heart disease risk,” says Dr. Phillips. “Pear shaped bodies keep fat away from the heart, which is a good thing.” Fat around the middle can also increase the risk of certain cancers, says Dr. Lichtenfeld. Researchers are learning that belly fat is metabolically active, producing hormones that cause a chain reaction in the body, resulting in higher levels of inflammation and insulin resistance, which leads to disease.

Women have a delayed heart attack risk

While a man’s odds of developing heart disease and having a major coronary begin in his 40s or even earlier, says Dr. Phillips, a woman’s risk doesn’t really begin until after she hits 50 and goes through menopause—giving women some extra time before being susceptible to the number one killer of both men and women. “Women have their first heart attack a full 10 years after men do,” says Dr. Goldberg. A younger woman’s better cholesterol profile plays a role, but estrogen or lifestyle choices, such as eating healthier, seems to have additional protective benefits, such as keeping blood pressure down (high blood pressure is a heart attack risk factor). However, things change after menopause. “After 50, a woman’s vulnerability to heart disease begins to resemble that of males,” says Dr. Phillips.

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This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME feminism

This May Have Been the Best Year for Women Since the Dawn of Time

2014 MTV Video Music Awards - Fixed Show
Beyoncé performs onstage at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., on Aug. 24, 2014 Jason LaVeris—FilmMagic

But there's a long way to go

It’s the end of the year, which means ’tis the season for grandiose hyperbole. So let’s go there: since the dinosaurs roamed, since the pyramids were built, since the locomotive was invented, there has never been a better year for women than 2014.

That doesn’t mean things were great for all American women in 2014. Actually, a lot of things really sucked. But “not great, and never been better” is the rallying cry of a movement in progress, and that’s where women have been this year.

Think about it. Frozen, a sister-love story, became the highest-grossing animated film of all time. While performing songs from her 2013 surprise album, Beyoncé quoted Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s thoughts on feminism in front of a live audience at this year’s VMAs. For the first time ever, a woman (Maryam Mirzakhani, a Stanford professor) won the prestigious Fields Medal for Mathematics, widely considered the “Nobel Prize” of math. Janet Yellen became the first female chair of the Federal Reserve; GM and American Apparel both got female CEOS; and Apple and Facebook offered to cover elective egg freezing for their employees. A 17-year-old girl became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

But those are just the victories, and 2014 wasn’t necessarily so important because of all the “firsts” or “bests.” Instead, 2014 was characterized by loud, frustrating, and often unresolved discussions about justice for women that reached an unprecedented volume. We didn’t necessarily “win” any of these battles — and when it comes to debates over sexual assaults, domestic violence and contraceptive coverage, it’s hard to know what “winning” looks like — but we fought them harder and louder than ever before.

Take, for example, the ever thorny issue of sexual assault on college campuses. These assaults have been happening for years, rarely acknowledged and barely addressed. But this year, we’ve gone from whispering about sexual assault to shouting about it. In January, President Obama established a White House task force to protect students from sexual assault, and the spearheaded campaigns like 1 Is 2 Many and Not Alone to raise awareness about campus assault. In May, the Department of Education released a list of universities under investigation for mishandling sexual-assault cases. And in late July, Senators Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) led a bipartisan coalition to introduce the Campus Safety and Accountability Act to reform the way colleges investigate and punish sexual assaults.

And that’s just the government activity. On the ground, students have been staging protests to demand justice (like Emma Sulkowicz at Columbia, who is carrying her mattress around with her until her alleged rapist is expelled). Twitter has become an open platform for survivors to speak out about their experiences using hashtags like #YesAllWomen and #RapeCultureIsWhen. The media missteps this year, from Rolling Stone’s UVA debacle to the Washington Post column in which George Will called rape survival a “coveted status,” have been troubling. But they’ve also sparked larger, louder, online conversations about how we treat sexual-assault survivors than we’ve ever had before.

Have we fixed the problem of sexual assault on campus? Definitely not. Are we making progress? More than ever.

Or look at domestic violence in the NFL. In 2013, there were seven NFL players arrested for domestic violence, down from nine in 2008, according to USA Today’s Player Arrests database (these are the years with the highest concentration of recorded domestic-violence arrests in the NFL, and this is just the women who call the police). Only four NFL players were arrested in 2014 for beating up their wives or girlfriends, but Ray Rice was one of them.

When a video emerged in September that showed Rice punching his then girlfriend Janay Rice in the face, it sparked a massive dialogue about domestic violence and NFL codes of conduct. Ray Rice was suspended indefinitely by the NFL (a suspension that has since been vacated after a successful appeal), and the organization was under so much scrutiny that some were calling for commissioner Roger Goodell to resign. Under increased pressure from feminists and survivors (including some using the hashtag #WhyIStayed), the NFL was forced to finally grapple with a problem it had long tolerated with an uneasy silence. Goodell hired three female advisers — Lisa Friel (a former sex-crimes prosecutor), Jane Randel (co-founder of No More) and Rita Smith (a former executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence) — to help reshape the league’s domestic-violence policy.

Since October, the NFL has announced multiple initiatives, including educating players and their families and updating its personal-conduct policy, in order to address domestic violence in the league. And the social-media response has made it clear that the public is not happy with NFL players beating up women and continuing to play. Even players like Eli Manning and Cris Carter have participated in PSAs to get the public talking about sexual assault.

Has the NFL effectively addressed their problem with domestic violence? Hell no. Has there been progress? More than ever.

Consider Bill Cosby. People had been whispering about the (formerly) beloved comedian’s habit of drugging and raping women for years — there was even a joke on 30 Rock about it five years ago. In 2005, more than 10 anonymous “Jane Doe” victims agreed to testify against Cosby in a lawsuit that was ultimately settled out of court, and even after it was reported in the press, there was little public outrage. But when comedian Hannibal Buress mentioned the rape allegations in a stand-up routine this year, the public finally took the allegations seriously. More than 16 women have come forward to share remarkably similar stories, and many of them say they were drugged before Cosby assaulted them. Despite the years of whispered rumors, it was only in 2014 that Cosby’s reputation as “America’s Dad” started to tarnish.

Do we always take rape victims seriously when they accuse powerful men of assaulting them? Not really. Are we making progress? More than ever.

Yes, a lot of things still sucked for women in 2014. The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling was a blow to reproductive rights, we still don’t have a comprehensive family-leave policy, and women are still paid less than men for doing the same work.

So 2014 has been a year of setbacks, indignities and outrage. It’s not been great. But it’s better than ever.

TIME women

Why Model Robyn Lawley Is a Role Model for Considering Abortion

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Getty Images

Celebrity pregnancy announcements normally reinforce the idea that motherhood is a woman’s true calling

xojane

We all want to make choices for ourselves. Most women, however, are not afforded that luxury, as every choice, from wardrobe to reproduction, becomes a topic of public discussion.

The scrutiny is multiplied beyond my mathematical comprehension when the woman in question is a celebrity. Looks and decisions are meticulously dissected every time she “steps out” or “flaunts” or “shows off” before image-hungry cameras. One of the tabloid’s favorite pastimes is “womb watch,” guessing which celebrity is pregnant, or has perhaps eaten a large lunch, before wondering when certain celebrities like Jennifer Aniston or Cameron Diaz are planning on children as they’re deemed to be running out of time.

Every celebrity pregnancy announcement is filled with positivity.

We’re told of the immense joy and blessing that pregnancy is, reinforcing the idea that motherhood is a woman’s true calling. Reality often doesn’t look like that, as not every pregnancy is planned and wanted and some women may feel worried or ambivalent about the prospect of children overall.

That’s why Australian model Robyn Lawley’s decision to share her thoughts about an accidental pregnancy is so important to the overall narrative surrounding pregnancy.

Lawley is a 25-year-old pro-choice feminist and successful “plus-size” model who has worked for many mainstream brands like Ralph Lauren so it’s safe to assume that she has financial security; she’s also engaged and has previously discussed having children with her partner. In many ways she is in the best position to have a baby. Nevertheless, Lawley, like many women the world over, had many things to consider before continuing with her pregnancy.

In a recent interview, she revealed: “As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I had to take all options into account, because with a baby, I’ll have to majorly slow down — and I’m very career-driven. That scared me. The reality is many women face a plethora of factors when considering whether to have an abortion. My case is no different.”

It’s very reassuring to hear such a rational and calm consideration of abortion without the hyperbolic discussion of personal tragedy and torment that seem to make up the permissible “good abortion” accounts. That’s not to say that sometimes one account is wrong or better than another but only one is allowed to exist without pro-lifers (anti-choicers, really) reaching for their pitchforks.

Lawley openly acknowledged that one of her biggest worries about pregnancy stemmed from the effects it has on the body saying “one of the biggest [fears] for me was related to my career, which necessarily and perhaps unfortunately relates, at least in part, to my body image.”

Unsurprisingly, the comments on the Daily Mail article, now no longer to be found, called her selfish for worrying about her body and denouncing women in general for not valuing human life. What those commenters fail to consider, besides basic human compassion, is the possible difficulty of returning to work after having a child or affording childcare. Once again, the child’s life is only considered while in utero and the woman is a mere vessel, not a person with life goals beyond children.

What’s most interesting to me about this story is Lawley’s ultimate decision to keep the baby.

No, it’s not in itself shocking, but had she not chosen to disclose the deliberation regarding an abortion, we would never have known. It makes me wonder how many celebrities — and even acquaintances — go through a similar process, later to either announce the joyful pregnancy news or simply keep silent about their decisions.

When Lawley was considering termination she said: “I thought it’d be so easy! I’d just walk in there, and it’d be done so quickly, but then I called them and heard the process and thought this is a serious, full-on thing. I decided then that I wanted to keep the baby.”

I begin to wonder who exactly the “them” in this instance represents because it seems like she wasn’t given the correct information unless her pregnancy was already well under way. Of course, abortion is a medical procedure with associated risks, though it has been found by researchers at University of California, San Francisco in a recent study to be as safe as a colonoscopy with nearly all of the procedures being performed at a doctor’s office or an outpatient clinic — not a hospital. This research would suggest that abortion is actually not a “full-on thing” but a minor and extremely safe procedure.

All this aside, Lawley has made the right choice because it’s the choice that she and she alone is making.

I, personally, am thankful to her for revealing her decision-making process, adding another rational voice to a discussion that often gets seized by individuals with ill intentions and misinformation. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, women will be able to speak openly about such decisions in public without inspiring murderous rage from people who want to police women’s private lives and bodies.

Zhenya Tsenzharyk is a writer and student in London. This article originally appeared on xoJane.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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