Last week, I was lucky enough to have lunch with Julie Gillis, teller of stories, social justice warrior, and critic of the patriarchy. During lunch, she shared her thoughts on self-acceptance, social constructs that keep us from appreciating ourselves, and the importance of telling your story. Spending an hour with her made me feel so energized and intellectually engaged. She is so fucking cool! I really love that I get to share her ideas below.
Tell me about yourself and what you do:
I’m a producer, speaker, and facilitator focused on stories, social justice, and building community. I produce transformational storytelling events merging art and social change. I also consult on projects for both stage and screen, supporting groups seeking to forge the most impactful narrative in their work. I speak, write, and support those who need to reclaim the narrative in their lives. In addition, I'm an activist focused on gender, sexual, and racial justice. I've been a producer of BedPost Confessions, a storytelling series about sexuality and gender, and produced Ladies Are Funny Festival for 6 years.
What motivates you to do what you do?
That's a good question! I just feel the call to do it and so I do. I've always been a helper type, even since childhood and I've always been drawn to the theater and performance. It made sense that over time those two drives would join up. I believe people need each other to get through life, that life itself is messy and it's only by sharing our stories that we find clarity through it all. The more I've seen amazing results from people sharing their stories, the more I want to do the work. It also brings me a lot of different groups - activists, artists, local political groups, educators and more. I love getting to work with so many different people who themselves are trying to make the world a better place.
Tell me about a moment when you felt truly awesome:
There have been moments after BedPosts where someone will tell me how the show has really helped them personally and that means so much to me. I have a belief that we impact people all the time and often we don't hear about the "how." It's very special to me to get to hear from someone who has had a moment of that impact, to know that the work I am doing is important in some way to someone. I also will admit to feeling awesome on the rare days I get to sleep in especially if it coincides with a thunderstorm. I love thunder.
How do you get through periods of self-doubt?
With bourbon? No, seriously, I tell myself this, "Just last week you felt great, and I can remember when you felt bad say...three weeks ago. Things will get better." Self doubt is always there, for me at least, and I figure its there for a lot of us. It's important to have a group of friends to talk to, learn from,and be able to admit that doubt. And to track the ups and downs so you have real proof that you come through it.
What do you want other women to know about self-acceptance and self-celebration?
That it's okay to fail at it so long as you try to accept and celebrate the fact that you fail at accepting and celebrating. I know that's ridiculous, but sometimes the meta is what you need. As a generalization, women aren't taught to celebrate themselves, their power, their craft. It's good to practice it in little ways, and accept that in many ways culture is pushing against us. So keep at it, keep little reminders of your accomplishments and know that acceptance takes time and practice. At least for me it does.
Julie is so right about celebrating failure as an important part of life. Women especially aren't taught to accept and celebrate setbacks, which is to our detriment. Failure is inevitable. Let's remember those growth moments as well as our accomplishments. They make up our story! If you would like to learn more about Julie's work, you can check it out here!
If you want to learn more about how to celebrate all of yourself including your failures, you can check out my individual therapy services here!