darling, it’s time to own it.



My favorite thing in my Facebook feed today was a text image from Madonna’s page:


(I want that on a t-shirt.)

When we talk about finding your voice, we’re talking about your ability to own it. Your voice is not just what you say and how you say it, but who you are.

Which is maybe why we’re so quick to imitate other people’s voices. If it worked for them, so our reasoning goes, then it should work for us, right? We can hide who we are behind who we think we’re supposed to be.

When you own it, you drop the act.

You come out of hiding.

Men and women hide for different reasons. There’s a psychologist named Carol Gilligan who did some fascinating work around voice, and what she concluded was this:

Boys learn to suppress their natural voice around the age of 5, when the first inklings of the be a man message take hold. Presented with the choice between power and warmth, they choose power. They shut down their sense of empathy, as well as their desire and ability to express emotion; they disown their feminine side, since be a man is also code for don’t be a pussy.

Girls learn to suppress their natural voice around the age of 12, when they start to learn what it takes to be a lady. Presented with the choice between power and warmth, they choose warmth. Because saying what they really think and knowing what they really know can lead to hurt feelings, disruption and conflict, they learn to discount the inner voice. They listen to other people instead. They disown their masculine side, since be a lady is also code for don’t be threatening or intimidating, and knowledge and power (since knowledge is power) are both.

To find your voice — to speak up as your true self – cuts against these dictates. No wonder we’re hesitant to do it. Showing passion and emotion – characteristics of any compelling voice – betrays the emotional life that, as a man, you’re not traditionally supposed to have. Say anything important with conviction, and you will rock the boat and piss some people off in a way that no good girl is traditionally supposed to do.

When you speak up, you make yourself vulnerable.

And we’re not a culture that likes to “do” vulnerability. We are a culture of self-help, positive-thinking, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, slap-on-a-smile-and-get-on with-it individualists. (The fact that this isn’t working out so well for us – given how stressed out, addicted, depressed and debt-ridden we are as a people – would seem to be beside the point.)

We’re also a culture that mistakes vulnerability for weakness. But the definition of vulnerability is to open yourself up to the possibility of wounding; it’s about exposing your heart, not having a weak heart.

Vulnerability, then, is a high-risk endeavor. We don’t look on risk-takers as weak. We applaud them. (We also have names for them: like artists, or entrepreneurs.)

Courage, as Brene Brown points out

“is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’ Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as ‘ordinary courage.’”

When you fucking own it, you own all of who and what you are. The soft parts as well as the hard parts. The darkness as well as the light. You own your vulnerability – instead of letting it own you – and by refusing to disown any part of your story, you stand in strength. Instead of choosing between power and warmth, you combine them; you have the power to sway people through your ability to empathize with them, to unite through shared experience, to connect. (Think Martin Luther King Jr. Think Oprah.)

Own it.

Or as Madonna also likes to say:

Express yourself.

Jan 2, 2014

17 comments · Add Yours

This is such an important message you are sending out. I would love a t-shirt with that on it too! I especially love the part about courage. It does take courage to speak from ones heart, but it is so important to do. Happy New Year Justine!


Wow I never thought of courage from that perspective, daring to be vulnerable – thanks! Just discovering your website today and I’m in love!


What’s not to agree with?


happy new year, everybody :)


It does take a lot of courage to take off the mask and be vulnerable, but aren’t the vulnerable people the ones we most identify with? In lieu of a T-Shirt, I made a little sign for my desk. :)


Excellent. I’ve written all around some of the things that make me unique. Time to fucking own it! Thanks.


Love the message. Just saw this on a t-shirt !



Love this Justine I just decided “own it” was my word/phrase for 2014 and it’s showing up all over the place now. Love that I just found your blog today as it completely resonates with me.


Thank for Sharing. Great. + Subscribed!


This was freaking awesome to read and something that I really needed to read. It’s almost like deep down you already know this stuff, but when it’s put into words, a light bulb goes off and you actually get it! Thanks! :)


What a great read! I’d like to read some more of Brene Brown also. Your last paragraph is fantastic! Combining darkness and light, power and warmth…love it. Trying to remember courage and vulnerability are strengths. Thank you for writing.


I love the f-work, especially when it’s used so beautifully. Word up!


I love your writing and I was so impressed & inspired at first when I thought based on your Wayne Gretsky reference, you were a small town girl from Canada – extremely wize and brave to be so seemingly raw, thoughtful and provocative – I was taken wanted to write u a tear-filled letter to urge you keep going and what a brave gem you were! I couldn’t beleive you existed I imagined your struggle.

That was when I thought you were just a brave soul with some punch– so I was a little disheartened to learn youre the ex wife of a Titan of Industry, You’re basically what’s known as “F.U.” Rich. So really it’s not a risk for you to be so unruly & rebellious – or to encourage “subversiveness” to follow ones “passion” and to not be nice cause hey if it doesn’t work out, your ass is covered – it’s not the same thing – you don’t need people’s sanction to avoid getting c-blocked through the day- you live in a privileged rarified world where alll is secured and your protected from the consequences of transgression and flagrant disrespect for social norms so really, aren’t you kind of talking just a little bit from the cheap seats Justine?

I also take issue with you demeaning the snack makers on your Ted talk. Nurturing is a strength. I am filled with awe and respect for women who nurture/ much more than I respect say the power hungry bitches vying against each-other for a piece of the limelight. But I’ll concede that’s an unfair characterization of ambitious women if you concede Not everyone who “makes snacks” does so because they are silenced or writhing with self-loathing and feelings of worthlessness. But truly above all, above all! Great writers provoke and you provoked so thank you for the ride.


Hey Patricia,

Although I feel the power of Justines words I was also feeling something off about her battle cry at the same time. An edgy feeling of… something’s not square in her point….something lopsided; a feeling that you were able to enunciate for me. You should start your own blog, I’d follow you anywhere!


I know this comment is coming in late but I just discovered this blog and felt compelled to reply to Patricia’s comment regarding Justine “talking from the cheap seats.” While yes, she is economically privileged, I don’t believe it makes her struggles or expressions any less meaningful or powerful. It required immense courage for her to leave Elon. Her soul was being suffocated by a brilliant man who wanted her to be someone she wasn’t. From what I understand, the very qualities he loved about her (her strength, intelligence, feistiness, etc) were no longer what he wanted the wife of a billionaire to possess. She had the choice to stay with him and conform to his expectations of what a trophy wife ought to look and act like, while being obscenely wealthy (all while her soul was slowly dying), or to be true to HERSELF and move on without him so she could nurture her creative, beautiful soul and live a life which fulfilled her. I admire her courage and again, do not think that her economic status takes away from the quality of her writing. Her struggles with identity as a woman, (ex) wife, and mother are no less valuable or important because she’s rich. Rock on, Justine!


Love this. We can’t cower back in fear if we’re to be real and true to who we really are. There’s no other real, no other healthy way to live.


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