If you’ve ever been lucky enough to meet Honora Beirne, you’ve likely wondered how so much poise, warmth and vivacity ended up in just one person. As my older cousin, she’s always been a few steps ahead of me in life, first navigating high school, then college, and now New York City.
Though I only get to see her every few years, one thing about Honora has never changed: her ability to make you feel like you matter. It’s hard not to catch on to her charm, passion and authenticity. Naturally, I had to find out what it’s like to be in her shoes.
What do these shoes mean to you?
I was wearing these shoes the day of the 2011-2012 Arie Literary Journal launch event, where I had been financially compensated for my writing and having my work published for the first time. This was a huge moment for me. While it wasn’t a ton of money, the feeling of knowing that my words were reaching people and that a team of editors had faith in my words and believed that they should reach more people. It’s a pretty amazing feeling.
How do you define body positivity?
I believe that body positivity is a big umbrella term for loving your body. There are plenty of different variations of how people practice body positivity, and I don’t think I’m in any place to tell anyone that his or her way of loving one’s body is wrong.
I have friends who are power athletes, the kind who never give up and barely break a sweat. Those people are typically very proud of their bodies, and are very clear with their love of fitness and body care. I am not a power athlete, and I still love my body even though my face gets super red and hot after a 5K and doesn’t get back to it’s normal porcelain complexion for literally 4 hours.
But for a long time I didn’t love my body – especially when it looked weaker next to other people. When I look back to pictures of myself, or even think about my logic for making decisions during that period of time, I looked miserable and I was constantly comparing myself to other people. As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to understand that we’re all on our own paths, but luckily our paths can be pretty parallel to our friends and family, helping us along the way as long as we don’t get lost in this world of comparisons.
Name a woman of influence who has shaped your views on life.
I’m a huge fan of Mindy Kaling because she definitely understands the importance of self love and is seriously just so hilarious. I’m also a huge fan of Tina Fey because she is such a boss. But when I read both of their books, I felt like Tina Fey was always being too hard on herself. I get that that’s sort of her schtick, but if I were reading this as a teenage girl with the self esteem issues that I was already having and reading that Tina Fey also beats herself up, I feel like it wouldn’t be all that inspiring. While I do understand that in a way it would be awesome to connect with her and think, “If Tina Fey is hard on herself, then maybe I’m like her-totally awesome but just beating myself up.” But after that moment, you’re still left with this justification of being cruel to yourself. Mindy’s book, however, highlights how bullies are bullies, including yourself to yourself. These are both incredibly intelligent, hilarious, wonderful lady bosses who both inspire people to be themselves, but I just agree with Mindy so much more in the way she talks to people.
Is there anything you feel people misunderstand about you before they get to know you?
When I was a receptionist, I think many people misunderstood the level of education I had achieved and my intelligence level. I know that at least I had earned the majority of my coworkers respect and understanding after only having been with the company for a few weeks, but people all around were very condescending towards receptionists. I’m not sure where this comes from, but I really hope that we can educate our youth to be more respectful towards people in essential service roles.
In addition, as a receptionist, you are the face of the company. You are the first person the client will see when they enter the office or business. Many receptionists do live up to that Mad Men sort of lifestyle of getting made up every day for work. I had always worried that this is what people had thought of me while I was in this role.
While I was working full time during the week, I decided to take a writing intensive on the weekends to make sure I was keeping up with my passion. During my 8-hour class on personal essay writing, we were prompted to write a short piece on Vanity. I wrote about Beyoncé’s ‘Pretty Hurts’ and how it is a topic that we should address but it’s difficult since not many people are sympathetic towards “poor little rich girl/sad little beauty queen” sort of stories. Before I could share my piece, another woman in the class shared her essay on how women in “nothing jobs” don’t deserve the same corporate respect as their female higher ups. My heart was breaking. Here is a woman, hating on other women. This needs to stop.