Barely a week goes by without a bit of drama in my life. Whether it’s directly affecting me or my friends, it seems someone is always dissatisfied with one aspect of their life. And nearly everyone I know has an unspoken and unknown depression from time to time, without really knowing why and where the feeling has come from. Most, but not all, are women. But is that really surprising?
The pressure put on us as women, by ourselves and our society to ‘have it all,’ is monumental and actually incredibly unrealistic!
In the 60s and 70s, women fought diligently for our equal rights. The right to be treated the same as a man. But haven’t we forgotten one crucial factor? That we are not like men? We are more emotional, sensitive and generally a more peaceful gender. I am in no way belittling the feat of what those women achieved for us, but I don’t want to be treated like a man, I don’t want to be less emotional or sensitive and I certainly don’t want to feel less of a person for not being like one.
Surely equal rights should mean having the freedom to be who you want, and not to try to fit into some man-shaped mould?
I saw the effects of this more and more when I worked in an office. Career women generally have to work harder to be taken seriously than men. We have to be attractive enough for people to take notice, but not too attractive or we’ll be seen as ‘dumb’ or using looks to get ahead. We can’t be emotional as it will be seen as weak, but can’t be too assertive as it will come across as aggressive and competitive. Men simply don’t have as many obstacles to be successful; they don’t compete against each other like women do and don’t have to prove themselves as worthy employees. Men are purely judged on the work they do. Women don’t seem to support each other enough because of how hard it is to be taken seriously and this can make us hard faced and mistrustful of each other.
Maybe if we stopped trying to be like men and embraced our strength as women, we would feel less like we need to prove ourselves in ways that don’t always feel natural.
It is interesting to me that in a time where we can have it all, the career, motherhood, independence, we are becoming more and more dissatisfied. I find that there is such an enormous amount of pressure put on us by the media and advertising companies, to have the high-flying career, be the doting mother, be a porn star in the bedroom, look like a supermodel and be the perfect housewife. Not only that but we are expecting to have a man with the same perfections. We want a man who is caring and nurturing at home, but aggressively confident and driven at work. No wonder we are unhappy. It is simply not possible to be everything. You cannot expect to be two completely different people, and feel content. You cannot expect to be a good parent if you are at the office until 10pm every night, earn millions by working part-time so you can see your daughter’s ballet performance, or find a partner that puts both you and their career first.
Ultimately you have to decide what is more important to you. Is it a partner who dotes on you, cares for your emotional needs and puts yours and the family’s needs first, or is it one that will have a high-flying career bringing in plenty of money. Do you want to make millions or do you want to bring up a child. It is incredibly rare to have all of these things, and even if you do, there is no such thing as a perfect life. There are only 24 hours in the day, only so many years in a life.
The root of our unhappiness then, seems to be the amount of choices we have.
Before women were able to go out to work, those choices did not exist. We were to stay at home and look after the children and the house, have dinner on the table for when the husband came home. I am certainly not saying it was a better time; our inequality was a great source of frustration among women wanting to have the opportunity to use their intellect, but it was a simpler one. Everyone knew their place and had a purpose, even if we weren’t happy without choice, we never questioned ourselves. We questioned the system.
Our refusal to accept a simpler life has become our biggest curse. The truth is, when we have too much choice, we are left with doubt. “Did I make the right choice?” “Am I really doing what makes ME happy?” “I want to see my child grow up but I need to be at work to earn the money to keep a roof over our head”. Without choice, that doubt is irrevocably removed. And therein lies the greatest irony.
Never before have we had more choice, yet somehow we have managed to turn this ‘either or’ into ‘must have all’.
Women all over the world question their partner, their career, their looks and their parenting skills. And it’s unhealthy. If for you having it all means being perfect in every aspect of your life, you will undoubtedly fail, because nothing and no one is perfect. The happiest people I know are the ones who have managed to simplify their lives by making the choice of what matters to them the most. Those who appreciate what they have and learn to enjoy the fruits of their decisions.
Call it settling if you will, but at some point you have to learn that you will never have everything. If you can accept that and are able to identify what aspects of life will actually, and not theoretically, make you happy, I think you would realise that you already have a lot of what you dreamed of.
You are actually missing out on all the good things that you’ve already got!
Shakespeare supposedly said that ‘expectation is the root of all evil’ and in some ways I agree. Are we expecting too much of ourselves and of the people around us? Or are we just trying to live up to our potential? Why is it that our grandparents had longer lasting marriages, felt more at peace with themselves and yet appeared to have so much less?
Does trying to have it all come at the price of our happiness or is it simply in our nature to constantly be striving to be better, to want more?
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net