5 Societal Pressures All Women Should Forget About Today
Freedom is all about doing what makes you happy and living a life that makes you feel most contented.
Unfortunately, the way society is constructed can make it difficult to choose a life you truly desire for fear of betraying the ‘norm’. Or it at least makes it hard to not feel guilty about it!
How often do we give ourselves time and space to think about our talents and passions, and construct a plan to pursue them?
How often do we stop ourselves from going on adventures we seek, or stay in bad relationships for fear of not meeting certain goals in life by a given time limit?
I know I myself was determined to get engaged 2 years after I graduated University… without actually thinking about what marriage meant to me and whether it was something I wanted or needed in my life or not.
Or when I pushed for a promotion at work, knowing I was already in too deep and worked 7 days a week with 12 hour days. Just because I thought it would make me more ‘successful’.
Not only does living up to these societal pressures cause undue stress and negatively impacts on our mental health, it actively prevents us from living out our true dreams.
The dreams we have squashed down whilst living out someone else’s dream for us.
Needless to say we will never feel free when we are not consciously living out our passions and abiding by unspoken rules that we never signed on for!
So I thought we could start by discussing some of the main ways that society pressures females (yes, also men, but I can only speak from the experience of a female), and why we should start ignoring these pressures immediately if we want to start living freely!
Here are some of the societal pressures that I believe we should forget about today:
Money defines your success
Being surrounded by insanely successful friends I have struggled with how my average paying job compared to their high earning jobs.
Although I knew I was successful in my own right as a teacher, I didn’t always feel that way because I wasn’t rewarded for it with the money I felt I deserved.
This snowballed to me wanting to accept extra responsibility I knew was too much for me at the time, just for the sole purpose of having what worked out as an extra £50 a month.
But the truth is, success is far more than the figure you receive in a pay packet. It is the amount of people you impact, the positive changes you can implement, and your personal happiness too.
Considering this, how many rich businessmen/women are actually successful?
Money is not the start or end of success, so let’s not judge it by that standard.
Expectations of marriage and kids before 30 (or ever)
I come from a family where everyone did things the ‘right’ way. They got married in their mid twenties and had their first child by 30. And they are all still happily married.
Although I am really happy for them, for a long time I felt as though that was the bench mark for what I should achieve; and even though I felt resistance, I continued to tell people that I dreamt of children and marriage just like what I had experienced growing up.
Not to mention the amount of advertisements that put women in a motherly role in their 20s, or the increasing amount of people that ask me if I’m married or having children.
These are strangers that ask.
All of these things add up to make you feel ashamed.
But the truth is I am not ashamed. I am happy.
We don’t need marriage or children to be a whole person, and the quicker we accept that these aspects of life may not be a good fit for some people, the quicker we can move on with achieving our actual goals instead of feeling guilt over not achieving a goal we never set for ourselves.
Body image affects your success
Alright, you may find it harder to be a successful super model unless you have a certain look.
But what about the 24329453795 other things we can pursue that has nothing to do with how we look?
Thankfully this is less of a problem in the US and UK, but I have been really surprised as the pressure on women here in Vietnam to wear heels, dresses and make up to work.
We should also probably admit that some of this pressure comes from ourselves. I know I used to spend an hour on make up in the morning, whereas no one would actually care if I wore make up or not to work in the UK.
Instead we could ignore the pressure to look amazing at work and spend that time actually being awesome at what we do!
Others’ needs come before ours
I think my Mum might be the worst culprit of this I know. Going hugely out of her way to help other people before getting around to doing what she needs to do for herself.
And we often see women doing more for their family and friends, and guilt leads us to wanting to do the same.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful trait to want to support the people we love. But not when it runs us down!
It’s not healthy to just keep steaming through life until we face burn out.
Do you know how we get over this circle of wanting to please others before ourselves? Stop judging and comparing ourselves to other women.
Let’s stop trying to outdo each other and encourage each other to look after ourselves instead.
If you’re finding that life does take over and you give too much of yourself to others, read about some of my favourite ways to practice self care here.
Ignore emotions to ‘save face’
At work, or in our personal lives, how often are we completely honest about wen we are not feeling our best? Or when we feel overwhelmed? Stressed? Tired?
We might have a little moan over lunch, but its usually about small annoyances. Not expressing how we actually feel.
I know when I came home from work in the UK I just wanted to be alone for a couple of hours because I felt so exhausted by the front I had to put on to look like my ‘best self’ at work.
And it made me think – who in my life gets the best version of me?
It certainly wasn’t my family and friends. Because I felt close enough to them to tell them how I actually felt.
Yet my students and colleagues always saw the happy, positive and smiley version of me because I was afraid of losing face.
That’s not good for your own mental health or for your relationships with those closest to you.
If we are all a bit more understanding and willing to share when we are facing difficulties we might take some of that pressure off of ourselves.
If you’re feeling the stress from any of these pressures, know you are not alone!
The good news is that as a community we can bring about change and begin to knock down some of the barriers involved in these societal pressures.
Less judgement and comparisons to other women, and investing energy in raising each other up will only move us forward in society <3
As always let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Love and joy