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 how their life is going. 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. But is that really surprising? The pressure put on us, in particular women, by ourselves and our society to be ‘perfect’, is monumental and actually quite unrealistic.
In the 60 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 are, and not try to fit into some perfect mould?
I generally see the effects of this more and more at work. 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 succeed; they don’t compete against each other like women do and don’t have to prove themselves as a worthy person. They are purely judged by the work they do. Women don’t seem to support each other enough because of how hard it is to be taken seriously in the work place 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 and turn us into absolute witches.
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 unhappy. I find that there is such an enormous amount of pressure put on us by the media, to have the highflying 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 of the same ilk. We want a man that is caring and nurturing at home, but aggressively confident and driven at work. No wonder we are unhappy. It is simply not possible to have all this. You cannot expect to be two completely different people. You cannot expect to be a good parent if you are at the office until 10pm every night. At the end of the day you have to decide what is more important. Do you want a man who dotes on you, care for your emotional side and put you first, or do you want one that will be the highflying career type. 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 when you do, there is no such thing as a perfect life.
The root of our unhappiness then seems to be the amount of choice. Before women were able to go out to work, that choice was not there. We were to stay at home and look after the children and the house. I am certainly not saying it was a better time, but it was a simpler one, and talking to grandparents, it seemed a happier one too. What I am getting at is that our refusal 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” is often a thought plaguing our minds. Without choice, that doubt is irrevocably removed. And therein lies the greatest irony. Because never before have we had more choice, yet somehow we have managed to turn this ‘choice’ into ‘must have all’. Women all over the world question their partner, their career, their looks and their parenting skills. And it’s unhealthy. No one can have it all if having it all means being perfect in all aspects of your life. Undoubtedly you will always be unhappy because nothing and no one is perfect. The happiest people I know are the ones who have managed to simplify their lives by making simple choices. In fact I was never happier than when I was travelling, where how I looked was put in to perspective by the poverty I saw and where all I had for three months was a 50l backpack with only a few essentials and my “Andrew”.
Call it settling if you will, but at some point you have to learn that we are not machines and 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 many people would realise they already have a lot of what they dreamed of and are only missing out on the good things that they’ve already got.
My best friend frequently tells me ‘Expectation is the root of all evil” and I honesty can’t agree more. But 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, happier homes and yet appeared to have so much less?