It’s only come to my attention very recently how pervasive this attitude is in our age. I believe boys get hit with a standard of perfection as well, but the degree to which girls are given impossible expectations is unbelievable. And it starts at such a young age for you girls. I can’t tell you how often I’ve been told in the rearing of my daughter that “girls mature earlier than boys” and “the girls will do better in school than the boys”. This may very well be supported by statistics, but it still sends a message from a young age that if you’re a boy, it’s ok to be average (I’m sure this equally translates into boys being expected to be “dumber” which is equally as unhealthy), and that if you’re a girl there is really something wrong with you if you aren’t out-performing the boys.
It’s a load to carry at such a young age.
It’s interesting how things have changed. We’ve gone from a society that greatly limits what women can do, or are capable of, to a society that, in the words of the cynical part of my brain, says “you want to do what men do? Fine, then you’d better love it and you’d better do it perfectly!”.
It’s a dichotomy that shows how much work STILL needs to be done to help foster and grow healthy, confident young women who believe in themselves while also embracing their humaneness. It doesn’t matter if a woman is restricted to the kitchen or to a pedestal; either way, she is STILL restricted!
So Real Girls, since the world tends to change at the speed of tectonic plates, it can be very helpful to simply be aware of the unneeded pressure constantly placed on you. If you can identify individuals, groups, or institutions that you can pinpoint as the source of your unreasonably high perfectionism and begin to strip away at the reasoning behind their assertions, you can begin to heal, relax, and just be cool with yourself.
You don’t have to do it all. You don’t have to be a CEO, a perfect mom, a highly-regarded volunteer, the top graduate in your class, the person everyone likes, the hottest girl, AND the greatest triple-horned flute player that ever existed (and the greatest maker-upper of imaginary instruments!). I have to remind myself of this often. Stick to what YOU feel in your heart is the most important 2 or 3 things to accomplish (and if you don’t know what they are, then just go with what sounds good at the moment) and then give yourself your entire LIFETIME to accomplish them. And when you get frustrated, and feel like you have to be “it all” now, remember this: whenever I pick up my guitar to practice, I find myself thinking “ugh, I don’t want to play this thing when it sounds SO bad and I just suck at it!”. And, if it helps, substitute “guitar playing” with whatever you’re trying to accomplish and tell yourself this:
“I sucked at everything once upon a time. And once upon a time, it was ok.”
It’s true. Once upon a time, I was so unbelievably shy that I froze up when any kid talked to me. I was once so insecure about singing that when I would try to perform only a small screechy sound would come out of my mouth. I once had a problem of offending people constantly when they would come to me with struggles and issues.
These are all things that I’m pretty damn good at now (at least I think so – if I’m wrong, you’d better let me know now before I come to your house socializing, singing, and psychoanalyzing like a grizzly bear in a china shop!). But I once sucked. And I once was ok with that.
So, if I really want to sum up the point of this post, it is technically this: Be Horrible!! Be Awful!! Be Completely Ridiculously Amatuer!! And maybe even have a little fun with it (I love singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star while playing the guitar as loud as I can because it’s the only friggin song I can play!!!).
But, most of all, be OK with it.
(But you don’t have to be perfectly ok with it either. You have a lifetime).
This post was inspired by this article about the greatest struggles young women face today.
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