As women, we are made to feel that it’s our fault if we can’t be the perfect embodiment of the feminine mystique while also having all the strengths and qualities of men. We must be sexually appealing yet chaste, confident yet modest. A walking contradiction. We should be successful, but not too successful. Same goes for intelligence. We wouldn’t want to make men feel insecure, after all. We must excel at work and at home. Care for our families, be the perfect mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters, yet also somehow do well in our careers. We have to keep a clean house, put good food on the table, find the perfect gifts and wrap them, ensure everyone regularly attends their doctor’s appointments, plan parties and family get togethers, oh and don’t forget we have to look good while doing all of this. God, I’m getting stressed out just writing about it. It is unrealistic and sounds ridiculous when put into words, but somehow we still feel bad when we don’t live up to these insane standards. Society, media, and particularly social media, have all made this seem like it’s our cross to bear. It’s not.
On this topic, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
“No wonder we sometimes find ourselves filled with anguish. There is just too much to do. Too many demands are made upon us. We are asked to be too many people—some of whom we are and some of whom we are not. Anguish is probably a normal response to such a situation.
Luckily, we do not have to stop with anguish. It is important to feel our anguish, go through it, and move on. One of the ways we stay stuck is to block our feelings and refuse to admit them. Sometimes life presents us with vises, puts us in them, and screws them tight. Then we find that as we let ourselves feel our feelings of hurt and anguish, we can move on.”
Vises are like corsets in that they’re constricting, tight, painful and uncomfortable, and yet we can always step out of them. The same is true for expectations and demands. We don’t have to do anything anyone else tells us simply because they’ve told us. Not even if they’ve asked. We don’t owe anyone a damned thing. We also don’t have to feel bad about ourselves if we don’t live up to their expectations. It’s okay to disappoint people. Lord knows we can’t please everyone. It’s much easier to not care about letting people whom we don’t know down than it is people we do know, though. It gets much more difficult to follow this advice when we frame it in the context of disappointing our family or friends. It all comes down to whom we are living our lives for though. Do we really want to live in anguish at the expense of ourselves just to please the people we care about? At the end of the day, shouldn’t they care about us? If they really loved us, wouldn’t they support us when we make decisions based on our own happiness? Unfortunately this is not always the case, but we must remember that we are the only people we must answer to at the end of the day. As long as we can say that we’re doing our best, that we’re living our lives in a way that doesn’t harm others and in fact even brings some good to the world, then isn’t that enough? It should be. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that good enough is enough.