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The energy around this time of year is almost palpable; it screams of exciting new goals, renewed hope, and big visions.

But this energy also comes with a darker side.

Few of us are immune to the pressures of the “new year new you” promise, a tantalizing offer from our culture that this year could be the year that you FINALLY become who you’ve always wanted to be. And when you do, you will be able to breathe and feel happy and fulfilled.

But beneath the flash and glitter is the real message: the last year version of you is inadequate, lacking and needs to be fixed. The solution? Pour time, energy, resources, and money into perfecting yourself.

And what do we perfect ourselves to? The Perfect Woman, of course! Or what I call the Myth of the Ideal Woman. And when we live up to this ideal woman, our patriarchal society will greatly reward us. We will belong. We will be happy!

For fun, I broke down a few myths based on three occupations; stay at home, corporate and entrepreneurial women:

 

The Ideal Stay-at-home Woman {this is the original and most insidious myth that women navigate}

  • Wakes up every day happy to take care of her children and has endless patience and love for them at all times.
  • Keeps her house clean and tidy and makes sure her appearance is impeccable because looking good on the outside is an indicator of how good you feel on the inside.
  • Is so efficient with her schedule that she has an abundance of free time to self-care, have brunch with her girlfriends, pick up the kids on time, and she still manages to have dinner ready by the time her partner gets home.
  • Oh and did we mention the glorious sex she has her with partner every night? She aims to please!
  • Keeps her children entertained and creatively stimulated at all times, because technology rots children’s brains.
  • Never nags her partner to help her in any way shape or form. No one likes someone who nags.
  • Cooks different meals every day, staying organized with carefully curated pinterest boards, so her family has a balanced, vegan, whole foods, diet. You can’t say she’s boring!
     

The Ideal Corporate Woman {this is the next evolution of the myth as more women entered the workforce}...

  • Is able to perfectly balance her full time job with child care responsibilities; women are great at multi-tasking so nothing is off limits now!
  • Has ample energy to wake up early and exercise, go to work and navigate a high pressure job, play with her children, have sex with her partner, and still have time to do some leisure reading while doing the laundry.
  • Leans in and advocates for herself in the workplace, because didn’t you know? We live in a post-feminist society where women are treated equally which means if you’re not making enough to survive it’s because you don’t want it bad enough.
  • Doesn’t menstruate. Just kidding, of course she does, but she has become an expert on never ever ever letting it impact her work. She simply man’s up and gets the job done.
  • Talks just enough to her co-workers to seem friendly… but not too much, in case it comes off as being filled with drama or being flirty. 
  • Is always the go getter, never letting her emotions show, just like the other guys at the office. Sure they’re allowed to be angry and frustrated and she’s not, but that’s what bathroom stalls are for.
  • Schedules her life down to 30 minute increments, you can never be too organized!
  • Delivers 3x the work for half the pay - but what can she do, it’s probably because of like her vocal fry and like her upspeak, she’s like working on it though!


The Ideal Entrepreneurial Woman {entrepreneurship is too young for society to have certain expectations for entrepreneurial women. But no worries - women simply created their own version of the myth}...

  • Makes six figures easily just by being her authentic self! All while traveling the world and sharing photos of herself working by the pool. Because working hard means you’re doing it wrong.
  • Is most definitely fit because strong is the new skinny! Which still means she still obsesses over her body but instead of starving herself, she only eats green probiotic algae infused hemp smoothies, and has a daily yoga and meditation practice, all of which you can find on her instastories. 
  • Is totally about high vibes only with a deep desire to impact the world, that is as long as that world fits into her narrow narrative of perfect reality and isn’t negative {because the news is so depressing and what you focus on grows.}
  • Manifests anything she desires because she deserves to have it all and if you pay her a lot of money, preferably on a credit card because you gotta believe in yourself first, then she will teach you how. Hint: it’s all about abundance mindset #duh.
  • Only shares on social media how she is living in feminine flow every day, stressing about nothing, feeling blessed, doing all the self-care things, saying YES to life and magnetizing clients to her. Lifestyle marketing FTW.


And, most importantly, the ideal woman is white, cis gendered, heterosexual, upper middle class {not too rich though because that’s not relatable} and able-bodied.

Obviously this playful list isn’t exhaustive. I could go on about expectations placed on women around being mothers, partners, friends, etc. 

And maybe you can name other elements of the mythical woman that you’re familiar with. We all carry an idealized self-image, and, odds are, the idealized version of yourself looks hauntingly like what society expects from women as a whole. Just google images of “the ideal woman” and notice what you see. And if you really want to have a laugh {or pull your hair out}, search “how to be a good wife” or “how to be a good woman” and prepare yourself.

Living in a society where the idealized woman is pushed on us from every angle, from TV shows to magazines ads to subtle language cues, it’s inevitable to internalize various misunderstandings of what it means to be a woman. And one thing is abundantly clear: there are qualities of ourselves that are not acceptable if we are to belong and be accepted. 

I call this the split, and it happens early in our childhood. In a quest for love from our parents, teachers, and schoolmates, we quickly learn that there are qualities within us that will assure us acceptance and qualities that are frowned upon. So we stuff those unacceptable parts down, creating a disconnect from our whole selves. Because disconnecting parts of ourselves is painful, we find ways to numb ourselves. The most rewarded type of numbing in our culture is to vigorously chase goals and external metrics of success.

For me personally, I can remember from a very early point in my life where I wanted nothing more than to be skinny, blonde, glamorous, pretty, sophisticated, cool, and rich. I truly believed that if I contorted myself enough through dieting, self-development, exercising, and faking it, I would become that. And once I did, the darkness within me would fade and I would finally be happy. But the more I pursued it, the emptier I felt.

That’s the ultimately problem - reducing our wild human existence to certain mythological standards that are not meant to ever be achieved contributes to our worthiness wound, a painful space of feeling not enough, inadequate and broken.

For women with a worthiness wound, the new year can bring up deep shame and guilt around not embodying the attributes of the ideal woman. 

How can we ever feel “good enough” if we are consciously and/or unconsciously pursuing a better version of ourselves because this version is broken and unlovable?

Now, I am not saying goals are bad or wanting something better for yourself is bad. What I am offering is a reminder that you are more than any one identity, any one trait, any one goal. And one of the ways we can begin to reclaim our worth, and set whole-self goals, is to recognize how the myth is playing out in our lives.

Understanding the impact our cultural paradigms have on us women is critical to our healing. Our freedom is dependent on it.

And as you begin your new year and spell out your intentions for 2018, please resist the urge to think that you are broken. Your vastness is not meant to be contained.

To your worth,

 

PS. I am currently accepting applications for Worthy Women Rise, my signature four month group program for smart, soulful, sensitive women who want to heal their worthiness wound and get out of their own way so they can take up greater space in the world. If you are interested in learning more, you can do so at WorthyWomenRise.com.