Last week, my best friend, Angela, was in town from Atlanta. She had just written a beautiful article on what its like being single in your 30’s. We started talking about how, no matter what age or stage of life you’re at, people seem to want to project, onto others, their own ideals around living life and societies expectations. She’s single, and wrote about how friends often say things like “You’ll find your special someone soon” or suggest that she’s not trying hard enough to get hitched, which is both unkind and unhelpful, and belittles the very fulfilling life she does have. It seems almost impossible, when obeying societies rules, that some women might actually not be actively seeking a partner at all, or that even if they are, that they can still be completely happy and contented being single.
What’s with all this pity?
As women, we are raised to believe that one of the main purposes in life is to have children and become mothers. This main seem old-fashioned but it is still sadly very relevant. We have simply got to stop stop assuming that everyone in their 30s has to conform to certain society standards. Thankfully, in most modern cultures and communities, people are free to decide their own education and career path, embrace their own personal identity and sexual orientation, and pursue their own ambitions. Yet despite this progress, there are still so many unwritten rules and norms, in society, that are projected onto people who are seen as misfits just because they are not conforming.
For women, societies rules can include :
- How we should look (Usually younger and thinner).
- What our relationships should be (Best friends who feel like family, family who feel like best friends, and a perfect loving partner),
- What our careers should be (Thriving, but not so successful that we ‘forget’ to have children. Thriving, but your man should still be the bread-winner).
- How we should act (Clever but not too opinionated, Clever but not too clever as to show up your man).
Subsequently, many women can be left feeling inadequate when they aren’t achieving societies milestones for life . It all can feel very hard to manage the weight of societies rules and expectations, yet still be true to yourself.
Education and understanding is key to ending this shaming. People need to be informed that it is not helpful to impose such society pressures onto others. Stop asking others if they have a partner, or when they’re planning on getting married, or when they’re planning on having children. Stop suggesting that we need to ‘have it all’ in order to achieve success and fulfilment in life. That we’re selfish if we choose our careers over having children, or that we should be pitied if we don’t confirm to societies expectations. And maybe we should all stop allowing the media to feed this pressure, when we clicking on those ridiculous clickbait articles about perfect lives, another woman’s potential pregnancy or divorce, or believing we must look and act like the women we see in all the magazines, movies, and social media posts. Maybe, just maybe, we should use better, and more diverse, role models for the next generation of women to look up to. Maybe some role models could be be some of the brave women that have actually achieved something by stepping out of societies rules and living by the beat of their own drum.
Most of all, we need to reframe the expectations we place on ourselves to do all of societies requirements by a certain age, in a certain order, to achieve a full and happy life. Instead, how about we all try writing our own story; one where we’re the heroine of our own lives, and we live it exactly as we choose. Your happiness is determined by you, and should never be defined by anyone else.