Something I think a lot about is the pressure our society places on women to look, act, and think a certain way. I really think the ideals society presents as the path to happiness are misleading. As a woman it can be difficult to go against the grain, disregard the strong messages we receive everyday, and find the true path to happiness.
I recently read an article on PsychologyToday entitled 8 Messages to Teach Young Women & Girls About Happiness. The article touches on societal misconceptions on what leads to happiness and ways we can educate women and girls to create happiness in their own lives.
Maxing out isn’t healthy.
“Having it all” and “leaning in” are phrases that have become increasingly popular lately. Women and girls feel pressure to get a degree, have great careers, the perfect marriages and be perfect moms. Having it all takes a lot of work and when women buckle under the pressure, they feel like they’re inadequate. But here’s the thing, working to your maximum capacity at all times isn’t good for your mind or body. It leads to burnout and unhappiness.
Buy more experiences and less stuff
We live in a materialistic culture where women and girls are encouraged to have the best clothes for a great style, nice furniture for a pinterest worthy home, the best shoes, the best cars and on and on. Every day we are inundated with marketing messages to buy more stuff. However, science has proven that spending money on experiences leaves the spender feeling more fulfilled than the spender who buys things.
Focus on self-efficacy rather than self-esteem
This is a distinction I’ve never really considered before. The difference between self-esteem and self-efficacy is feeling you are good enough vs. feeling you have power to create great results with your life. While I think feeling you are good enough is worthwhile and important, grasping the power of your own abilities to change the course of your life is empowering.
Take (good) risks
This one is based on the fact that girls are told from a young age that abilities are static, whereas boys are encouraged to grow and improve. Therefore, women grow up avoiding challenges and risks while men are more likely to take them. Women should be open to taking good risks to expand their careers and not shy away from new opportunities.
Don’t get stuck in your own faulty thinking.
So often women base decisions on ideas they believe to be true, which are really social constructs such as “I haven’t achieved enough” or “I need to be better.” In reality these are ideas that have been cemented as fact in our brains that only serve to make us unhappy.
Perfection really does not exist.
Really, it doesn’t. We can strive to be perfect, but there will always be something we can improve upon. If we put ourselves under constant pressure to attain perfection, we will only succeed in making ourselves miserable.
Vulnerability is Good
This goes hand in hand with taking good risks. We need to focus on perfect less and more on making ourselves vulnerable so we have the strength to take those good risks.
Avoid happiness traps
So many times women have the idea that happiness is in the future and will come after they receive this or accomplish that. They think “I’ll be happy when I’m in a relationship” or “I’ll be happy when I have X job.” I have definitely fallen victim to this line of thinking, and reality is that even when you achieve these things, happiness comes from being present in the moment.