I grew up in a middle-eastern family, the middle of three daughters. Now, as a mother of daughters, I have noticed that there are a lot of outside pressures on young girls. Pressures to be and think a certain way and expectation to fulfill certain roles. Of course this concept is not something that is specific to today, it has existed throughout generations. For example, my mother is a middle-eastern wife and a mom to three daughters who also works full-time. She would work all day and then come home and resume the role of wife and mother. Cooking dinner, doing laundry, washing dishes. Not because she was forced to do this, but rather this was an agreed upon expectation. An expectation that many of us recognize. This is true for men as well, but for women it’s slightly different.
It begins with the way each of us is spoken to as children. For example, when speaking to young boys we might use words like “strong”, “aware” and “smart” while when we address young girls we use words like “sweet”, “pretty”, and “cute”. These words become hardwired into our brains and an identity begins to build around them. To be fair, when we see a beautiful little girl in a pink flower dress it is absolutely probable and very appropriate for us to feel that she is adorable in every way. However, if mostly what she is praised for is being adorable, that will become the only thing she sees herself to be, even later in life when she possesses many additional and obvious qualities.
In order for any of us to become the fullest expression of ourselves we need to become aware of the influences that are placed upon us, going as far back as our childhood. This isn’t to say that words like “cute” and “sweet” are derogatory, they certainly aren’t, but they also aren’t the only positive thing about us as children. From this vantage point, girls are subliminally taught that to be honest, to be themselves, or to be in anyway contrarian is to be denied, rejected, and wrong. Conversely, young boys who are only praised for being brave and strong can develop a fear of being vulnerable. Either way, these outside influences shape us and oftentimes, not for the better.
In order for any of us to become the fullest expression of ourselves we need to become aware of the influences that are placed upon us, going as far back as our childhood.
Another example of how praise affects us is reflected in between how male math students are treated versus female math students. Research shows that boys are more likely to be given praise by teachers for their process while girls are recognized for achievement. As a result, the boys do better in math because they are praised for learning, while girls often struggle trying to simply achieve. This is not done intentionally, but growth will happen where teachers place their attention. It is an affirmation of the kabbalistic belief that wherever you place your attention, is what will grow. Boys will identify with being good at math and girls will believe they aren’t. This is how the beliefs we hold about ourselves are formed and because energy flows to where our attention is placed, these beliefs become our reality.
With this in mind, how can we speak to our children in a way that helps them to become the most confident and realized version of themselves? So that our daughters feel just as comfortable as their male counterparts in all the various aspects in which the two genders share their experience. From math scores in school to asking for raises at work to speaking their mind. These are not things that are meant for one or the other, but things that are a right to all. The way we think about our lives directly affects our lives and if, as a girl, you were raised with the belief that your neatness, niceness, and your looks are your strengths, you’re not likely to strive to be anything more than that despite the fact that you are.
Societal expectations of women, specifically teen girls, have been skewed in these directions for many years. Where society sees a woman as bossy, they see a man as a leader. When society sees a woman who speaks her mind, she is categorized as “being difficult” but a man speaking his mind is “someone who knows what he wants”. This outside influence becomes how we see ourselves and can determine who we become, if we allow it. As a woman, do you feel that advocating for yourself is rude? Do you believe that having career goals makes you unfit to be a parent? If so, where do those beliefs come from? If you trace them back far enough, you’ll find that it is outside conditioning and nothing more.
As a woman, do you feel that advocating for yourself is rude? Do you believe that having career goals make you unfit to be a parent? If so, where do those beliefs come from?
Taking a look at your life today, can you see any areas where you operate from expectation instead of what is true for you? This question isn’t always an easy one to answer but can lead to the discovery of strengths you may have forgotten you had – or strengths you are only now realizing you have. Where can you take power back in your life? Is there a role you assume that has become overwhelming or that feels inauthentic? By asking yourself these questions and uncovering where these beliefs came from, you are helping your fullest expression to emerge. You are taking an inventory of all of the outside influences and expectations that you have gathered over the years and deciding which ones are true and which ones are not. The result of which, brings forth who you really are.
Thought to Action
Pick one area of your life that feels difficult or inauthentic to you and examine if it is a result of outside influence. If so, how can you be more of your true self in this area?