Women and Happiness — Part 1
I’m reading a book right now that came highly recommended from a counselor friend I admire, called Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul.
I’ll admit: I was (and, to a certain extent, still am) totally skeptical.
It’s a popular Christian book, and as such, I was afraid it would be full of platitudes and patronizing pep talks; or worse, rigid proscriptions of what a woman “should” be: domestic, demure, passive, well-dressed — none of which I am, of course, and which have always contributed to my feeling particularly inadequate as a woman. (The book is not off the hook yet, by the way, because I’m only a chapter and a half in…but so far it’s managed to generally avoid those traps — though it has used some borderline cheesy language that had me rolling my eyes in a place or two.)
Still, last night, feeling a tiny bit discouraged, I picked it up and came across this passage:
I know I am not alone in this nagging sense of failing to measure up, a feeling of not being good enough as a woman. Every woman I’ve ever met feels it — something deeper than just the sense of failing at what she does. An underlying, gut feeling of failing at who she is. I am not enough, and, I am too much at the same time. Not pretty enough, not thin enough, not kind enough, not gracious enough, not disciplined enough. But too emotional, too needy, too sensitive, too strong, too opinionated, too messy. The result is Shame, the universal companion of women. It haunts us, nipping at our heels, feeding on our deepest fear that we will end up abandoned and alone.
I stopped reading for a moment, blinked, went back and re-read. Because, I confess, that really resonated with me. And not just the sense of being not enough and too much at the same time — which describes to a “T” some of the inner battles I’ve fought recently — but that almost off-hand comment at the beginning of the paragraph, the one that says: “Every woman I’ve ever met feels it.”
I thought, It can’t be that EVERY woman feels this. Not EVERY woman! So I mentally ran down my list of female friends, those to whom I am close enough that we’ve dropped, at least to a certain extent, the brave smiles and polished exteriors. And I realized that they’ve felt it too. And I thought about my extended circle, at church and in my community, and I realized that I can sense it as an undercurrent there as well (perhaps in the brave smiles and polished exteriors?).
I thought about these graphs I saw in The Huffington Post which clearly depict that women’s happiness is on the decline, while men’s continues to rise:
These are complicated questions, the answers to which have several dimensions, including social and spiritual — and I’m going to write at least two more posts featuring some of my completely-amateur-and-not-at-all-scholarly thoughts on these topics. But for now I thought I’d open it up for discussion. What do you think? Just what the heck IS going on here…and what can we do to stop it?
This post is one in a series. Get the rest of the series here.
Posted on August 31, 2010, in Mental Health, News and Current Events, Personal, Pop Culture, Women and Happiness and tagged captivating, feminism, happiness, inadequecy, shame, spirituality, women. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.