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The 24-Hour Woman: Our Big Cultural Oops!

In this society there is undue pressure for women to be, act and perform in ways that I believe are unrealistic. It is a cultural fallacy that I call our big cultural oops! In May, we celebrated Mother’s Day and I can bet Proverbs 31 was used by well-intentioned preachers who used this passage as directives for what a woman should be.  Proverbs 31 is an actual epilogue for a noble wife but also serves in our culture to define the attributes and duties of the ideal woman. The Proverb reads that this virtuous and wise woman is a wife, mother, business owner, philanthropist, leader, personnel manager, seamstress, landowner, cook, farmer, and motivational speaker. It also says that she married well, is an early riser, has children who acknowledge her efforts and has the respect of the community. Wow! Go girl!  Year after year, women walk away from this feel-good message either motivated to be all these things or defeated because it is overwhelming and seemingly unattainable. I admit I have teetered both ways with the thought of at least trying but soon realizing that I actually do not want to be ALL those things. I encourage women not to feel pressured to become all those things. (I can hear all the religious folks gasping now). But rather, pull from it the things that inspire and make you feel whole. My advice is to

"use the Proverb as a mission statement rather than a checklist." 

The difference is one summarizes the goals to live by while the other lists requirements and stipulations that have to be met.  The Proverb describes good and healthy attributes. Attributes can be additives to your person and serve to enhance the woman you are. The reality is that we cannot take on all the attributes at one woman can be all things all the time. That should not be the goal.

Do you remember the 1980 Enjoli perfume commercial where a woman boasted about how she could “bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan?” 

She danced across the screen making us believe that a few squirts of this neck nectar would turn us into a lady-boss, chef, sexual tigress, and mommy who reads to her kid nightly (without falling asleep after a few pages and the kid ends up reading the book to himself)

That last part was a confession and felt a little cathartic. Sorry, I digress. Let's get back to the point. The point is, this image perpetuated the notion that a woman has to be full strength all the time. In fact, the tagline for that commercial was, “The 8-hour perfume for the 24-hour woman.” A 24-hour woman? Who could really keep up with anything for 24 hours? It is not humanly possible. She would have to be a superwoman! You get the point. It is unrealistic to be a 24-hour woman and I believe our culture normalizes this perception. The end result is a culture of women striving to achieve an image that is unattainable, unrealistic and imbalanced.

Over time, we as women, consciously and unconsciously internalize these cultural norms. We compare ourselves and others to what society has created. Sometimes without being fully aware, we grow up trying to emulate whatever culture deems to be most valuable because we want to be accepted, desired, and loved. I encourage women to:

  1. be the person you want to be;

  2. be ok with operating at less than optimal level - 80% works fine too;

  3. cancel the pressure to be defined by culture;

  4. define yourself by what is most important to you, and

  5. focus on what balances you and allows you to thrive. 

Women, you owe it to yourself to live your truth – however you choose to define it. Allow your true person to shine and eliminate the pressures that society and culture puts on women to be a one who is expected to perform and produce at the maximum level at all times. It is a fallacy - a big cultural oops in our society that has to be redefined.

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