Female Psychology: Coping with Challenges Facing Modern Women

female psychology copingWhen I first began researching this blog post, I was a little surprised by what I was reading.  When you search under the terms “Female Psychology”, or “Feminine Psychology”, what you mainly get in return are strange and misguided lists of tips on how to win dates.  Reading over these suggestions, and more to the point, reading over the comments in these articles is pretty eye opening.  Whether you are siding with the author of the original post, or disagreeing passionately, the common theme across all of these posts was that people were trying to describe women as a single entity.  “All women want to be showered with attention,” or “Never try to pick us up,” or “You need to remember that they cry more than men”.  Each of these sentiments are inherently untrue, because you can not describe all women in generalizations like that.  In fact, you can not even describe individual people in generalizations like that.  That’s when I decided how I wanted to discuss female psychology.

Whatever your age, your career status, your sexual preference or your income, being a woman in the modern day comes with its own unique set of challenges.  For one thing, we seem to be thought of as a collective – one that can be understood by silly how-to guides.  Now imagine if you were in a position of hiring a new candidate, or selecting students for college admission: would it, in any way, be fair to look at these applicants as part of a group whose members all behave and react in the exact same way?  Of course not.  That may be the root of the problem, or it may simply be a misguided bit of internet expertise.  Still, the challenges facing modern women are decidedly different than those facing men.  How you navigate these issues as an individual, by “getting” people and the way they think will vary greatly from the way your neighbor, your sister or your kindergarten teacher would have managed the same thing.  That’s why it’s important to avoid those generalizations.  Especially when it comes to matters such as…

Work vs. Family

Choosing to have children, either by birth, adoption or fostering can be expensive.  Not only in terms of actual money output, but in terms of your time.  Your time is worth something, and that is why the decision of how you spend it is such a personal and impactful one.  Will you stay home after the child arrives to care for them yourself?  Does your financial situation demand that you must work again after your maternity leave?  Do you simply dislike the idea of staying home with your child, and prefer to continue pursuing your own professional goals?

Any of these choices is a valid one, along with several other possibilities that I didn’t even list.  The one thing each of these choices has in common?  You could face criticism for it.  Personally, I was a little blindsided to discover that people thought I “had it easy” because circumstance led to me staying home with my children.  Likewise, friends of mine have been told that they are letting “someone else raise their kids”, because they chose to go back to work.  These are challenges that simply do not seem to affect men the same way, (Meaning that they face their own unique challenges surrounding fatherhood – just not these exact challenges), and ones we need to be psychologically prepared to face.

How to Cope:

Research all available options, and plan as best you can.  Begin speaking frankly and without embarrassment to those around you, letting them know your plans, and that you are not likely to change your mind.  Ask for support, and remind those around you that you are more in need of positivity in your life now than ever before.  Put their share of the responsibility back on them, accept all offers of help, but stand your ground.  You are capable of making your own decisions, and deserve respect for that.

Dating

I fully admit to not being an expert in this realm.  I have been in a committed relationship for over a decade, so the dating scene I experienced is completely different than the one you are experiencing now.  That all goes back to my original point however, that women are individuals, and not a collective.  As an individual, you want and need things that are unique to you, but I am willing to bet that you have been on a date or two where you felt like your date was acting off a playbook.

With the rise of online dating, your first exposure to a potential partner is not a person, so much as a person’s picture and written profile.  Perhaps this is part of what is leading to these “What ALL women want” guides.  As far as these dating sites are concerned, you are part of a cohesive group.  Everything seems to be a psychological game, and it can be exhausting and frustrating to try and navigate those waters.  Certainly more difficult than it was even just a few years ago.

How to Cope:

There is sometimes a lot of pressure on women to hurry up and find the “one”.  Here is something to consider though: you are the “one”.  Despite what everyone around you might be saying, there is no expiration date on the search for a soul mate.  So you didn’t find one by 25? 30? 50? What exactly is wrong with that?  Resist the pressure to “settle” for someone you do not truly connect with, because you are not making that decision for your benefit, but rather to appease those around you.  Make the decision for you.  You do deserve to get exactly what you want out of a relationship.

Exercise, Fitness and Health

The magazine covers declare “She got her pre-baby body back in only six weeks!”, or “Guess which movie star has cellulite!”, and we are surrounded by them.  Nevermind the fact that at six weeks, most babies are not even sleeping through the night yet (so nobody is rested enough for exercise), and that “cellulite” is just the way some bodies store fat, as far as the magazines are concerned, there is a way ALL women are supposed to look.  Period.

If you are overweight, you are practically screamed at to get skinny.  If you are naturally thin, you are disliked because people think you have it “easy”.  If you are working all day, bringing in an income to help support a family, there is no time for exercise.  Even though you are helping your loved ones in a tremendous way, your “worth” still seems somehow tied to the way you look.  The expectations for the way a woman ought to look are absolutely ludicrous.

How to Cope:

Stop thinking in terms of appearance, and begin thinking in terms of overall health.  Your health is made up of many factors, including the ones we sometimes neglect: sleep, socialization and inner peace.  Understand that magazines have everything to gain by keeping you unhappy enough to buy their advertiser’s products.  You do not need to live up to the standards of a commercial. You simply need to love yourself.  When you love something, you take good care of it.

Career Advancement

Women in the workplace face a laundry list of challenges, and depending on the job and the individual, those challenges are different for everyone.  While some women might struggle with moving up the job ladder, there might also be a woman at the top struggling with the overwhelming demands of her position.  For every woman who fears she is not being taken seriously, there is another woman viewed as overly controlling and confrontational.  Have you ever had to apply for a new job while visibly pregnant?  Have you ever had to bring your children to a job interview?

If  you have ever borowed a friend’s designer purse, because you heard that interviewers look at what you are carrying, or of you have ever tried to reenter the work force after being home with your children for 5 or 6 years, then you have faced a challenge unique to you.  Right now, there are women sitting at their desks, beside themselves because they just had to leave their baby with a sitter for the first time.  Likewise, the woman who rang up your groceries might be terrified that her ex boyfriend will show up in the store.  Safety, opportunity, stability, work-life balance and being taken seriously are all issues women might face at some point in their careers.

How to Cope:

First off, don’t stay in a job where you feel threatened, be it physically, emotionally or financially.  You are capable of good work, so you should work somewhere that will be good to you.  Second, reach out to those around you.  Women so often isolate themselves, but you may find that someone near you is going through the same thing.  Third, believe in yourself.  You are worthy of good, fulfilling and even fun employment.  Don’t be afraid to go out and get it.