Do you ever sit and wonder how much of your own personality is made up of what the other people in your life want, expect, suggest, have trained, or downright demanded that you be?
I don’t think that we do question ourselves about this very often, especially as women, because the answer is pretty frightening.
Don’t get me wrong: Men have gobs and gobs of their own problems, the primary of those being that they can’t seem to help themselves from wanting to put their penis in and on everything that they see, but this isn’t about them. It is about us.
We have been tricked into believing that we have lots and lots of options.
If we are lucky enough to grow up with caring and supportive parents, we even believe that we have had the option to decide what to study, and what to create, and who to love…but that is not as true as we think that it is.
I had very open-minded parents, and I was an only child, but even at a young age I was being taught that certain people did not make appropriate acquaintances. I was taught that I needed to look a certain way, and that I needed to feel very guilty for the things that I did “wrong”, and that it was simply not an option EVER to have a guest stay overnight without changing the sheets first.
My parents taught me these things to help me fit into society, which is far easier than not fitting into society. They did it because they loved me and they wanted to help me avoid difficulty in my future.
In school I began to be re-created by my peers. I was terrible at this, so of course, it did not go well. I tried to dress the way that they wanted me to dress, and be interested in the things that they were. I began to hide my intelligence from everyone after determining that society disliked smart people.
My parents worried for me, so they started trying to help sculpt me into the girl that my peers wanted to see. They pushed me to sunbathe outside so that I would not be so white, and they pushed me to exercise so that I would not be so chubby. They limited treats, and took the snacks and desserts out of our house.
When I was still a teenager and living with my older boyfriend, I began to change myself in every way that I could think of to be the girlfriend that he wanted me to be. Everything that I did, wore, said, and put up with was a direct result of his whims. Even though many of these choices annoyed, embarrassed, and even hurt me, I understood that these acts were necessary unless I wanted for him to discard me. So, I was who he wanted for me to be, for as long as I could bear it.
I am much older now, much wiser, and much happier. Yet to my own heartbreak, when I look around, I still see myself as a reflection of what the people in my life want for me to be.
I fear that we have been trained to be this way since the time that we were little girls.
Do you dress up; try to look sexy, pretty, skinny, so that your spouse will be proud of you, or so that your friends will be impressed, or proud, or even jealous sometimes?
Do you wear shoes that cut into your feet and make you bleed because they make your legs look longer, and bras that pinch your skin and rub your chest raw so that your boobs sit up nice and perky? I still do.
Do you wear what you wear because it is what you want to be wearing?
Do you spend hours getting dressed every morning because you really want to?
Do you hold your tongue at parties and gatherings because you don’t want for your opinions to embarrass your friends, or your partner, or your parents? I do.
Do you work tirelessly to keep the house immaculate not because it is something that you enjoy, but because you fear the speculation from others if you do not? I have.
Do you take your kids to daycare because you are afraid of what people will think of you if you choose to stay home, even though it rips your heart out every single time that you have to leave your children in the hands of strangers?
Do you work out for hours and hours every week, and starve yourself to boot, because you know that he will leave you if you aren’t skinny? Or maybe he won’t leave you, but his eyes will wander. He will want other women who are thinner and prettier, and who spend more time at the salon. I have.
Have you ever not tried your hardest so that a man could win at a game or a sport.
Have you ever pretended that you didn’t know what someone was telling you so that they could feel smarter than you? I still do it all of the time.
Throughout my life I have gained and lost the weight of entire human beings over and over again, in an attempt to be the person that the people around me wanted me to be. I have taken up habits and hobbies that I do not enjoy, and given up ones that I love for the people in my life. I have endured discomfort, humiliation, and pain to please other people.
Frighteningly, I am a pretty strong woman. This scares me especially because of the women all around me who are not. I am terrified that I am somehow unconsciously teaching my daughters to mold themselves into girls who seek to conform their entire being into the girls that society wants them to be.
How are any of us ever supposed to be happy if we don’t know how to be the perfect individuals that god created us to be, and not the female objects that society has taught us to mold ourselves into?
Today I don’t have the answer, but at this point I am feeling like I have come pretty far simply having determined the problem. All that I can do from here is try and move forward remembering to be as much myself as I possibly can. Will you?