This is a break from the norm. Not feminist Friday chat but normal service will resume on Friday. This is all kinds of crazy.
I’ve had a bit of a reflective, possibly self-indulgent, few weeks recently. I’ve talked a lot and listened almost as much (the last part is particularly new for me…). This all began when someone, who I don’t know at all, emailed me about one of my previous posts. In this I talked about the need or expectation to try and have it all; the home life, the career, the feminism. The person who emailed me said she found it difficult to read because she has been trying to have it all, but never felt she did any of it well enough. To the point where she has stopped trying because she feels she can never be as good at it as she needs to be, or as good as others. It sounded like it was becoming a psychological struggle. Now, not being in any way a qualified counsellor I wasn’t about to provide her with any advice or support via email, but I thanked her for getting in touch and asked if I could talk to other people about how she was feeling. She very kindly agreed.
Since then, I have talked to feminist friends about this and they agreed that it can be hard work and we started talking about perhaps this might be a causal factor in why more women suffer from mental health problems. One of my very good, very assertive, feminist friends said:
“Even within feminist circles there is an absolute stereotype of what a feminist should be. So even when you’ve come to the wonderful realisation that you’re a feminist, the likelihood is, you’ll suffer a second identity crisis the minute you start engaging in it.”
Hmm. Maybe. But I think it’s actually more personal, I think it’s about self-esteem, and feminism won’t necessarily give you that, if you don’t have much of it in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, feminism has given me confidence and certainly made me politically engaged from a young age. But has it given me all the self-esteem I need? No.
I then decided to scrawl the internet (As I do often in the vain hope of finding some kind of answer. Google being my new religion, apparently) and looked for articles on feminism and self-esteem. All of it was about body confidence. The internet is a pretty big place and all I could find were blogs, news articles and social research on self-esteem around my looks. Now, by no means am I free from having self-esteem issues about my looks. The mirror and I have quite the battle every morning, followed by a mid morning battle with a car window, a lunch time battle with the glass door of the sandwich shops that sells my secret enemy: Carbohydrates and an evening battle with the weird reflective security screen on the bus. I have my issues.
But, I’m not looking for self-esteem issues related to physical appearance – that is, of course, hugely relevant to feminism. I want to know about the self-esteem issues around our capabilities and intellectual capacity.
I was talking to someone earlier today who I have a huge amount of respect for, I often compare myself to him and come up short. Yet even he, when I asked, said he often second guesses himself before putting an opinion forward. I was amazed. He puts on a really good show to convince you otherwise. I wonder how many other people, I assume are super confident, are the same? Could it be? Is everyone faking it, even just a little? Even the really egotistical ones? My mind is blown.
So let’s do a bit of social research, just for my overly curious mind. Whether male, female or other; whether feminist or not (that’s a stupid one); whether young or old; have you ever:
- Not put your hand up during a class or meeting, because you don’t want to ask a question that you think everyone knows the answer to?
- Decided not to apply for that job, because you could never be what they are looking for?
- Hesitated before putting your opinion forward and thought ‘Maybe I’ll just email it after the meeting’?
- Not put what you really think under some semi intellectual article someone shared on Facebook, cause you don’t really know enough?
- Made a decision and then immediately asked everyone around you if they thought it was the right one? (whilst acting totally cool with it all)
I hope some people nod and agree with some of these, if not, I’ve just made my unhinged inner monologue very public.
But I wonder how many people you think are super confident and you compare yourself to, actually nodded along too?
The hypothesis is: Many people think those around them are more confident or don’t have the same concerns as them. I think that’s because everyone is putting on their best face. So while we you may think the person in front of you is more confident and capable, they might be thinking the same thing in their head about you. We let few people in on our deepest concerns.
So everyone is trying to be like the most confident person in their lives, whilst that person is desperately trying to be like someone else, more confident…so when do we actually know we’re there?
What a mental clusterf*ck. Quite frankly.
So comment below or on Facebook or whatevs and try to be honest. If you rather not make it public, email me.