By: Meg Batatz
I was originally going to write an article about inspiring, famous women who are killing it at work and at home. And five steps on how to be like them.
But I changed my mind.
As I was doing my usual daily scouting of news in business, politics, feminism, and the like, I read about women doing incredible things, writing amazing blogs, selling innovative products and services. Telling me how I can be a better woman, a better wife, a better mother, a better leader.
I didn’t feel inspired. I felt inadequate.
I know these women have all been through trials and failures. So they know what it’s like to face challenges. That’s great and relatable and all. But still. They’re telling their stories from the “other side.” I made it through and you can too, if you just try hard enough.
Success is possible for many of us. In the future. But what about now? What about the rest of us still in the middle of the storm? What am I in the meantime, before I get enough of my life in order to acquire this so-called universally-achievable success? Until I become somebody, and I doomed to be a nobody?
We women are capable of incredible things
When we challenge each other and give it our all, we can change the world. But I’m beginning to think that there’s more to being a woman than just casting an effect on the planet.
So many of us define ourselves by what we do
Go find the bio of any influential woman, and you’ll discover the jobs she’s had, the boards she’s been on, what school she got a degree from. You still won’t know her. As for you, if you don’t have such a bio, it’s almost as if you’re less of a woman. If you do, it means you deserve more attention and esteem than the rest.
I love seeing strong women cherished and esteemed. But I can’t help but think many of my sisters feel like they’re slipping through the cracks.
I can’t help but wonder whether even the most successful women really feel loved and accepted — or if they feel like they’re only acceptable because they put their hands and their minds to work.
Just a piece of work
For the moms out there, you know what it’s like to have a newborn baby. A newborn can do absolutely nothing productive. A baby girl takes up time, money, energy, and patience. If we measured her by how much she could change the world, she’d either be worthless, or just a little gob of “potential” — in other words, someone who might become worthy someday, but for now, is just a piece of work.
Despite the difficulty of motherhood, I hardly know a mother who thinks of her daughter this way. There is something special about a baby girl. She deserves love and care no matter what. Because she is cherished for who she is. She is loved just because she is herself.
Labels define opportunities
I can’t bear to think of a child as just a machine that contributes to society. But I find that, the older we get as girls, the more we are measured against different standards, compared with other girls, and given labels. And the more we define our identities on a utilitarian basis.
If you’re labeled “gifted and talented” in elementary school, that label defines your opportunities, people’s preconceived notions about you, and even your value to society. Same with “special ed.” Inequality in society begins when we’re young, and it only gets worse.
This isn’t fair to anybody
The problem is… we like it. We encourage it. We tell girls, “try harder, and you’ll be accepted.” In other words, “If you continue as you are now, you’ll never be enough.” So we have some women inadvertently standing on the shoulders of others. They don’t always choose to. And what do they long for? Equality and justice. And then we celebrate them for loving it so much. Because we long for it, too. But when will the time come for us to achieve it?
Nobody in particular is at fault here. Yet, in a way, we are all at fault. As agents in society, we all affect it. Is not our culture the sum of the daily actions and reactions of its individuals?
But as human beings, we are more than culture contributors. We are more than our jobs. Our little girls are not the sum of their grades and their positions on the team. Our babies are worth more than how they behave in the grocery store. Our souls have significance beyond whether or not our families are falling apart.
I am not what I do
Philosophically, it’s easy to admit: I am not what I do. But how do you live this way when you do have a job and a family and responsibilities to uphold?
I guess I’m old-fashioned, but I’d like to think we can be whole women, who accept ourselves no matter our circumstances or our success — without throwing in the towel. And even when we throw in the towel.
When I say “stop defining yourself by your job and your kids,” I don’t mean not to enjoy and care about these things. What I mean is that it’s important to know that, even apart from these things, you’re still you.
It’s easy to re-examine this when things fall apart. But until we get this straight during both the bad and the good times, we’ll never have peace. Because our sense of acceptance as people will always depending on how things went at the end of the day, and will reset in the morning, when we’ll have to rack up acceptance all over again.
You’re not a machine
It’s easy to go about your day and forget who you are and what you’re worth. You can live this way for a while, but soon enough, you’ll go crazy. Because you’re not a machine. You’re you.
I’m not going to tell you the 5 steps to living a balanced live and discovering who you really are. Because, even though I have a job I love and a family that hasn’t fallen apart, I’m still looking for the answers myself.
But I guess what I can say is that we’re in this together. If you feel like a freak because your job title doesn’t define you, you’re not alone.
Let’s unite to overcome the performance trap. May the fruit of our labor be from a garden… not a factory.
What do you do to stop defining yourself by your job? By your kids?
Meg Baatz is part of the marketing team at Sthira Design, an LA-based design house that’s reinventing heels in collaboration with astronauts, scientists, and designers. Join the movement at http://sthiradesign.com.