Self-esteem is a tricky thing. It plays an important role in our lives. It influences how we act around others, the decisions we make, how motivated we are in our career, and how we feel in our own skin. It is at our very core as people. And, while it is a crucial factor for both men and women, the way the different genders find that self-esteem, determine their self-worth, is very different.
Men find self-esteem internally. It is based on their personal accomplishments, things they are proud of. Maybe it is fixing a car, repairing a household appliance, achieving a career goal, or tackling a level in a video game. Regardless it is not about someone else telling them they did a good job, it is about that internal celebration and belief in themselves. That is not to say that it doesn’t help to have praise, but men don’t need it to find their self-esteem.
Women, on the other hand, tend to find their self-esteem externally. They rely more on external validation — be it praise, a “good job,” a smile, hug, laugh, whatever it may be. Women, while they might know deep inside that they have done a good job, still need to hear it from others. They have a harder time trusting in themselves and a harder time feeling good about their achievements without receiving some type of external validation. This is also why women tend to spend a lot more time worrying about their outward appearance — be it the cleanliness or look of their home, or their personal appearance.
You don’t see a lot of men worrying about the look of their wallet, and a lot more men are inclined to go out in sweats and not care what others think of them. Whereas a lot of women won’t leave the house without makeup or their hair done.
It is these differences that can make it harder for women to have high self-esteem. Women worry much more about what others are thinking of them than men do. I frequently encourage women to look deep inside and find those good qualities about themselves and to let go of what others may think. What is inside is what really counts, and how we talk to ourselves can make a big difference.
You have probably seen it in the news, on January 1 in Kerala, India 5 million women formed a wall with their bodies for the right to enter a Sabarima temple. It is something that we should feel proud of as women. It is proof that we are strong and when we stand together powerful things can happen.
These 5 million women demanded respect. They want to see an end to violent agitations against any women trying to enter the temple. They stood up for what they believe in — and for that I congratulate them. We all know it is hard to be a woman in this world but every day we see women coming together asserting their rights and freedoms.
It takes guts. There is no doubt about that. But, the only way we are going to see change in this world is to stand up for it. We can’t just sit back and ignore the way we are treated. We can’t brush it off and stand by as if we have no choice. We do have a choice. We can turn our heads to disrespect and we can demand equal treatment.
We may not be in India but this is a lesson for us all. We deserve the same rights, the same access as any man. And if we stop being complacent big things can happen. We can show the world just how strong we are.
I congratulate these women — all 5 million of them — for standing up for what they believe in. And, I encourage you to embrace this example of unity. Use it as motivation in your own life to stand up for what you believe in, and to be your beautiful, unique self. Don’t let anything get in your way.
Over the years I have seen an increase in women coming to me with symptoms of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD. Many of them are concerned they may have ADHD and are looking for a solution. It got me thinking. Why are we seeing such an increase? What has changed to cause more women to experience symptoms of ADHD?
Our reality as women has changed. We are busier than ever before while still facing the pressures of traditional gender roles. We are still expected to take care of our homes and meals. Many women now have taken on professional careers outside of the home environment adding to the mounting pressure. We are worried more than ever—about everything. Not to mention we are constantly in a state of comparing ourselves to others with the rise of social media and smart devices. Those women who choose to stay home struggle with feeling stir crazy and unfulfilled. We are easily distracted.
All of the stress modern-day women are struggling with is causing them to lose sleep. They are staying up to later hours trying to get everything done. They are feeling the pressure to be the Pinterest mom or the perfect housewife/cook but also the career woman. Research shows that lack of sleep could be exactly what is contributing to symptoms of ADHD.
The disruption of day and night rhythms, staying up later, eating at different times, variations in body temperature and physical movement, all of it can contribute to inattentiveness and challenging behavior, according to research done at the Vrije Universitiet Medical Centre in Amsterdam. This research also showed that people with ADHD had a rise in the hormone melatonin an hour-and-a-half later in the day than those who did not, contributing to that lack of sleep. All of this pointing to the reality that ADHD might actually be a sleep disorder.
Similar studies have also found that those with ADHD had higher rates of daytime sleepiness than those without, making it harder to focus. Other symptoms such as restless legs syndrome and periodic leg movement are also common in those suffering from ADHD, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
The bottom line is we are overwhelmed, overworked, and exhausted. We aren’t sleeping as much and therefore we are finding it difficult to focus. If you are someone who is struggling with symptoms of ADHD, it may be helpful to seek out a licensed professional who is trained in helping adults.
As mentioned in Part 1 of this series, my five-year-old daughter thinks another girl is pretty. She decided she wanted to give her a pretty plastic ring, so she made her a card and put the ring on it.
During the process, my daughter said she was embarrassed and “scared.” She said a few of her female friends were making comments like “eww, that girl isn’t that pretty anyway” and “I am weird.” It doesn’t surprise me that female competition is beginning to start at her age. Child and adolescent psychologist Katie Hurley describes in her book No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident and Compassionate Girls the trend of toxic female competitiveness that is creeping down from high school, and starting as young as grade school. She offers many reasons for this, citing busy schedules, rise in stress and anxiety levels, and increased pressure for children to do well in sports and extracurriculars.
Girls uplifting other girls
I responded to my daughter’s concerns over giving this card to her friend, by telling her “we can show people we like them in many ways.” I told her, “girls can think another girl is pretty. And girls can uplift another girl.” Her twin sister also supported her, the best any five-year-old can. She also made the girl a card that said: “my sister thinks you are pretty and wants to give you a ring.” Afterwards, the twin quietly told me she doesn’t care if girls are not “suppose” to like girls, she loves her sister anyway. I told her, “we can like people in many ways. We are just going to send nice words to uplift another girl! Cool, right?!”
We, adults, have a lot to learn from young children about loving and not judging each other. We are conditioned to compete with our peers. We draw on our insecurities and instead of turning them into positives, we put other women down. We are not being uplifting because we are afraid of other women being more successful, prettier, “bigger” than us. We need to dig deep inside and find that inner strength to uplift each other. Us, women, we need each other. We need the support from others, the kindness, the acceptance. We should be helping each other to feel good about ourselves, instead of doing the exact opposite.
How do you uplift the women around you?
More on Hurley: https://www.thestar.com/life/relationships/opinion/2018/02/08/why-girls-are-getting-meaner-younger.html
Sandra gets home from work and finds her husband bathing their toddler. She marches up to him and said, “You’ve got water all over the floor! Stop! Let me do this!” Her husband fires back, “Fine!”
Traditionally childrearing is considered a woman’s job but the world is changing. Today women are excelling in education, succeeding in careers and entering into relationships holding their own weight. Men are also stepping outside of their social gender role, and are 3x more involved in their children’s lives compared to their father’s generation. Most mothers rejoice over this trend, yet a good 21% consciously or unconsciously engage in “maternal gatekeeping” that may dissuade fathers from taking on more childcare tasks.
Whether due to natural instinct or societal expectations, many mothers identify themselves as the primary caretaker of their children and hold this value dearly. Maternal gatekeeping happens when mothers believe fathers are not as competent in the caretaking tasks due to the same set of societal expectations, and behave in a way that discourages the fathers’ effort, thereby obstructing collaborative parenting.
It is understandable that mothers want to do what’s best for the children. We need a small dose of maternal gatekeeping to keep us parents organized and get things done, but too much of it can hinder father-child bonding and affect couples relationships. Having it keeps mothers overwhelmed and experience maternal burnout. Raising children is a tough job and mothers need support, especially those who are working outside of home. More men are willing to step in nowadays so moms, you can allow yourself some rest. You deserve less stress.
How to prevent yourself from being a “Maternal Gatekeeper”?
- Notice it – Sometimes our maternal instinct is so ingrained that we don’t even notice we are being the “gatekeeper.” Having an awareness of our behavior can help us make conscious decisions as parents.
- Let go of high standards – Your partner has his own style of parenting. It’s unrealistic to expect your partner to do everything within your standards.
- Focus on the big picture – Your kids will not remember the water splashing on the floor, but they will remember the fun times when their daddy made silly soapy hairstyles for them. (If the kids are old enough, you can coach daddy to have them clean up the mess together.)
- Communication sandwich — If you need to communicate with your partner on how he can do things differently, consider talking to him after the fact when you two are in a good mood, and use two compliments to buffer one criticism.
- Talk to a professional — Therapy can help you gain some relaxation skills so you can be happy even with soapy water on the floor.
Mabel Yiu is a Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in girls’ and women’s mental health at the Women’s Therapy Institute in Palo Alto, CA. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more tips or tools, or schedule an online appointment.
(Image source: GettyImage)
Jessica is having trouble concentrating in her math class because she is getting very little sleep at night. She lies awake for hours worrying about why her best friend doesn’t talk to her anymore, whether everyone is looking at her funny, whether she will bomb the math test tomorrow, whether her parents are really going to divorce, and other catastrophic what-ifs.
Tara seems to have the “perfect” life with a home, career and children that she adores yet she feels overwhelmed. Now her things are not getting done and she doesn’t laugh as often anymore. She doesn’t sleep much and when she does, she often wakes up heart pounding and palms sweaty, thinking she is going crazy and fearing “her perfect life won’t last”.
From the time a girl reaches puberty until late adulthood, she is twice as likely to have anxiety as a man. While men are not immune to anxiety, men and women’s differences in brain chemistry and hormonal levels in different life stages may be pieces of the puzzle as to why women are more vulnerable to anxiety during stressful events.
If you or your daughter experiences anxiety, there are things to do about it.
- Allowing Anxiety: Forcing yourself or your child not to worry or minimize the anxious feelings can create even more anxiety. It can be defeating when those worries just won’t go away. We need a healthy dose of worrying to keep us safe or get things done; it has a purpose so we don’t want to eliminate it completely. Since it serves a function, it’s important to take anxiety seriously and allow it’s existence so we can shift it to our benefits.
- Relaxation Skills: Breathing and visualization helps you calm down when you are agitated. Relaxation techniques need to be age-appropriate and don’t have to be boring. Some can even be done while you are in the middle of a task. For teens, there are apps such as Breathe that can help.
- Movement: It’s understandable that when you are anxious, the last you want to do is to get out of bed. It may seem cumbersome but setting a goal to do something as simple as walking around the block can work wonders. Sometimes staying indoor with the blinds closed may affect your circadian rhythm (aka. body clock), which can disrupted your sleeping pattern. Going outside and getting some sun and air can help “reset” your body clock so you can sleep better at night, feel more refreshed the next day, and have better mood.
- Talk to a licensed therapist who is in tuned with teen and women’s issues, and values whole-health approach. A good therapist is able to listen, teach relaxation techniques, and tailor a therapeutic plan that best fits you. The first session is usually paperwork and getting to know each other, so give it a few sessions before deciding whether the therapist is right for you.
While nobody’s life is completely worry-free, but anxiety can be manageable and it doesn’t have to control your whole life. You don’t need to do this alone.
Mabel Yiu is a Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in girls and women’s mental health at the Women’s Therapy Institute in Palo Alto, CA. You can reach her at email@example.com for more tips or tools, or schedule an online appointment.
Header image credit: Huffington Post