Understanding What It Means To Be A Woman
The social construct of gender starts before we are even born. It is common for expecting parents to speculate over the sex of their baby on the way. These binaries can continue as the child gets older. For many people, they are forced into one or the other, when it comes to what hobbies, traits, and behaviors are assigned and expected from them. However, if we look back at history, it looks like gender has been a fluctuating concept.
What Is A Woman? What Is Gender?
What it means to be a woman varies from one individual to the next. Because gender is a social construct, it is influenced by social factors: our experiences, expectations, cultures, and more can all shape the way we view ourselves and gender identity. “Being a woman” might be all about traditional femininity for one woman, but for another, “being a woman” might mean working hard to become the CEO of a company. What matters most is one’s own sense of self-identity.
For both those assigned female at birth and those who are not, womanhood and gender identity can be something highly personal. Sex, on the other hand, is separate from gender. The female sex can differ from the male sex both in the reproductive sense and a neurological, chemical sense (as a note, not all females can give birth nor do all females have the same brain chemistry). Those who identify as women may have different hormones, emotions, thoughts, and even different health concerns or life spans than those who do not. These unique experiences are, for many, a crucial part of womanhood.
In general, womanhood can be thought of as the experiences and sense of self that an individual who identifies as female (or, potentially, a gender outside of the binary) has. What this looks like can differ, as can the extent to which someone identifies with their womanhood. Being a woman can mean whatever you want it to, which is perhaps one of the most beautiful things about it.
Gender Discrimination And Other Oddities
Despite the many strides that have been made throughout history toward equality for women (including and especially transwomen or gender-nonconforming individuals), discrimination is, unfortunately, a part of womanhood for many people. There are still many systemic and societal barriers that can limit what women can do and achieve, some of which can uniquely shape the life of a woman.
Exactly how gender discrimination affects those who identify as women can vary from country to country, but in the US it can manifest itself within the workplace, the home, relationships, and even the doctor’s office. White women still make only 79 cents to a white man’s dollar. For women of color, the conversion rate is even worse. A Latina woman only makes 55 cents to a white man’s dollar. Even many female celebrities and high-profile women find that they still earn less than their male counterparts.
Likewise, it was not that long ago that women were not even allowed to work, vote, or go to school. The right to vote wasn’t sealed for women until after the Great Depression, and it wasn't until 1971 that the Equal Rights Amendment was approved. Attacks on women’s rights are continuous even today, as are the societal expectations that often hold women back. Women are less likely to view themselves as leaders than men, and on average, women have lower self-esteem than their male counterparts. The reality of womanhood can be draining and even damaging to some who identify as female; as a result, many women find that their challenges and their connections to other women experiencing similar turmoil become a defining piece of their lives.
In truth, there is no real reason for gender discrimination and stereotypes; even though the male and female sex have some differences and may be better suited to some specific tasks, like multi-tasking, much of what we prescribe to each gender is entirely social. Still, for many women, it can be challenging or even impossible to pursue the things they want to do if they fall outside their gender’s perceived expectations. This may be especially true for transgender women or those who do not conform to the gender binary. The concept of gender is social in nature, but that does not mean it can necessarily be ignored, which is something that many versions of womanhood often grapple with.
What Is Your Personal Philosophy?
Another important part of being a woman (or any person, for that matter) is philosophy, or the way you view the world and your place in it. Virtually everyone has a different philosophy that they live their life by, even if they are not necessarily in touch with what the tenets are explicitly. Your personal philosophy should encompass and reflect your personal and professional values, serving as somewhat of a self-fulfilling vision for success and personal alignment.
While individuals of any gender identity can have similar types of life visions, it is common for women to feel like they must act within a separate set of rules and standards than others. If you identify as a woman or with womanhood in general, ask yourself what makes you feel like a woman and why these things matter to you. Doing so can help you discover how to best empower yourself and feel comfortable in your own skin.
Our lives are a narrative that we can craft and shape to our liking, at least to some extent. While certain things may be out of our control, how we choose to identify ourselves is something that’s unique and personal. Understanding and navigating one’s gender, whether it conforms with what has been assigned at birth or not, can be a challenging process full of confusion. Even still, managing the realities of womanhood can also prove to be difficult, particularly if you’re a woman of color, a part of the queer community, or otherwise a minority.
No matter what womanhood likes or feels like for you, far too often “being a woman” means managing obstacles of some kind. Sometimes, the support and perspective of someone on the outside can make working through challenges and feeling more confident much easier. Online therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can help you navigate your identity right from the comfort of your own home.
Online CBT has been shown to be an effective tool for treating mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. One study of a particular CBT program aimed at helping LGBTQ+ adolescents manage stress and reduce depression even found that 97% of participants experienced a reduction in symptoms. Even if you aren’t living with a mental illness, a licensed therapist can offer resources, problem-solving strategies, and other insight that can make living as someone who identifies as female feel a little less overwhelming.
Hear from BetterHelp users below.
“Such an amazing session, Dr Wright has helped me to become a stronger more independent woman. Once afraid to speak my mind, or take a step forward, now I’m doing it with confidence! I still have so much more growing to do, but thanks to Dr Leslie Wright I actually feel like I have the strength to do it… I was always so scared, and now I feel like I can do so much more and that I was holding myself back. I hope to keep on growing and learning more about myself and what I’m capable of. Thank you so much, Dr Wright.”
“Nadja is an amazing therapist, she’s very understanding and sympathetic to all my concerns and traumas. She has guided me to more content to review during the week to help me understand my feelings, traumas, and relatable situations. I definitely recommend Nadja as a counselor, especially for women who feel they need woman to woman advice. I found her way of counseling was as nurturing as a mother’s advice.”
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