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. Some parents even throw celebrations to reveal the expected gender of their baby. These binaries can continue as the child gets older. It manifests as boys only getting to play with trucks and girls with dolls. 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. Blue and pink have not always been split between the sexes and in the past, boys even wore dresses until they were six or seven. Throughout history, different traits have been split between the two sexes without any real consequence or reality to what someone may want to express as their gender.
What it means to be a woman varies per woman. Every woman, from a career woman to a mother, holds a different answer, as our idiosyncratic perception and expectations vary based on our identity and culture. For women born female (cis women) or women born any other way (trans women), gender is something highly personal and varies in expression and identity within womanhood. Whatever your womanhood may look like, finding balance in one's life and the routine will lead to overall well-being and satisfaction in life. Paying due attention to one's health and wellness, holistically involving one's self-care methods, and the efficacy with which one implements them, can help you feel more at home in your body. Crafting your life into the idiosyncratic work of art that it naturally is takes directed attention, encompassing a balance between mental, emotional and personal growth.
Whether you are thinking about your life as a woman in the physical, mental, or biological terms, it can actually mean something different to each one of us women. Biologically, females vary from males, both in the reproductive sense and the neurological, chemical sense, although, of course, not all females can give birth nor do all women have the same brain chemistry. Women have different hormones, emotions, thoughts, and even different health concerns and life spans. Many women will face different health concerns than their male counterparts, like concerns over birth control and reproductive health.
Despite the year, women (including and especially transwomen) seem to be put in a different bracket than men in many ways that limit what women can be and achieve. This often manifests professionally across industries in women not being promoted as often or having difficulty earning respect in the workplace. 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 for celebrities and high-profile women, they still earn less than their male counterparts.
It was not that long ago that women were not even allowed to work, vote, or go to school. It wasn't until 1971 that the Equal Rights Amendment was approved, and it took another eight years and several more amendments to get the laws to equal out like they are today. However, even though the law says that women and men are equal, convincing the world to act accordingly is a challenging, complex story.
For many young children, the rules around gender expression and identity can be confusing. Children of all genders can enjoy trains, firetrucks, Barbie dolls, and tea sets. Often times it is the adults in their supervision who make a pointed difference between who is allowed to enjoy what.
Because, in truth, there is no real reason for these things besides stereotyping and limiting behaviors people have perceived as dangerous, for whatever outdated reason.
We have lived in this limited way for so long that it has become a rule and it seems that breaking this rule will make you "different." For many people, it becomes challenging, scary or even unsafe to pursue the things they want to do or be if they are outside their gender’s perceived expectations. It is safer in many families and areas of the world to blend in with the others and not stand out in a crowd. However, there are places and people who understand that denying yourself the things your soul wants is not healthy for you mentally. The concept of gender is social in nature, but that does not mean it can be ignored. Everyone must choose whether to accept or confront their expected gender identity and presentation, whether they do so consciously or not.
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 life statements should encompass and reflect your personal and professional values, serving as somewhat of a self-fulfilling vision for success and personal alignment. Vision boards can help provide palpable direction to your desires and any overarching themes that might present themselves. Your life vision is essentially what you are wanting from your life in the long run and all the small moments and behaviors that will make up your daily life. This process is something that takes a lot of introspection and directed attention. This life statement can help you understand where your gender will fit in and also, perhaps, how it might present specific obstacles. Going down a path of resistance does not have to be shied away from if it is safe for you to do so.
While men and women can have similar types of life visions, it is common for women to feel like they have to act within a separate set of rules and standards. As women are able more and more to pursue fruitful, successful careers, many women are either held to still be mothers or homemakers or expected to be both at once without asking for help. As gender evolves and we expand our ideas of what anyone is capable of, hopefully there will be more room for flexibility within masculinity as well. Flexibility and room to express yourself the way you want and need to benefits people of all genders.
The brain is a muscle and the longer you engage in behavior over time, the easier it becomes to do. Such are your habits, as you do something every day. Over time, a habit takes less physical and mental energy to complete. Using a planner or calendar to keep a list of what you need to get done, helping you to know exactly what you need to accomplish and allow you to prioritize your to-dos based on their importance, helps to mentally organize the things that need to get done.
For example, if you are trying to eat along certain health guidelines or be more active, if you write out on your calendar small reminders of these goals and what you need to accomplish on a micro scale, you have broken up a large project into a digestible daily task. This concept also extends in ways of enumerating your tasks, such as meal planning or keeping a food diary.
Our life is a narrative we craft. While certain things are out of our control, how we choose to emotionally exist and react to the things that happen to us is within our power. If you find yourself experiencing emotional reactions that cause you or others distress, reevaluating your inner truth and its honest manifestations may be a healthy option. Understanding and navigating one’s gender, whether cisgender (born in a body whose sex matches their assigned gender) or transgender, can be a challenging process full of societal and familial norms to negotiate with.
BetterHelp is an online resource created with the aim of connecting more people to quality and affordable mental health care, which can help you feel more in control of your emotions and your life. Several kinds of talk therapy are available through BetterHelp’s licensed counselors, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT has been shown to be an effective tool to help people asking questions and exploring their gender identity and expression. One study of a particular CBT program aimed at helping LGBTQ+ adolescents cope with stress and reduce depression found that 97% of participants experienced less stress.
Turning to online therapy can be a great, cost-effective resource, as therapists’ costs are reduced and can therefore be more available to you. BetterHelp’s services are confidential, as exploring gender can be a very personal or intense discussion. We are here to help you feel fulfilled as the most authentic you.
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Below are commonly asked questions on this topic:
What makes you proud as a woman?
What is the most beautiful thing about being a woman?