According to a recent survey carried out by Sanctuary, “7/10 women in the UK feel under pressure to be the ‘perfect woman’.” These shocking statistics are highlighted in an emotional, yet thought provoking video which currently circulates social media. The short documentary style video features four older women who speak of the changes they would make to their life “if they had their time again”.
In respect of International Women’s Day, I feel it is appropriate to address how significant an issue this is in today’s society. I feel that there is currently a huge pressure to be considered ‘perfect’ by those around them; whether that be relating to looks, personality or lifestyle. I admit that I spend so much time focusing on creating a future full of experiences and a career to be proud of, that I rarely take the time to appreciate what I have already achieved. At 23, I believe people expect you to be entering a career with a clear understanding of where you will be in five years’ time (probably a homeowner in a steady relationship). However, I’ve barely used my degree since graduating, I’m not in a relationship and I have no idea of where I’ll be in five years’ time.
In a time when there is so much pressure to be successful, there is an abundance of graduates who remain in the same jobs they were in whilst at University. Inevitably, this can often feel degrading when you have spent numerous years working for your qualification among a generation who tell you to work hard or else “you’ll end up with a job at McDonald’s”. Comments such as this may be used in a light hearted manner, but it is this type of comment that creates stereotypes and emphasises the pressure to become “perfect”. In a time when unemployment is rife, it is often difficult to secure a job and even harder to land yourself a job in your qualified field. Be proud of what you have achieved in your life and don’t let the success or opinions of others influence the way you live your life.
Another aspect of modern life that is regularly blamed for corrupting our minds with unrealistic expectations is social media. With 24/7 access to the lives of anyone, it’s not surprising that we can become influenced by a stranger that appears to live the perfect lifestyle. I’m guilty of scrolling through numerous Instagram profiles and questioning why my life is so boring. This certainly doesn’t help with my habit of obsessing over the amount of amazing experiences I will get to encounter during my life. It is because of this habit that I found the most memorable quote in Sanctuary’s campaign video to be “If I had my time again, I wouldn’t create a to-do list. I would create a to-don’t do list.” This quote has really made me pause and reflect on my lifestyle, as it make me think that while we are so busy trying to glamorise and optimise our lives, how much are we failing to realise we already have? With the exception of Mother’s Day, when was the last time we actually took the time to give our parents and grandparents a hug or tell them we love them? It is only when something is gone that we realise what we already have in our lives.
Similarly, Sanctuary’s campaign highlights that it is common for women to feel under pressure to become the perfect mother, wife and friend. I feel this could also be emphasised due to the huge part social media plays in our lives. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I can no longer scroll through my newsfeed without seeing a picture of someone’s child or a status about a loved up couple who’ve reached a new milestone in their relationship. While I am not denying that it is great that someone would like to share these moments with their friends, I believe that it is possible for such statuses to influence women to feel pressured to match what they read on their newsfeeds. The recent introduction of phrases such as ‘bae’ and ‘goals’ may also heighten the pressure on women to be ‘perfect’ as they are often attached to an unrealistic image or opinion of what a relationship entails. When we are constantly subjected to such images, it is natural that we begin to program our mind to think that they are real and consequently we may begin to question our own relationships or try to achieve these somewhat unrealistic expectations.
I feel that it is important to stress that I am not suggesting that women are easily influenced or can’t see past the unrealistic expectations they are subject to, I am merely demonstrating how easy it is for women to feel pressured to resemble a ‘perfect’ woman in today’s society, whether that be in their career, lifestyle or relationships. Likewise, Sanctuary’s #LetGo campaign also explains that their video “This isn’t about stopping [women’s] fight for equality”, it is simply about raising awareness of an issue many women, including myself, currently face.