We’ve heard it all before: women need to up our confidence game. We need to work on our self-esteem, feel beautiful just the way we are, lean in, be bold, practice self-care, battle our imposter syndrome and be a girl boss. A day doesn’t go by on social media where a friend doesn’t share some sort of inspirational meme created for women – it’s all motivation all the time. It’s … nice, I suppose.
Surely there’s something to it – there’s nothing healthy about walking around hating yourself, and there’s no doubt that self-loathing is a long time female rite of passage. So, I understand the ubiquity of self-empowerment directed at women these days: a lot of us need it.
But when it becomes all-encompassing – when we feel compelled to constantly buck up outwardly and in our inner lives – well, it can all be a bit exhausting. Lately, the anxiety around being more confident is starting to feel like a bigger problem than the insecurity itself.
There’s a booming business in helping women to feel better about themselves; the self-esteem industry never tires of telling us the various ways we consciously and subconsciously belittle ourselves or don’t adequately cultivate our power. We say sorry too much, don’t take our seat at the table, don’t ask for what we deserve.
A lot of these are real, actual problems, but there’s a difference between taking on tangible issues – such as not asking for as much money as men – and being on constant guard for momentary lapses of confidence.
The truth is that there’s nothing wrong with women feeling inferior from time to time. It’s a natural reaction to a culture that largely tells us that’s what we are, and a little insecurity can actually be a decent motivator. Why not sit for a moment with our crises of confidence and accept them as normal, rather than constantly trying to battle through them?
Feminism isn’t just a fad – and that’s why so many anti-feminists are angry.
I simply don’t buy that the spiral of self-awareness is entirely a good thing. I don’t want to constantly be working on myself, or powering through tough times with validating, feel-good platitudes. We have bad days; we feel bad about ourselves. That’s OK. Believe me.
There’s a longstanding feminist saying that in a culture that disdains women – the way we look, the way we age, the way we act – that loving ourselves can be a revolutionary act. I agree. But part of that self-love has to be forgiving ourselves when we’re not feeling at the top of our game, instead of treating the feeling as a deficiency that needs to be tweaked or fixed.
I do hope that women feel good about themselves. I like that we’re in a moment of feminism where women feel comfortable declaring themselves bosses and badasses, especially those women who have long been treated as if their self-confidence is unfounded or unattractive. I just also hope we can make some room for those difficult days and bad feelings. They’re part of us too.