Friday, June 29, 2012

Being Your Authentic Self

This week, I got contacted by a writer/reporter for an online magazine for college students. She's working on an article based on her observations (and her college-age friends) about young women feeling pressure to "dumb themselves down" to attract a boyfriend. She asked for my comments on why young women do this, and how it might work out long-term. It really got me thinking.

As a mother to three smart college-age daughters, and a therapist and life coach to smart women of all ages, I find this trend deeply upsetting. As parents and mentors of young women, we need to encourage them to become their authentic selves. What is the point of trying to act differently than you actually are? It may lead you to attract and marry the wrong partner.

Developmentally, it's perfectly normal for both teens and 20-somethings to be exploring their identity. We need to try on different personas in order to figure out who we really are. Both men and women do this. The core, authentic self isn't finished forming until closer to age 30 for most people. This is why if you partner too early, it's anybody's guess whether you'll like who they become by 30 or 35, and the same is true for them. We are still maturing and changing dramatically in our 20s.

It's a difficult task all our lives to try to be our authentic self: honest, direct, healthy, and uniquely you.

There are special challenges that young women face in becoming themselves. In general, young women are harder on themselves than young men are. Young women feel a tremendous amount of pressure to look perfect, make peace with their body image, and not take things personally.

Studies in attribution theory show that throughout their lives, men often take credit for successes and blame situations or other people for failures. Women, in contrast, tend as a group to highlight the contributions of others for any successes, and tend to blame themselves more than men do for any failures.

I wish there was some way we could immunize the upcoming generation of young women with more confidence in themselves. As writer Gail Sheehy points out in her Passages books, most women don't grow fully into their confidence until their 40s or 50s. Wouldn't it be great if we could all empower the young women in our lives to be themselves? I'd like to see younger women focus less on who they think they need to be to attract a boyfriend, and more on the things that really matter: being your authentic self- happy, passionate about your life, and involved in things you care about. Women often try too hard, text too often, etc.

I love the combination of the qualities of confidence and humility. Arrogance and swagger gets boring and wears on you. Nobody likes know-it-alls. Genuineness is refreshing!

What about the dumbing yourself down thing? It's a bad idea. Being a bimbo isn't going to attract men that are keepers, who you can respect. Really good men aren't going to need you to dilute your intelligence or anything else. Be you, with confidence.

No comments:

Post a Comment