9 societal pressures only women will understand

Ladies, let’s talk about the unspoken burdens we carry in our daily lives. 

From the subtle whispers of societal expectations to the deafening roar of gender norms, there are pressures that only we truly grasp. In a world where expectations often feel like a tangled web, it’s time to shine a spotlight on the unique challenges that women face. 

Below, check out nine societal pressures that hit home for every woman.

1) Beauty standards

The pressure to conform to societal beauty standards is one of the most pervasive pressures women face.

From a young age, girls are bombarded with images of flawless women in media, setting an unrealistic and often damaging standard of beauty. It’s not just about looking good – it’s about fitting into a narrow definition of what ‘good’ looks like.

These expectations don’t just stop at physical appearance. It extends to how women dress, how they act, and even how they age. It’s the daunting pressure of constantly trying to ‘keep up’ with ever-changing beauty trends.

This isn’t to say that men don’t experience beauty pressures, but the level and intensity is often significantly higher for women. The constant scrutiny and judgement can be exhausting – something only women will truly understand.

2) Balancing career and motherhood

This is a pressure that I’ve personally experienced first-hand.

When I became a mother, I suddenly found myself juggling the demands of a full-time career along with the responsibilities of raising a child. It’s a delicate, high-stakes balancing act that often left me feeling like I was failing at both.

Society expects women to be nurturing, attentive mothers while simultaneously excelling in their careers. There’s this prevailing notion that we should be able to ‘do it all’ and make it look effortless. But the reality is far from it.

I remember countless nights of staying up late to finish reports after putting my child to bed, only to wake up early for school drop-offs before rushing off to work. And amidst all this, there was this lingering guilt – am I doing enough as a mother? Am I doing enough in my career?

Men certainly face their share of pressures when it comes to career and fatherhood. But the societal expectations placed on women in this regard are often more intense and unforgiving. It’s a unique pressure that only women can truly understand.

3) Ageism

Women, more so than men, often fall victim to ageism – the discrimination based on age. The media and society as a whole tend to value youth in women far more than experience or wisdom.

Did you know that research found that women start experiencing ageism in the workplace at around 40 years old? For men, it starts much later, at around 45 years old. This five year gap may seem small, but it can have significant implications on career progression and opportunities.

This societal pressure leads many women to go to great lengths to conceal their age or maintain a youthful appearance, further perpetuating unrealistic beauty standards.

Ageism is a societal pressure that is uniquely intense for women, and it’s one that’s often overlooked.

4) The expectation to be ‘nice’

From childhood, many women are conditioned to be agreeable, accommodating, and nice. We’re often taught to avoid conflict and to prioritize the needs and feelings of others over our own.

This societal pressure continues into adulthood – in personal relationships, in the workplace, and in broader society. Women who assert themselves or express strong opinions can be labeled as ‘difficult’ or ‘bossy’.

This expectation can lead to women downplaying their own needs and desires, and can even affect their mental health. It’s a unique pressure that women navigate daily, often subconsciously, and one that is deeply ingrained in many societies.

5) Body shaming

body shaming 9 societal pressures only women will understand

Body shaming, unfortunately, remains a harsh and pervasive reality for countless women in our society.

From media representations to everyday interactions, women’s bodies are often subjected to relentless scrutiny and criticism, perpetuating a damaging culture of body shaming.

This scrutiny manifests in various forms, from overt comments about weight and appearance to subtle messages conveyed through advertising, social media, and interpersonal interactions.

Women are constantly bombarded with unrealistic beauty standards that dictate what their bodies should look like, leading to feelings of inadequacy, shame, and self-doubt.

Moreover, the impact of body shaming extends far beyond mere words or images. It can have profound psychological and emotional consequences, eroding self-esteem, fostering unhealthy relationships with food and exercise, and contributing to the development of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.

6) The pressure to be a caregiver

Women are often expected to naturally assume the role of caregivers, whether it’s for children, the elderly or sick family members.

This expectation is deeply ingrained in many cultures and societies. It’s not just about physical care; it’s also about providing emotional support, nurturing relationships and maintaining the overall well-being of the family.

It’s a role that requires immense strength, patience and sacrifice. And while it can be rewarding, it can also be emotionally draining and physically exhausting.

This pressure to shoulder the responsibility of care can take a toll on a woman’s personal ambitions, career prospects and even her own health.

7) The ‘perfect’ woman narrative

In the eyes of society, women are often expected to fit into a certain mold – the ‘perfect’ woman. This narrative paints a picture of a woman who is successful, beautiful, nurturing, fit, and always put-together.

Striving to fit into this mold can feel like a never-ending race. There were times when I found myself trying to blend into this ‘perfect’ woman silhouette. It felt like an uphill battle, constantly trying to meet these expectations while keeping up with my own aspirations and needs.

The ‘perfect’ woman narrative can cause feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. It’s a pressure that many women wrestle with, constantly questioning if they’re living up to these societal standards. And it’s an experience that only women can truly understand.

8) The fear of being ‘too much’

Many women live with the fear of being ‘too much’ – too emotional, too ambitious, too assertive, or even too successful.

Society often labels women who express their feelings or assert themselves openly as ‘overbearing‘ or ‘intimidating’.

Growing up, I’ve noticed how girls are often taught to put others’ needs and opinions before our own. It’s like we’re expected to fit into this narrow box of what’s considered acceptable behavior for women.

Any deviation from these norms—whether it’s showing too much emotion, being too ambitious, or daring to assert ourselves—is often met with judgment and criticism. It’s like we’re caught in this double bind where we’re penalized for displaying traits that are praised in men, like confidence and assertiveness.

To make matters worse, these expectations are reinforced by cultural stereotypes that portray women as submissive.

When we challenge these stereotypes by speaking up, setting boundaries, or pursuing our goals, we’re often met with resistance or backlash. It’s frustrating because it feels like we’re constantly walking a tightrope, trying to balance authenticity with societal expectations.

9) The mental load

The term ‘mental load‘ encapsulates the countless unseen tasks and responsibilities that women frequently undertake, often without acknowledgment or appreciation.

It encompasses a wide range of duties, from remembering important dates and events to managing household chores and ensuring the smooth functioning of daily life.

These tasks, while seemingly mundane, require significant cognitive and emotional effort. Women often find themselves constantly juggling multiple roles and responsibilities, from caretaker and homemaker to professional and social obligations.  

One of the most challenging aspects of the mental load is its invisibility. While the tangible aspects of household chores and caregiving may be visible, the mental labor behind them often goes unnoticed and unacknowledged.

This lack of recognition can lead to feelings of frustration, exhaustion, and overwhelm for women who bear the brunt of this invisible workload.

Furthermore, the unequal distribution of the mental load reinforces gender stereotypes and perpetuates traditional gender roles.

Women are socialized to prioritize the needs of others and take on the role of the primary caregivers and household managers, while men may not be expected to carry an equal share of these responsibilities.

Final thoughts: Beyond the surface

The societal pressures faced by women go far beyond the surface. They are deeply ingrained in our cultures, our systems, and our everyday interactions.

These pressures manifest in various ways – from the expectation to conform to beauty standards, to the mental load of juggling multiple responsibilities. Each point we’ve discussed offers a glimpse into the unique challenges that women navigate daily.

But it’s important to remember that these pressures do not define us. They are part of our experiences, but they are not the sum of who we are as individuals or as women.

As we navigate these societal pressures, let’s remember to extend compassion and understanding towards ourselves and others. Let’s acknowledge these pressures, but let’s also celebrate the resilience, strength, and diversity of women everywhere.

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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