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Breaking free from expectations

As women, we’re surrounded by mixed messages from advertising, the media, other people and it can often end up with us taking a back seat because we’re not sure what we’re supposed to do or who we’re supposed to be.

There’s an implication that we have to be pretty so we’re expected to wear makeup. But not too much because that’s a bit obvious and makes you look like a different person. We are also supposed to be slim and look after our bodies. But not too slim, we should have a good bum and some boobs, with an obvious waist. Don’t be too curvy though because then you’re not looking after yourself.

Can you see the contradictions in these things? And that’s only the beginning of the conflicting information we get sent as women. Mum’s get even more – if you go back to work, you’re going to miss your child’s milestones, but if you stay at home then you’re setting a bad example and setting back feminism.

I think the worst thing about all of this is that women get pitted against each other in these scenarios with someone being exalted as the perfect example of whatever the subject is, then someone else is dragged through the mud for being a terrible person because they don’t fit whatever narrative is being pushed at the time.

All of this ends up with most of us feeling a bit confused about how to be in the world. I grew up feeling that I was ‘wrong’ because I rarely wore makeup and I was bigger than average. I didn’t want children and I wasn’t hugely interested in marriage either. These things really marked me as different and I was often told that I would change my mind about these things when I was younger.

So I hid away a bit and only spent time with people who didn’t ask me about these things. I kept myself small so no-one could see me and my differences. I drank a lot to give me confidence when I went out and I ended up feeling really unhappy because I felt like I wasn’t being me most of the time.

I eventually realised that I didn’t even really know who ‘me’ was. I’d spent so long trying to fit in that I’d lost the spark of me that made me different. I’m now embracing that more, although it’s still a work in progress. I went roller skating last week and was surprised at the amount of people who said ‘I’d love to do that’ or ‘what made you think of doing that’.

The truth is, I thought I’d like to give it a go last year sometime but was a bit scared that I’d look like an idiot. I’m 45, well overweight and my fitness is negligible. But I had a go, scary as it was to start with, and found that I really enjoyed it. It was great going from petrified to actually making a couple of whole laps in one go! I mean, I’m not going to be on national team but I was happy and really proud of myself for doing it.

I’ve had a much better week for doing it. I’ve been happier, more excited about what I might do next and feel like I have spread a little more joy than I would have otherwise.

I think we all need to stop hiding ourselves and start shining our lights. We all have things that we’ve always wanted to do but we’re scared we’ll get judged because that’s what’s always happened. Just start small – go for a walk on your own if you haven’t done it for ages. Check out the trees, the wildlife, really see what’s going on. Or go and get some Lego and build a castle. Anything that you really want to do but think you’ll get judged for. It’s liberating!

If more of us started breaking out of the small boxes we’ve ended up in because of external pressure, I truly think the world would be a greater place. More happy people doing what brings them joy. Less snarly people who are pissed off because they feel tied down and boxed in. Less judgement about what makes a ‘perfect’ woman. We’re all perfect the way we are, we just need to embrace it 💖


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