Women in 2016: We CAN Do It All... But Should We?

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Modern women can do it all.

It’s supposed to be a statement expressing female empowerment, but lately this sentiment feels more like a prison sentence. All around me, I see women struggling with this conviction, wallowing in self-doubt, frustration, and perfectionistic tendencies.

The media, articles, and other women tell us we are strong and capable. We can handle it all—a family, a career, children, our health, our social lives—with stereotypical womanly smiles on our faces. Succeeding in all areas of our lives is not only possible; it’s necessary to achieve life satisfaction.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for woman power. I’m all for the idea I can pursue any career path I want, that I am respected and valued in society. I’m all for goal-setting, dream achieving, and self-fulfillment.

I’m just not sure if the “we can do it all” mentality is actually helping me achieve any of those.

The Expectation for Perfection

The problem with the “we can do it all” concept is that it’s so closely related to perfectionist tendencies.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen society’s expectations for perfect mothering come to light in the news. From the criticism poured out online over the Disney gator attack to the Cincinnati gorilla incident, it seems like the entire world expects mothers to be perfect. Certainly all mothers strive to be the best they can be, as they should, but social judgements and expectations can leave many feeling the pressure.

I’ve talked to enough moms to know motherhood is challenging—there's no such thing as perfection, no matter what society tells us. Still, so many are left feeling lackluster because of the high standards society tells us we must live up to. If you don’t have kids? The pressure’s still there, just in a different form.

The 2016 woman doesn’t—or can’t—stop at motherhood, though. The expectations for perfection continue into the workplace. We must strive to climb the ladder, regardless of our selected career choice. We are expected to further our education, go after the promotion, or better our career pathway all while maintaining our family. It doesn’t matter if you’re genuinely satisfied with your position. Women who don’t go after these things are often perceived as unmotivated or not taking advantage of opportunity.

Add to the motherhood and career expectations the standards for health and beauty, and you’ve got yourself a perfect concoction of stressors. The media tells us we must work to disintegrate our love handles, blast away the muffin top, and eat the perfect balance of fruits and vegetables. Ice cream on a summer night, or *gasp* takeout for dinner? Where’s your motivation?

Thus, the “we can do it all” mentality ultimately leads to an incessant, almost impossible juggling act. Instead of "we can do it all," the sentiment seems to have shifted to "we must do it all perfectly." Those who haven't achieved this standard--which, in truth, is probably most of us--face criticism from society and from ourselves.

What Female Empowerment Should Mean

As with so many things in life, being a self-fulfilled, happy woman in 2016 requires a knowledge of your true desires.

You can do it all… but that doesn’t mean you have to. Further, if you do decide to do it all, it doesn’t mean you have to hold yourself to unrealistic, perfect standards.

Women in 2016 are strong, multi-tasking go-getters. We can pursue our desires. We can go after big dreams. We can live multi-faceted lives. That’s a beautiful thing.

However, we shouldn’t let the “we can do it all” ideal tear us down or force us to pursue lives we don’t want to claim. Female empowerment is not about forcing us into hectic lives with crazy restrictions and standards. In fact, it should be the exact opposite.

Thus, the true statement we should be striving to achieve is: Modern women can live the lives they seek.

Women CAN do it all... but it doesn't mean we have to.

Lindsay Detwiler is the author of three contemporary romance novels includingVoice of Innocence, Without You, and Then Comes Love. She is also a high school English teacher in her hometown. She lives with Chad (her junior high sweetheart), their five cats, and their mastiff Henry. You can find out more about Lindsay atwww.lindsaydetwiler.com, www.facebook.com/lindsayanndetwiler, or on Twitter @LindsayDetwiler.