9 unrealistic expectations that society places on women without realizing the damage they cause

Being a woman in today’s society comes with expectations that, honestly, can feel like walking a tightrope.

The pressure to embody perfection – to be the ideal mother, daughter, partner, professional – is exhausting and sometimes downright unrealistic.

What’s worse is that most of these expectations are so deeply ingrained in our social fabric that we hardly realize the damage they cause.

As a woman navigating this maze of expectations, I have often felt the weight of these unrealistic standards.

But it’s important to remember that these standards are not a reflection of our value. It is high time we shed some light on these invisible burdens and discuss their implications.

In this article, I am going to highlight nine such unrealistic expectations that society places on women, often without realizing the damage they cause.

1) The pressure to be ‘perfect’

Perfection: It is an ideal that is often glorified, especially when it comes to women.

From a young age, we are subtly conditioned to strive for perfection in all areas of society. Whether it concerns appearance, career or personal relationships.

And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with striving for excellence, the quest for “perfection” can become a grueling and unrealistic expectation.

Why do you ask that?

Well, because ‘perfection’, as society often paints it, is an unattainable illusion. We are constantly bombarded with images and stories of flawlessness that no human being can live up to.

Furthermore, this pursuit of perfection can lead to enormous pressure, stress and even mental health problems.

What I’m trying to say is: your worth is not measured by societal standards of perfection. It is your individuality and authenticity that truly define you.

2) The Superwoman Syndrome

Have you ever heard of the Superwoman syndrome?

It’s a psychological concept that refers to the pressure women often feel to excel in multiple roles.

This syndrome paints a picture of a woman who flawlessly combines a career, family, relationships and personal interests. She is expected to maintain an immaculate home, build a successful career, raise perfect children, and look impeccable while doing it all.

Sounds tiring, right?

That’s because it is.

Furthermore, this unrealistic expectation can lead to burnout, stress, self-neglect and even health problems.

This Superwoman ideal not only promotes an unhealthy lifestyle, but also completely ignores the fact that everyone has unique capabilities and limits.

Bottom line: It’s okay not to do everything. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to prioritize your well-being over society’s expectations. After all, we are humans and not superheroes.

3) The expectation to always put others first

This point may seem a bit counterintuitive, especially after discussing Superwoman Syndrome. Wouldn’t it be good to put others first?

Well, here’s the thing. While empathy and caring for others are undoubtedly positive qualities, society often expects women to put the needs of others above their own to an unhealthy extent.

This can translate into constantly sacrificing personal time, neglecting emotional health, or even neglecting physical well-being while caring for others.

And these can have serious consequences for a woman’s overall health and happiness.

4) The ‘beauty myth’

Have you ever stopped to think about the beauty standards that society imposes on women?

From a young age, girls are bombarded with images and ideas of what society considers ‘beautiful’. These standards are often unrealistic and promote a very limited perception of beauty that most women do not fit into.

Whether it’s body size, skin color, age, or any other physical characteristic, these standards can be extremely harmful. They can lead to low self-esteem, body image issues, and unhealthy practices in an attempt to fit into this narrow mold.

What’s even worse is that these standards are constantly changing and heavily influenced by trends, making it virtually impossible for women to consistently meet them.

It’s high time we challenge these expectations and create a more inclusive and diverse understanding of beauty. After all, beauty is subjective and should be about celebrating individuality rather than conforming to societal norms.

5) The ticking biological clock

One of the most common pressures women face has to do with their biological clock.

Society has a way of reminding us that our… time to have children is “tapping away”.

This can cause enormous stress and pressure, especially for those who may not be ready or may not want to have children at all.

This expectation can manifest itself in many ways:

  • The pressure to get married at a certain age
  • Expectations to start a family soon after marriage
  • Judgment for choosing a career over raising a family
  • Stigma associated with infertility or the choice not to have children

Every woman’s journey is unique. The decision to have children, when to have them, and whether to have them at all, should remain a personal choice, free from societal pressure.

6) The need to always smile and be friendly

How many times have we heard the expression “You need to laugh more”?

As women, we are often expected to behave in a pleasant manner all the time, regardless of our emotional state. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been told to “be happier” or “not look so serious.”

While there’s nothing wrong with being happy and cheerful, the expectation that we suppress our true feelings to appear more “pleasant” can be incredibly harmful.

Let’s be clear: It’s okay not to smile all the time. It’s okay to express our feelings, even if they aren’t always positive. We should never feel obligated to put on a facade for the comfort of others.

After all, our worth is not determined by how often we smile. It’s about being true to ourselves and honoring our feelings.

7) The expectation to maintain traditional gender roles

Picture this: you are at a family gathering and the women are expected to prepare the meal, serve it, and clean up afterward, while the men sit and chat and wait to be served. Sounds familiar?

Also in our modern society traditional gender roles persist. Women are often expected to take on household duties regardless of their personal or professional commitments.

But what if you’re a woman who doesn’t like cooking? What if you’d rather spend your time on a project, reading a book, or just relaxing?

Society often ignores these preferences and imposes traditional roles on women. This expectation not only limits women’s potential, but also undermines their individuality.

8) The ‘likability’ factor

When I was younger and just starting my career, I remember being told that I had to be more “likable” to get ahead. At the time it seemed like good advice.

But over time, I’ve come to realize that this expectation can be quite damaging.

Women are often expected to be “sympathetic,” which usually translates to agreeable, non-confrontational, and often submissive. We are told to maintain harmony even if it comes at the expense of our own opinions or values.

This expectation can lead women to suppress their true thoughts and feelings for fear of being labeled “difficult” or “bossy.”

However, being “likable” doesn’t have to mean compromising our authenticity.

We should be allowed to express our opinions openly and assertively, without fear of backlash. It’s okay to disagree, confront, or challenge when necessary.

9) The pressure to conform

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is the societal expectation that women conform.

We are often expected to fit a mold, to align our desires, behaviors and choices with societal norms. We are pressured to follow a certain path – education, work, marriage, children – as if it is a one-size-fits-all solution.

This pressure to conform can limit our ability to explore our true passions and identities. It robs us of our individuality and discourages us from challenging norms.

It’s time we realize that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to be a woman. There is only your way. And that should be the only expectation that matters.

What can we do to challenge these expectations?

When we think about these societal pressures, it is clear that change is needed.

But how can we, as individuals and as a society, challenge these unrealistic expectations?

Here are a few starting points:

  • Encourage open conversations about these issues
  • Challenge stereotypes and norms in our daily lives
  • Support and empower other women
  • Encourage self-love and acceptance
  • Teach younger generations about equality and respect

Ladies, let us always remember that we have the power to determine our own worth. There is no need to succumb to societal pressure or mold ourselves into unrealistic expectations.

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