So here we are again, on the cusp of another International Women’s Day – all ready to celebrate empowerment, achievement and resilience. We will hold up amazing famous women as exemplary models of perfection – women who have worked hard, overcome hugely disruptive life challenges and still manage to portray the perfect example of who we want to become.
As women, we spend an inordinate amount of time wishing we were someone else. Wishing we had her eyebrows and her figure and oh, imagine having her hair and her job.
We put together the idea of the perfect woman in our minds and long to be her. We want to be strong and courageous, beautiful and successful. And if we aren’t, or indeed perceive that we aren’t then of course we are a failure aren’t we?
What doesn’t help this dwindling self-confidence is the growing contempt that some women seem to have for each other, particularly on social media. Being part of Facebook groups in particular you get to see the very worst of what women are capable of. Do they have no idea of the impact their nasty words can have on another person? Or indeed do they just not care? Is it that old saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’, since we don’t actually know most of these women we can say what we want.
There seems to be a complete misconception about the reality of social media. Many feel it isn’t real, it is a fake community of faceless people. But let me ask you, are you real? Are those real fingers you are using to type those vicious words? Is that a real brain you are using to come up with the nastiest insults you can conjure up? Does that laughter have a sound when you ridicule and ruin another woman’s life?
For some women, social media is their only outlet. Anxiety has crippled their lives to the extent that they cannot comprehend face to face contact with other people. Their home is their safe haven and their prison at the same time. And when they finally feel brave enough to speak about their feelings, they often get shot down and ridiculed.
All the while, as women are tearing each other down online, we are fawning with admiration over the youtubers, instagrammers and bloggers we strive to emanate. Women who are photoshopped to within an inch of perfection, who have endless time to ensure their lives appear perfect and enviable. Women who spend their days uploading flawless photographs for likes, entertaining videos for comments and shares and inspirational quotes to appeal to the hearts of their audiences.
Why is it that these women seem more real to us? Is it that we want to identify with the very trivial nature of their online lives rather than reach deep inside our souls and bare the anxieties and fears we try to deny.
You comment on an influencers post, telling them how beautiful they are, admiring their figure or complimenting their make-up. Do you think they see your comment, do you think they appreciate that like? They do, of course they do but mainly because it promotes their profile even further.
So let me make a random suggestion? How about we actually spend that time reaching out to a woman who needs it? Now by all means you can comment on whatever post you wish, but can you imagine the lift a vulnerable woman might get from your few words of support.
How about you imagine the smile on a lonely face if someone calls her beautiful, brave, inspirational? Can you imagine the warmth of knowing you made a tiny difference to somebody’s day. Not some youtuber with millions of followers, some tired worn out woman who is just about plodding through the day searching for the light.
So I ask you in the lead up to International Women’s Day, use that beautiful power you have as a woman to lift somebody who needs it. Throw your virtual arms around a mother who wonders how she will manage another sleepless night, a daughter who feels worthless, a sister who has lost her way. Instead of holding up the singers, actors, models and influencers of this world as the women you aspire to be, hold up a vulnerable woman who actually needs it.
Recognise the bravery and resilience of a normal woman just getting through the day, celebrate and applaud the internal battles we win every day just to stay positive and hopeful. Show that beautiful soul to the people who deserve to see it and to whom it will make a difference.