THE STRUGGLE IS REAL: LIFE AS A MODERN WOMAN

Sloane is my very own Chelsea Handler and I mean that as the utmost compliment. (BTW, have you seen her docuseries on Netflix? Because you should). She is hilarious to the bone. She is confident and opinionated. And empathetic and intelligent. A dynamic woman? A real model of the changing times. She’s resistant to any definition of what a woman “should” be and I think we could all take some lessons from her playbook.

To this day, my favorite memories of Sloane revolve around our days as roommates in the good ole Delta Gamma. Not only have I witnessed her captivate a room with her dance moves – neck brace included – but she may also be one of the only people to have actually emailed some of Cosmo’s most eligible bachelors.

But she’s not all fun and games, she has a serious side that shines through. Sloane is as deep as the river runs – and picking her brain is one of my favorite activities.

There’s no doubt that college is a bubble world (for most people) where the real world is a fantasy. And I think being in a sorority magnified that 1000x over. We were incredibly lucky to have that experience and I think overall it was great. But in hindsight, it seems like it was almost a vacuum for everything society projected onto women. Style, body image, social norms, etc. Do you feel like you had a similar experience or was I just really susceptible to peer pressure?

I think that it would be really difficult for the pressures of society not to be magnified in a house full of 115 females, aged 18-22. After all, isn’t that who gets the brunt of those pressures thrown at them- newly adult women, trying to navigate through life for the first time on their own. While I definitely can think of some cringe-worthy times of shallowness, self-consciousness, poor decisions, and just plain mean girl behavior, I think we had it much better than some other, more stereotypical sororities did. We certainly had cliques, but we, for the most part, respected each other. There have been many incidents I have heard about since graduating that I have said “my sorority sisters would have never let that happen to me” and I truly believe it. It’s strange because I feel like a lot of the dangerous situations that we were more exposed to by being in a sorority, were also situations that I feel like I was better equipped or protected from due to the girls I was surrounded by. There were certainly times I felt like I didn’t have nice enough designer clothes or a hot enough bod (which is ridiculous because I should’ve appreciated my metabolism while it was still working in my favor), but there were many other times that I felt more comfortable around my DG friends than anyone else.

One of my favorite things we had going in DG was “Reflections” – a sorority oriented body image program that works to break down this “thin ideal” that society projects upon women. What do you think are three key things that we, as a society can do to help defeat these potentially harmful standards women are pushed to meet?

 This is a great question that I think a lot of women start to reflect upon as they get older and more mature, maybe it’s because we start to feel more comfortable in our own skin or maybe it’s because we start to realize these “norms” are not so normal. I’m not sure if it’ll ever be feasible to break down the “thin ideal” that society puts on women, because of the money that the marketing, fashion, and cosmetic industries make from this constant pressure. However, I think it’s more important for women to find their own version of beauty and if we all tried to do this a little more, we could start our own movement where we all admire each other’s beauty without feeling like it threatens our own. My three suggestions to achieving this are:

Encouraging interest in learning about other cultures, whether by reading, travel, or friendships. The “thin ideals” in the US are far different for each ethnic group within the country and also much different than that of other countries and cultures throughout the world. It’s important for everyone to understand that beauty is everywhere and to subscribe to just one ideal of beauty is to be missing out on a breathtaking world out there.

Focus on loving yourself. Alright, I am fully aware of how cheesy this one sounds, but hear me out- if you don’t love yourself, it’s really easy to see what you lack, rather than what you don’t. There’s a constant nagging feeling of “if I just lose 10 more pounds” or “if I just do my makeup like that” pushing this feeling of inadequacy. And that’s bullshit. Loving yourself is a lifestyle- if you love yourself you treat yourself and others with respect and don’t let anyone treat you with anything less. You make healthier choices, you listen to yourself, and you are always moving forward, striving to make yourself better- not thinner.

Teach women from a young age and instill throughout their life that beauty is so much more than skin deep. It’s ok to be thin and it’s ok not to, it’s ok to like to wear makeup and dye your hair if you like the way that it looks, but that’s not what makes you beautiful. Intelligence, kindness, compassion, and confidence are all admirable traits that are not one size fits all and will last far longer than your physical appearance. One of my favorite quotes that I’ve seen lately is “There are a lot of pretty people and not enough interesting ones. Don’t be someone’s eye candy, be soul food.” Moms especially need to be aware of what they are projecting to their daughters about beauty and body imagine. Kids are cute little sponges and hearing your mom, who in your eyes is the most beautiful woman on earth, say that she needs to change something about herself or diet to lose the “baby weight”  is just teaching these girls at a young age that this image is more important than your worth as a person. Plus, that body gave birth to the person you are now teaching to look negatively upon it.

Social Media: the real world’s sorority. It can drive us mad with constant comparisons. Everything is pretty and shiny and irresistible to the (semi) materialistic woman, like myself. And although it can captivate me for hours, it takes its toll. Self-doubt comes creeping in when you’re seeing your friends, acquaintances, or even strangers posting the kewlest things when you’ve gone through three seasons of The Killing in less than a week. Do you think there’s value in showing the nitty gritty about life sometimes? Or maybe social media isn’t the time nor place for that? Thoughts…?

I too fall victim to the Instagram blogger traps out there- showing their 3 perfectly styled outfits a day, seeming to eat a lot of delicious ice cream and pastries without ever gaining weight, all while being able to balance kids and a happy marriage with an amazing lifestyle full of travel and cute decor. Am I a little jealous of their seemingly perfect lives and endless bank accounts and energy? Yes. Am I lucky to be able to grocery shop and workout on the same night after work? Yes. Do I know that they are just showing a highlight reel of their life to the public? Also yes. Personally, I find it much more refreshing to follow people who show the beautiful parts of their life as well as the crazy. This makes them real. However, there’s also the issue of oversharing. This is

Personally, I find it much more refreshing to follow people who show the beautiful parts of their life as well as the crazy. This makes them real. However, there’s also the issue of oversharing. This is more so a Facebook issue rather than Instagram, but I suppose to some people airing out every detail of their life to their 1000+ followers is therapeutic. While that’s certainly not my style, I can’t knock it if that’s what makes them feel whole or better or cope with whatever situation they’re going through. (But I also know that I’m hiding your updates from my feed- sorry!)

If I took all the energy (and money) I put into worrying about my appearance and focused it on something else, like charity, I think I could do some reasonable good. If you could shift all of your appearance related energy into something else what would that be?

Oh wow, what a thought. Maybe I would’ve been able to finish the TEFL course I had a year to complete but still didn’t get around to and be teaching English in Thailand right now. Maybe I would have the money saved and business plan completed for the dog park/brewery that I have been saying I’ve wanted to open for the last 3 years. There’s no doubt that I would be a much more zen, well-adjusted, and arguably more successful person than I am today with the necessary time and resources to travel and achieve my goals. I also feel like I would lack the fear and self-consciousness that holds me back from doing these and other things in life. I wouldn’t be worried about “looking dumb”, embarrassing myself, or failing- I would just do.

Do you see a struggle for gender equality in your daily life? I know inequality and bias is REAL, but I feel like I’ve almost stopped noticing because it’s almost built into daily life. I imagine it like a game of jenga – built completely of tiny little digs to the status of women that you only notice when it becomes so unstable that it topples over.

YES. I am a non-tech person at a tech company, who happens to be female. I also solely lead the recruiting and retention efforts for the entire company, which is no small task. Yet I constantly feel like my intelligence is being challenged. People ask me to order food for them and brew coffee for their meetings – not. my. job.  Now, who knows if being HR in a company of developers or being a female in a predominately male company plays a bigger part in this. I will say though, that in previous jobs, it was quite apparent that I was being treated differently because of my gender. In fact, at my first job out of college I was pretty regularly sexually harassed by my co-workers.. And I’m HR! I find it really hard to believe that a male in HR would have had IMs sent (via work email btw) to them by married managers, alluding to being sexually interested in them. Not to mention, the ultimate bias that I faced, while all these actually inappropriate issues were happening, when a male AND female a level higher than me on my HR team accused me of having an inappropriate relationship with a coworker because I was carpooling with him to work. Which shouldn’t be an issue to begin with, carpooling is a better option both economically and environmentally, especially when the office we were working from was an hour plus away. I also should mention that this coworker was also suffering from a medical condition where he had temporarily lost vision in his right eye for a month – not exactly who you want out on the road solo. Mind you, no one asked me directly if we were anything but friends or voiced their concerns, nor did they ever ask him or talk to him about it, but my manager was notified that it made the lady a step above me “feel uncomfortable” that I was acting in such a way… I guess it doesn’t take two to carpool.

What do you think was essential in building your confidence and ensuring self-sufficiently?

I think that’s an ongoing battle. Somedays I feel like Lemonade’s Beyonce; confident, strong, and with everything figured out, other days I feel like Brittany Spears circa ‘07. The years since college have been a major time of growth and self-discovery for me. I was one of two people from my graduating class to attend IU, so that was a leap of faith. But that leap was padded by joining DG, for which I’m very grateful. After graduating from IU, I received an offer for a job in Dallas. This was a bigger deal, but I didn’t have much time to realize or fear this since it was such a whirlwind after graduation. However, after moving to Dallas, knowing almost no one, working Sun-Wed 2pm-12am at a job that was less than ideal, while the majority of my friends were whoopin’ it up together in Chicago- the reality started to set in. There were definitely moments that I felt really alone and bordering on a quarter-life crisis. There were many times I researched all the different ways in which I could quit my job and run away and avoid being an adult. But in the end, that time made me stronger and more self-sufficient. I didn’t have the security blanket of DG friends or the familiarity of the Midwest and that discomfort made me realize that I have two options- to give up or to grow. So, I got a dog, I made new friends, I kept myself busy, but I also did a lot of reflecting (which is hard to avoid when you have so much time alone during the week.) I started to make my circle smaller but stronger, cut out the people and things that don’t make me feel like the me I like, my best me. This is much easier said than done, and something I still need to work on. But I have a much easier time now saying no- which is such an important thing to learn as a woman. And by saying no more to the people and things that bring me down or waste my time, I am in turn saying yes to myself and investing that time and energy into bettering myself and the relationships that are important to me.

EXTRA EXTRA: Just so this whole chat isn’t a rant on the shortcomings of sorority life – we should round it out with three pro’s (pro con con pro, anyone?) about sorority life? I’ll start with…charity work, killer grades, and BUNK BEDS.

A foundation throughout college- we shared some of the happiest, craziest, most awkward, and heartbreaking times together, whether we wanted to or not.

Learning the importance of having strong female friends in your life.

Understanding how to live, interact, and even bond with people who aren’t necessarily like you by finding fundamental values that you both share.

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49 Comments

  1. theclutterboxblog

    I think it really depends on the group of women you get grouped with on whether or not you have a good experience. You could be lucky but the year after might not. It’s so variable on personalities and differences. I have never been part of a sorority. The closest I got was hair school with 50 other girls all working to become the top hair dressers in the small competitive town. My group was pleasant, the group after me was brutual and cruel.
    The comparison trap is so hard. I really wish that we taught girls young the importance of their self-worth and didn’t wait until our 20s to learn our value.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kristie

    Teach women from a young age and instill throughout their life that beauty is so much more than skin deep.. I loved this! This is so important. Nowadays, girls/young women get caught up in the “likes” and portrayal of how they “should look/should be”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. cvnxena

    societal norms are really hard to escape, no matter what situation you find yourself in. Like you, I fall victim to looking at all these perfect women on social media and it’s hard not to feel inadequate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mother, May I?

      It adds so much without us even realizing it! I hope to keep making conscious choices to be more than just appearances and provide some real content! And I know you do the same! Always enjoy reading and following along with your blog!

      Like

  4. Brittany

    Wow! This was an incredible post! I was also in a sorority and think that it definitely skewed my idea of the type of woman I was and should be. I couldn’t agree more with your points and I love that you wrote about this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mother, May I?

      Thank you, Brittany. That’s so kind! I think the more I talk to women who had been in sororities the more I think we all had these collective feelings. I hope we can start the conversations earlier and change the dynamics of how we and society see ourselves.

      Like

    1. Mother, May I?

      Right?? I feel like all of us modern women deserve a pat on the back or even a trophy for being some brave warrior ladies. It’s no easy feat being yourself when a lot is working against you. Thanks for reading 🙂

      Like

  5. tahneerose

    I have this love hate relationship with the internet. I am trying to build a place where you first know your worth and second can feel confident with or without makeup . I like to get dressed up but when I am not I feel judged as a mom and hear the phrases, “your a mom you have that excuse!” it is so back and forth now!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mother, May I?

      It definitely has a lot of warm and fuzzies. I think it’s possible to find the same kind of warmth with niche communities, like creative or writing groups, after college. You should check out The Rising Tide Society – it’s a local and online creative community – and it’s felt like a huge support!

      Like

  6. triathlonmami

    I was never in a sorority, but I did attend Wellesley, an all women’s college. I don’t know if it was because there were no men around, but I didn’t really feel the compare and despair phenomena. Hmmm. Never thought about it until now.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. adawnpaxton

    Such great points…I wasn’t in a sorority but college definitely is a bubble where the real world is definitely a fantasy. Once you become an adult, you learn that so much of what you saw at college isn’t true life!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. almostindianwife

    Loving yourself is so important! I’ve seen so many young women with no self love and it breaks my heart. It sounds like the sorority definitely challenged that! Love it!

    Liked by 1 person

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