Saturday, 22 February 2014

Why are we so hard on ourselves?

It is well documented that women frequently pursue perfection in all areas of their lives.  This can partly be attributed to society and media role models, but women famously make their lives harder by being far more perfectionist than men. 

The journalist Eleanor Mills calls this the 'alpha imperative'.  We want to be perfect - as mothers, as colleagues, as wives, as friends - and will exhaust ourselves and those around us to achieve this.

A survey by the Girl Guides (surely a last bastion of wholesomeness?) revealed that despite an endless procession of gruesome TV documentaries showing the consequences of botched operations, more than half of girls surveyed would consider plastic surgery.  Botox and fillers are a normal unquestioned part of life for many women.  There seems to be an unspoken but firmly held view that it is ok to look 35 but no more. 

Every woman had a different view on the ageing process - how if affects them and how they deal with it emotionally and practically.  So far I have resisted the surgeon's knife and non -surgical treatments.  Until recently I didn't even consider it, and anyway I am terrified of needles and hospitals so I can't imagine myself willingly submitting to surgery unless it was purely on health grounds. But I am not sure quite how I am going to reconcile myself with this as I see time starting to impose lumps and dips in the wrong places. 

I have no such qualms about grey hair.  My hairdresser is a patient and objective advisor and apart from one of our early attempts at concealing grey which left me a nasty shade of orange - an event which still makes him shudder, we have a good routine. I do exactly what he says and turn up every two months.  

Men sometimes say they envy women's ability to use make-up to show the world their best face. This is something in most women's comfort zone and I think is a secret weapon to boost confidence in business.  I used to spend a fortune on designer 'natural' products, believing that only the designer houses would make the investments necessary to create that breakthrough - the product that makes you look a better version of yourself.  I've seen the light - trips to Space NK are now strictly for special occasions turning instead to products such as the  very affordable BB range  that I think work as well as products that cost two or three times as much. I am British to the core in this - its important not to look like you're not trying too hard.   Of course as the 'real' you deteriorates these products need to do more and more...

Generally my advice is to do whatever you feel you need to make yourself feel confident and in control - to reach the point where you don't have to worry about how you look.  Men don't - a smart shirt suit and tie are for most a soothing uniform and they put it on and forget all about it. We can do the same.  I always take extra care on difficult days - when I have something particularly tough to do. Anything that makes you feel more confident has to be a good idea.