In the not-too-distant past, women faced all kinds of pressure to conform to an impossible ideal: simultaneously a successful career woman while also the perfect mother, an ace in the kitchen, fit as fiddle and effortlessly fending off any signs of ageing. A veritable Superwoman. Thankfully, things are beginning to change as we realise that this Superwoman only exists as the phantom creation of flattering Facebook posts, hyperfiltered Instagram photos and bursting Pinterest boards.
Enter the new ideal: You! The self-aware, empowered woman – slave to no narrow standards!
Do our quiz to test how well you're doing at shedding that superwoman ideal and asserting your own inner awesomeness.
1. You catch yourself in the mirror, do you:
- Look away as quickly as possible – too awkward!
- Sternly assess your visage, reserving harsh thoughts for those flaws that just won’t go away
- Smile, shush the negative thoughts, and say, “you’re awesome!”
2. Someone brings up your age, do you:
- Suggest that it is rude to ask a woman’s age and avoid answering the question
- Try to deflect by saying something like “older than you” or “younger than you think,” but with persistence you’ll admit your age in a wistful tone (because of course you’d really prefer to be a bit – or a lot – younger)
- Openly discuss your age as something factual, neither to be ashamed nor particularly proud of
3. Your phone beeps as a number of messages come through in succession, do you:
- Drop what you’re doing and check your phone immediately, and then, knowing that the sender can see that you’ve read the messages, feel compelled to reply right away
- Feel obligated to respond as soon as you can, although that sense of obligation annoys you to your core. Why must you respond to these messages now, anyway?
- Check the messages when you’re free and, depending on whether the message is important, reply when and if you feel like it, unperturbed by the fact that the sender can see that you have read the messages.
4. A colleague exhorts you to “smile” (or worse, that you’d be prettier if you smiled more), do you:
- Respond by smiling, and feel a twinge of shame at not being more upbeat
- Frown harder, turn away and stew over the comment all afternoon until you have the chance to vent to your best friend about the office moron
- Let your colleague know in no uncertain terms that their assessment is not welcome
5. Your friends have invited you to an event at the beach that will mean you actually have to get into the water (and thus into that bikini!). Do you:
- Immediately turn them down, knowing that you could never bring yourself to torture people with the sight of your hideous body
- Accept the invite on principle and spend the next week worrying about what to wear and how you are going to walk around without shame in your cozzie. Unfortunately, you end up wearing 3-quarter cargo pants that get sopping wet, leaving you vexed and uncomfortable all day
- Spend a fortune on a flattering bathing costume, and a good amount of time building up courage. On the day you keep your sarong wrapped tightly around yourself, but ditch it when it becomes soaked and feel quite liberated
- Go, of course! Wear a cozzie, get stuck into the event and refuse to be bothered about what others might think of your body
6. You bite the bullet and get that edgy new haircut you’ve been wanting for ages. Your aunt makes a snide remark about it. Do you:
- Feel deflated and embarrassed, and begin to question your judgement
- Get angry, mentally rail against your aunt’s attempt to dictate how you express yourself, and ignore her for a while
- Let her know that it’s inappropriate to make such remarks because if she values her relationship with you, she should respect your right to look exactly as you wish
7. In the middle of a busy day, your friend calls asking for feedback on a document she’d like to email you. Do you:
- Put aside what you’re doing to read her email and give her feedback immediately, because (you assume) it must be urgent and “dropping everything” is what one does for a friend
- Commit to doing it soonest, initially happy to help but becoming increasingly resentful about the time it takes and the fact that you’re now running behind in your own work
- Ask her how urgent this is, and depending on her answer, offer to help at a time that is more convenient for you
8. You host a dinner party, carefully plan your meal on a tight budget, and cook it from scratch. A guest keeps making disparaging remarks about how long you’re taking to serve the food. Do you:
- Shed a tear to yourself in the kitchen, then take a deep breath, suck it up and apologise to your guests while serving their food
- Fume, bang some pots and pans (to no avail since by this time your rude guest is too plastered to notice) and begrudgingly serve the meal, calling another friend afterwards to let off steam
- Remark that your guest could speed things up by helping out in the kitchen
- Contact your guest the following day to tell her that that her behaviour was hurtful - no way to treat someone who is serving them a lovingly-prepared meal
Tally your points as follows: (a) = 1 (b) = 2 (c) = 3 (d) = 4
8 - 14 points (mostly a’s)
Your compassion towards others is admirable, but unchecked, it can wreak havoc in your life, leaving you physically and emotionally exhausted. You’re still attached to the Superwoman ideal in your belief that you should go out of your way to please others and to perform in all areas of life (or to demurely step down if you feel unable to meet a standard – especially in regards to the way you look). For your own health and sanity, it’s time to empower yourself with some lessons in how to set boundaries and how to change the way you think about yourself.
15 - 18 points (mostly b’s)
You’re aware of the dangers of overextending yourself, but find it really difficult to navigate any solution in reality. Because you find it impossible to disappoint others by saying no, you say yes even when you don’t want to and then end up resenting them. And while you may rant about narrow beauty ideals, that is about as far as you get – anger and disillusionment. It’s time for you to take the next step, channelling your anger into action by learning to say no, and by making your own contribution towards changing society's ideas about beauty (which of course begins with seeing the beauty you have to offer the world).
19 - 23 points (combination b’s, c’s and d’s)
You’ve tested out boundary-setting, and have spent a bit of time building your body confidence, but you need a bit of a boost to put these ways of thinking into more regular practice – to turn them into habits.
24 - 26 points (c’s and d’s)
You’re a pro at this self-care game. No doormat, you can say no even when it’s just ‘cos you don’t feel like it. Good for you, now make sure to spread that wisdom far and wide and empower other women too.
Date Published: 13 August 2015