Many people struggle with feeling not good enough. This seems especially inherent in womxn. Anyone old enough to be reading this probably grew up with gender roles and divides instilled in their understanding and experience of the world. An expectation to dress and/or behave a certain way may have weighed heavily on your shoulders if you grew up as a girl but were not the naturally 'girly type.' Anyone deviating from these expectations may have received comments, or damaging 'jokes' about these styles and behaviours, or even commands to change them. This will have made a big dent in self-esteem. As part of this wider picture, womxn are generally taught not to make a scene, not to display anger, or even to assert themselves, and certainly not to 'brag' about what they are good at. These impacts would have been compounded by any intersectionality someone was facing; for example if they were also a person of colour, were disabled, and/or identified as LGBT+.
So with some niggling insecurities ready-set and keeping achievements and pride firmly under one's hat, heading out into the big wide world of secretarial assumptions and pre-birth-defined pay gaps is enough to break any sense of self-esteem or 'feeling good enough' that made it through school life on a wish and a prayer. Add to that media campaigns about 'the perfect body' and criticisms for being 'emotional,' 'hormonal,' or 'pushy' any time you have a complaint or a different perspective to establish, then it's a wonder we've all managed the many achievements we have thus far.
Girls would receive a merit if they got consistent A Grades, attended school with no absences for the term/year (no prize for developing self-knowledge or investing in self-care), or in my case, a merit for achieving something unexpected, like being the listed B-team runner in area sports, finishing in front of our own listed A-team runner; high expectations for things I was no good at; low expectations for where I excelled. The other merit I achieved once was for 'industry and motivation' (rather than attainment) read: 'tried hard, to no avail.'
I left that school with 11 GCSEs all grades A* - C, then 3 A Levels graded B, C, D. The D for the latter was shameful in a grammar school - yet nationally still a pass. And guess what - no-one has ever asked me about it, questioned me about it, or even mentioned it since, two post-grads later. Yet I left school feeling frightfully average, and generally as though I had failed and let everyone down, including myself.
We all have strengths, we all have talents. There are extremely different interpretations of intelligence and strength. We are individuals with our own plans and goals. Achievement varies dependent on context; some days the achievement is getting out of bed, other days it's climbing a mountain.
There are of course many contexts where grading and comparing is warranted and useful; with eco and emissions ratings, and exams - in order to know where we are compared to where we want to be, and then identify next steps to take, a semblance of grading is crucial. But sometimes - most of the time - enough actually is enough and good enough is good. Be inspired by others, help others, ask for help from others. But don't pitch yourself against others for comparison. We're all on different journeys. Find your good enough and make it good.
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Author - Zoe Copeland, MFHT
With a background in education, sports coaching and mental health, Zoe began to explore more holistic avenues of helping people with a particular focus on where the mind and body meet. Zoe began her bodywork training in Sports Massage and has since studied other massage theories and techniques, as well as Reiki, to provide a holistic approach to each treatment. With specific training in women's health, trauma and scars, she has developed an intuitive practice which leaves you feeling a positive change in your body and mind after every appointment.