Guest blog by Dr. Bill Chun MD, Author of “Don’t Give a Damn: How to Cope with the Fears, Frustrations, and Challenges of Daily Life.” From weight loss and overall wellness to relationships, finance, and managing our ever-more complex, technological, and demanding world, this book provides a simple and effective way of keeping yourself centered and making the most of any circumstance. Dr. Chun has applied this philosophy to his own life with great success and now he wants to share his experiences and outlook with those he cares about most. There is never a better time than right now to simplify and optimize your life.
Women today are pulled in a million different directions and beset by impossibly conflicting obligations. Sadly, this is nothing new. Through long struggle, women in America have won a measure of the rights and equality due them, with the recognition that more work remains to be done. However, while new opportunities have advanced, old expectations have not receded. This has created the world of contradiction and double-standards within which American women must try to make their way. The result is a level of stress and inner turmoil that no one should have to endure.
American women are ‘expected’ to pursue an education and then make the most of their talents and drive to build careers as important and productive as any man’s. It cannot be disputed that American women have proven over the past decades that they are capable of accomplishing at least that much. Women are now taking their rightful place in increasing numbers at America’s finest universities, in top positions at leading American corporations, and at the highest levels of our government. The energy, ambition, and genius of American women cannot be questioned no matter the field.
American women are ‘expected’ at the same time to be the faithful, reliable, and indispensable nurturing figures society has for so long demanded they be. American women are still seen as the traditional wives, mothers, lovers, and partners they have always been at the same time that they are encouraged to be something else entirely. Equally insistent demands that one act as the cornerstone of society itself while at the same time flying to the greatest heights of personal ability and ambition cannot help but create irresolvable inner conflict.
Must the American woman strive to be an aggressive careerist, or a traditional nurturing mother figure? It is a testament to the strength of the American woman that so many respond to this impossible choice by resolutely committing to both. This is, of course, an unreasonable expectation and too many families, careers, and relationships have been sacrificed to the effort. So many aspects of identity, from relationships to family to sexuality to personal ambition, are tied up in this absurd contradiction that it is little surprise so many negative consequences often follow for all those involved.
A true resolution to the conflicts inherent in a traditionally male-dominated society within which women are inevitably asserting their rights and abilities may be a long time in coming, but there is something women can do today – right now – on their own behalf and that of their loved ones to make the situation more manageable and successful. They can stop giving a damn.
It should be clear by now that there will always be some individual, institution, or social force exerting its will and making demands on women, no matter how unreasonable. The sturdiest shield against such an onslaught is rational selfishness. The word ‘selfish’ carries deeply negative connotations for most people, but considered in the proper perspective it can be seen as an essential quality for coping with the world of contradiction within which American women find themselves.
Being selfish means putting yourself first. Both the careerist and the nurturing mother figure may take pause at such a notion, but it is essential to making right decisions. No one can be expected to make good decisions, for their family or their firm, if they systemically undermine themselves in the process. A sick doctor cannot treat her patients, a mentally exhausted executive cannot represent her company, and a physically destroyed mother cannot care for her children. Needless to say, no combination of these or other representative examples are likely to be viable either. One cannot be useful to others if one is not first of use to oneself, and there would be little point in the former absent the latter. Perhaps most importantly, recognizing the need to make the best decisions for you personally is the most effective way of determining what combination – if any – of the multiple identities heaped upon American women one chooses to assume, and to what degree.
Putting yourself first turns out to be a bit more complicated than we may reasonably examine here, but it is a sound principle for dealing with the conflicting, confounding, and contradictory influences and demands of life for an American woman today. Don’t give a damn what society expects of you, just make the best decisions for yourself every day, every, hour, every moment. You, and all those who depend on you, will be better off.