For countless generations, women have had the specter of a Perfect Woman perennially in their periphery, eating away at their confidence. It can be amusing to look back on those TV ads from the 50s and 60s and the disturbing messaging about what women should want or care about. The perfect pot of coffee for her husband? A tidy shirt collar around his neck? You’d think those things would end world hunger, the way they talked about it back then. Hilarious.
But as far as we have come, we haven’t shaken her yet—that pesky Perfect Woman illusion. Today’s version doesn’t take the form of a housewife with a pointy brassiere, impossibly slim waist, and hair that moves as one unit. But rest assured, she is alive and well.
Now revealing: the Perfect Woman of the 21st Century
Today, Perfect Woman is more of a mosaic—a composite formed from magazine covers, movies, and TV ads.
And most troubling, she can come disguised as our very own friends. Because on social media, when we share all our happy news, we start to get the impression that is all our friends have, all that they are. Every day, thousands of images coalesce to create the 21st-century version of that 50’s Coffee-Angst Lady, our Perfect Woman illusion.
And that makes it even harder to combat. Because we all know that it’s silly to compare ourselves to a woman laughing alone at salad.
We do know that, right, dear reader? Right?? Sigh…
But cumulatively, today’s Perfect Woman shapeshifts and eludes us, and gradually succeeds in chipping away at our energy, confidence, and self-worth.
Facing Perfect Woman Head-on at Ann Taylor
I had my own little snit involving Perfect Woman this weekend. After two festivity-free years, I found myself for the first time in a dressing room, on the hunt for a wedding-guest dress that I could tolerate looking at myself in; shoes, that I could stand to stand in.
As I stood under those harsh lights in the tiny cubicle with the three-way mirror, I felt disgusted with what I saw. Nothing like Woman Laughing At Salad Alone. Nothing like “After” Photo Lady from the Sono Bello commercial. Way more like “Before” Photo Lady.
“Please tell me I am not the only one mildly traumatized by trying on cocktail dresses right now,” I said to the sales rep at Ann Taylor.
As she folded the long, black burlap sack of a dress I bought to hide my body in, she said
“Oh, not at all. People don’t even know what size they are anymore.”
As I breathed a sigh of relief, a woman came in and exclaimed
“I have my first business trip coming up! I have to find professional outfits to wear for FOUR DAYS!!!”
Why do I share this with you?
Because if there is one thing women know deep within, it is the power of sharing.
Our Secret Weapon to Take Down “Perfect Woman”
Bottling up our doubts and fears-ultimately, our shame-just adds another tile to the Perfect Woman Mosaic.
Our shame grows in dark, tight spaces. (Don’t try this with plants, on the other hand. The opposite is true for them, or so I am told.) And worst of all, bottling that stuff up just validates that those things need bottling. Because you see, no one can support feelings that you do not share. And, so, the cycle continues.
So, throw that shame junk into the daylight and let it die a painful, melodramatic vampire death.
Share your experience to show love to yourself and appreciate your realness, your imperfection.
Share your experience to show love to the real women in your life, in all their imperfect glory.
Forgive yourself for the times you fall for the siren song of Perfect Woman. And forgive yourself in advance for the times that haven’t happened yet, but surely will.
To all the beautifully imperfect women out there, share how you’re feeling with a woman you care about. Let’s relieve Perfect Woman of her womanly duties.
For resources for women leading and living in today’s changing world, or to learn how to work with Wendy, visit www.wendyhultmark.com.