SELF Criticism

      29 Comments on SELF Criticism

You can’t make this stuff up: an online article from SELF magazine claims that women are unhappier today than they’ve been for the past 35 years, and considerably less happy than men. The article offers some explanations for the “happiness gap,” including this one:

We talked to life coach Kiki Weingarten, co-founder of DLC Executive Coaching and Consulting in New York City, to get to the bottom of what’s making women sad, and what we can do to protect our own happiness.

“As women expect more from themselves and spread themselves thinner, they become overwhelmed and exhausted by it all,” she says. “You’re supposed to look stunning, work out and be physically in shape, have a wonderful relationship and family, be psychologically in the best shape at all times no matter what’s going on, then head off to work and succeed there and come home and be a perfect mate, cook and parent and on and on… it’s impossible.” Damn straight it is!

I agree. The “you can have it all” pitch has done women a disservice – especially that “look stunning” part, since stunning looks have more to do with genes than anything else.

Like many online articles, this one includes links to related topics. So after telling women they’re unhappy because they expect too much of themselves, what did the editors decide would serve as useful related topic? Why, a video of a supermodel on a cover shoot, of course. No, I’m not kidding. Follow the link, and this is what you get (after the ad):

So there you have it, ladies … you’re unhappy because you put too much pressure on yourselves to have it all. And speaking of having it all, how about this supermodel! Don’t you wish you were just like her?!

Sheesh …

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29 thoughts on “SELF Criticism

  1. john

    Obviously genetics has a lot of influence, but it annoys me when Tyra Banks or whoever is critical of the idea that women should be skinny/fit. It’s important to have self-esteem and self-confidence, but it’s also important to be healthy (I suppose you could argue whether obesity iteself is unhealthy but whatever). Since when did fat become “real,” as in “real women.”

    Healthy and fit, yes. But not everyone is capable of actually being thin, short of unhealthy semi-starvation.

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  2. WSB

    This sort of piece makes me think of the mood improvements people report when they change to a low carb and/or Paleo diet. They aren’t trying to do any less, but all the sudden things seem easier….

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  3. Lori

    I think the above is a problem only if you’re trying to live up to what you think are other people’s expectations. Who else is doing the supposing, as in “you’re supposed to be…”? If you’re honest with yourself, you know whether you’ve done your best.

    I agree with John–calling yourself a “real woman” because you’re not thin is dishonest. If you’re not thin because diets haven’t worked for you, the word is “frustrated.”

    Personally, I blame low-fat diets for our collective crummy mood.
    http://relievemypain.blogspot.com/2011/02/lousy-mood-it-could-be-food.html

    Sisters, let us throw out the sweets and eat a fat, juicy bacon cheeseburger (sans bun, fries and sugary drink) the next time we feel a crying jag coming on.

    I’m with you. SELF says women were happier 35 years ago … let’s see, that would make it 1976. McGovern’s guidelines came out in 1977.

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  4. Dave

    @john,

    “Fit” and “healthy” are not necessarily the same thing. I know someone who is running the Boston Marathon this year. The same person is generally seeing the doctor at least once a month, popping various medications, and complaining of lingering illness, joint pain, etc. And the standard of “thin” for women in America has gone beyond bizarre. If you get a chance, catch the show “Last Woman Standing”, and compare the skinny/”fit” Western women athletes against their “primitive” counterparts.

    As someone once put it, Jim Fixx, the runner who died of heart disease in his 40s, was fit but not healthy. Winston Churchill, who was overweight and enjoyed his brandy and cigars until he died in his 90s, was healthy but not fit.

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  5. Erik

    I blame Oprah. Every time Oprah gains 5 pounds, it’s a national tragedy, and every time she loses 5 pounds, every restaurant in America has to redesign their menu around the new “Oprah diet”. Then she abandons the diet and corporations are left with millions of dollars invested in low fat protein shakes / low carb energy bars and whatnot. Every time Oprah reads a book, the women of America have to read the same book. Every time Oprah cries, the women of America have to cry. She’ll be the first to tell you women can have it all, yet she can’t even decide if she wants to get married to a man or a woman or neither. She’ll tell you how you’re raising your kid wrong, but she doesn’t have any of her own to raise. If Oprah isn’t happy, nobody is happy. And right now, she’s not particularly happy.

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  6. Be

    But she works SO HARD at it!

    Good lord. We must be sure our daughters don’t grow up believing in this kinda crap-arsed ideal.

    It’s too cold for this poor thing in Southern California in February. Actually, I’m not surprised – it must be a cold world for anorexics. But of course, when all else fails we can blame technology (and I guess that means Facebook if one is an “Execute Coach” – or at least a co-founder of a company that actually gets people to pay for an “Executive Coach”).

    Sorry if I am having a hard time mincing words here. Tom, I guess it’s a good thing you never talk politics on your blog! lol

    I’ll certainly make sure my daughters don’t buy into it. I just read a funny essay by Cynthia Rivenbark (in her book “Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank”) in which she proudly claims the title of Slacker Mom.

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  7. Katie

    I always feel like a weirdo around over-achieving women. On the rare occasion I have lunch with other women they order the veggie burger or a plain and sad salad and I order the beef cheese burger with bacon hold the bun. I’m a happy woman:-)

    Then they go home and take their anti-depressants.

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  8. tracker

    LOL, maybe the real reason they’re unhappy is because they ate too many trans fats 😛

    http://oflabratsandmen.blogspot.com/2011/02/oh-noes-trans-fats-might-make-you.html

    I think part of the problem is the perception that one can be like celebrities or like people on television. I think a majority of Americans don’t realize just how fake TV is. Or how fake magazine covers are. It’s called Photoshop. And so this perception of what is real, leads them to think that somehow they’re not as good, pretty, what-have-you, as these celebrities or television personalities, and that it’s possible to be like them. They fail to realize that it’s all fake.

    Even when it’s not fake, TV shows and movies add a dazzle factor that isn’t there in real life. A few times during my years in L.A., I found myself up close (but not personal) with women who had previously made me feel all ga-ga when I saw them on TV. In real life, they were pretty, but that’s it. No more glamorous or dazzling than pretty women you see everywhere else.

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  9. Sean

    Self-reported happiness surveys are idiotic and always used to prop up some agenda (Danes are happiest because of their health care system, etc). People have more wealth and leisure time (about 6 hours/week) than 40 years ago. I’d suggest it’s this added luxury of being able to spend more time obsessing about oneself that is a big factor. That and trying to stay thin on a low fat diet and aerobics.

    Obsessing about ourselves certainly doesn’t strike me as the key to happiness.

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  10. mezzo

    Women are unhappy because they are competing with themselves? Not likely. Maybe maybe it is because they are competing with each other. And even then I am nor sure that I share this sentiment in its entirety.

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  11. ek12

    “Danes are happiest because of their health care system, etc.”

    I´d bet it´s all the nicotine and beer. The danes are well-known as the bon-vivants of the north. 😉

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  12. dlm

    Once you’re aware of it, every magazine article and ad, every tv article and ad is constantly telling girls and women that they are doing everything wrong…self-esteem, anyone?

    That’s what I find annoying about some of the advice magazines, whether they’re directed at men or women. If you add up all the things you’re told you should do every day or every week, you’d need 40-hour days.

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  13. Felix

    I guess we are too ambitious:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SB4HAXDEGrg

    And why is it women again? Do men have it easier? Aren’t men also harrassed to get a sixpack, buy “beauty-products for men” (?) and become a CEO of something? We don’t have a 7 times higher suicide rate for nothing. 😉
    Making this a gender issue is odd. Depression is at an all-time high for both sexes.

    We are overworked, lack of sleep is a status-symbol, we can be reached 24/7 everywhere and even leisure has become a buyable status-symbol. If that lifestyle and attitude doesn’t make you depressed, THEN you would need a doctor.

    A worthy trick is voluntary simplicity and a good dose of unconditional self-acceptance.

    That, and an evening spent eating bacon and ice cream and just reading a book or -even more subversive- just doing nothing.

    Yup, I think it’s good to disconnect now and then and just chill. That’s why I’ve never owned a Blackberry and usually leave my cell phone at home unless I’m traveling out of town. I object to the notion that we should all be reachable 24/7. I’m not an emergency-room surgeon and I’m not carrying the nuclear launch codes. As far as I know, there’s never been an emergency in all of world history in which someone yelled, “Oh my god! Somebody call a comedian, now!!”

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  14. Holly J.

    This is silly. I’m a single working mom going to college full time. Yes, I think we can have it all. The problem is when they told us “you can have it all” they never finished the sentence… “You just have to know what *YOUR* “it all” is.” You find that part and then you leave the rest.

    For me it breaks down to a healthy productive life with a mostly happy, semi-well adjusted kid. I make goals then I achieve what I set out to do. Does that mean my life is perfect? For me, yes. For other people and their standards? Probably not. (Does this mean I don’t fold my laundry or do dishes some nights? YES! I hate doing those things anyway.) Do I really care? No. I’m too busy with my own life to care what others think. If you’re surrounded by people who are telling you that you’re not enough then you’re hanging out with the wrong people. If it’s all in your head, then you need a mental tidy.

    I’m happy that my family never implied that as a woman I must be or do something. I come from a long line of very strong (both mentally and physically), very stubborn women. We were told we can be/do/have anything we want — but we have to work for it. Fortunately I realized early on that’s half the fun!

    I think “leave the rest” is the important part. There are only so many hours in a week.

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  15. Marilyn

    And, of course, “perfect” as portrayed in all these silly women’s magazines is a moving target. Since the editors will always be needing “the latest” something-or-other to sensationalize in their magazines, there will always be another list of failure traps in the next issue.

    They learned their lesson from the fashion industry.

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  16. Pierce

    This does not surprise me, coming from Self Magazine. The previous occupant of my apartment left a bunch of old issues lying around. Each issue seems to be about 1/4 ads for low fat foods and prescription psychiatric medicine, 1/4 fashion pictures of super models, 1/4 variations on how and why it’s necessary to exercise an hour a day every day, and 1/4 suggestions for “healthy” foods like soy milk and whole grain everything.

    The overarching theme of each issue seems to be “guilt free.” In other words, the magazine’s premise is that women should feel deeply ashamed and inadequate unless they are spending 10 hours a week on the treadmill and eating like rabbits. Of course, when those activities don’t help them lose weight and look like the models in the fashion section, the guilt will come back in spades- hence the ads for antidepressants and low fat ice cream.

    It’s seriously a pretty sick publication.

    The treadmill is a perfect metaphor. All that effort, but not actually going anywhere.

    Reply
  17. Dave Fish

    Of COURSE a Life Coach is going to say that people are unhappy. If there is no problem there is no need for the solution they offer.

    That does make sense, now that you mention it.

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  18. Kat

    It makes me sad that media does this constantly. “Be happy with yourself! You’re fine just the way you are. Unless you don’t look exactly like this woman.”

    I agree that you don’t need make up and the trendiest most expensive clothes to look good. But sometimes, wearing a lacy bra and panty set can make you FEEL sexy, which I would say is what you’re really “supposed” to do.

    Hell, when I have a hard time finding motivation to workout right (I don’t need motivation to eat right on keto anymore… hmm…) I go layer on the makeup, look at myself in the mirror and say, “That’s right you sexy thang. Now go sweat it off.” And then I snap a few times for emphasis before going and working it out.

    I’d try your method in the men’s locker room before working out, but this is a pretty conservative area and I don’t think it would go over well.

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  19. Erik

    “Once you’re aware of it, every magazine article and ad, every tv article and ad is constantly telling girls and women that they are doing everything wrong…”

    Men, too, but in my experience, the women actually take it seriously. I could watch 1,000 hours of TV without once wanting to change my hairstyle or revamp my wardrobe to match some celebrity. My wife can’t go 5 minutes.

    There’s a humorous email going around “advantages of being a man”. One of which is “You can admire Clint Eastwood without starving yourself to look like him”. In my experience, there’s quite a bit of truth in that. It would be equally true that a man could enjoy John Belushi’s work without wanting to adapt any of his lifestyle choices.

    To look like Clint Eastwood, I’d have to starve myself, then work out like crazy with weights, then grow hair, then get a nose job, then become six inches taller. I’m willing to just let go of that goal. However, I can squint with the best of them.

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  20. Kate

    I too object to the hijacking of the term “real women” to mean “fat women”. Last I checked, the naturally thin women were real too!

    All women are real unless they’ve had too much plastic surgery. Some of the women I saw in Los Angeles can’t legally be buried when they die — they have to be recycled.

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  21. Ellex

    About a year ago I was at a salon getting my hair colored and browsing through the women’s magazines. This was a cover that caught my eye:

    It’s not too late to drop 20 lbs for bikini season
    Spring’s new makeup shades
    Pick the right hair color for you
    Love yourself the way you are!

    Sing it with me now – “One of these things is not like the others”

    They should’ve combined them into one long article: It’s okay to love yourself, as long as you become perfect first.

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  22. Lori

    My dog should become a life coach and I, her interpreter. A few article topics:

    If you’re hungry, eat. A carrot is fine, but meat is better!
    Tired? Get off the treadmill and take a nap!
    Challenging medical opinion: my vet says I need to lose weight, I say I don’t.
    Guilt: Save it for when you’ve hurt someone.
    Be charming, and nobody will care that you’re not a supermodel.

    I learned similar lessons from my girls:

    http://www.tomnaughton.com/?p=25&cpage=1

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  23. Marilyn

    Forgive me for highjacking this thread temporarily. Lori, and others who have dogs — I just learned that xylitol is HIGHLY toxic to dogs. Last night, a friend was telling me that she nearly lost her dog, who grabbed a stick of xylitol-containing chewing gum from the counter. He survived, but apparently many don’t. I know that among those of us low carbers, xylitol is sometimes a sugar substitute, but if you have a dog, be very careful.

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  24. Melissa Martell

    It’s kind of the irony of society and culture.
    We can state over and over how the culture whittles people down and makes them depressed, but in the same breath we do things to keep the culture going.

    I think it must all be some crazy game and we will laugh about it all when we’re done????

    I vote we start laughing now.

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  25. Marielize

    I’ve been thinking about the way poor women are shown on tv shows and its really pathetic. After watching an episode of “No Ordinary Family” The mom hardly 20 with a PHD the body of a model, teenage children, etc etc. The men, as usual, can get away with being old, bold, fat, as long as they are nice.

    For once I’d like to see a show where the girl is old, bold and fat and we have sexy, young, ripped , funny, clever, highly qualified men drooling …

    Who’s writing and casting these shows?

    Most of the casting directors I met in L.A. were women, but most of the producers were men. I’m not sure it makes a difference. It’s all about ratings.

    Reply

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