I was 27 years old when I gave birth to my daughter.
Ever since I have been taking care of her single-handedly. While I was always known for my confidence, the weight of gender stereotypes overwhelmed me.
People often commented about how I should find a man to care for my daughter and myself. Or how I must be struggling to make ends meet. These comments made me feel like I was somehow inadequate as a woman and a mother.
I have been told countless times that I won't be able to excel in what I am passionate about. Or I should think about work where I don't compromise on caring for my daughter.
Every question, comment, and remark made me feel whether I made the right decision. The maternal bias, gender bias, and unconscious bias did more than just impact my career. They broke my confidence.
While these biases are just social constructs but made me feel so little about myself.
Here's how gender stereotypes add to your stress.
Pressure to conform to traditional gender roles and expectations can lead to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.
Gender stereotypes can create unrealistic expectations for appearance, behavior, and career choices.
Discrimination and bias based on gender can lead to feelings of marginalization and exclusion.
The fear of not living up to gender norms can contribute to anxiety and stress.
Gender stereotypes can limit opportunities and create barriers to success and fulfillment.
The stress of constantly challenging or defending oneself against gender stereotypes can take a toll on mental and emotional well-being.
Let's Talk Science Now
Gender stereotypes are beliefs and expectations about the characteristics, roles, and behaviors of men and women that are often based on cultural and societal norms. These stereotypes can have a significant impact on an individual's confidence and self-esteem, particularly if they do not conform to the expectations associated with their gender.
Research has shown that gender stereotypes can lead to a phenomenon known as stereotype threat. Stereotype threat occurs when an individual feels pressure to conform to a stereotype about their social group and fears being judged or treated unfairly if they do not meet those expectations. This can result in decreased confidence, anxiety, and even physical symptoms such as elevated heart rate and blood pressure.
For example, if a woman is told from a young age that she is not as good at math as boys, she may internalize this belief and feel anxious and less confident when faced with math-related tasks.
The impact of gender stereotypes on confidence can also be exacerbated by societal factors such as discrimination and bias. For example, women who are subjected to gender-based discrimination in the workplace may feel less confident in their abilities and less motivated to pursue career advancement.
This is why it is important to recognize the influence of gender stereotypes and to work to challenge and overcome them. This can involve promoting more diverse and inclusive representations of gender in media and popular culture, providing opportunities for individuals to develop their skills and strengths regardless of gender, and fostering a culture of respect and support for individuals of all genders.
This is what I did to build confidence in myself amidst the never-ending gender stereotypes:
🎭 Questions like "Why do I believe this?" or "Is this really true?" might help you find that some stereotypes don't hold up to scrutiny. I made sure to note messages I used to hear from colleagues, family, friends, and managers. I took time to check if they were impacting my beliefs or behaviors.
For example, I used to feel guilty whenever I had to work late to take care of a project, thinking I was losing time with my daughter. But it was just what was expected from me, being a mother.
🎭 I surround myself with positive role models. For me, it was one of my sisters-in-law. I saw her growing into the professional she is today even though things weren't favorable then.
She is a fantastic mother and an incredible working professional. She inspired me to be good at both without necessarily being good at the same time.
🎭 I surrounded myself with people who supported and encouraged me. This can include friends, family, mentors, or support groups. Having a support network can help me navigate challenges and build my confidence.
🎭 I started taking care of myself physically, mentally, and emotionally. This helped me build confidence and resilience. This included getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising regularly, and engaging in activities that brought me joy and fulfillment (drawing, doodling, writing).