Shane Watson: "Why Do Women Feel Useless?"

Do you ever find yourself making age-related goals? Are there certain things you feel you should have accomplished by age 25, 35, or 45? Do you compare yourself to your peers? Well, you're not alone.

Shane Watson writes about the pressures women put on themselves to achieve certain milestones by a certain age in today's Sunday Times, noting that women often overlook or belittle their own accomplishments simply because they feel they aren't "keeping up" with their peers. "This is why so many women are dissatisfied, despite seeming to have it all," Watson writes "because they can't see how much they have achieved, only the missed deadlines and other women's superior capability."

Nothing we do, explains Watson, is satisfying when we constantly compare ourselves to other women; the dreaded "shoulds" kick in and we find ourselves dismissing what we've already accomplished because it never seems to match the accomplishments of others- a "grass is always greener" type of phenomenenon that leads many women to feel, as Watson puts it, "useless."

"If you compliment a woman who has just cooked you a three-course dinner, complete with handmade chocolates, she might say: "But I only work four days a week." The dinner doesn't count, because she had time to do it. If you congratulate the publisher and mother of three on her latest chart-topping bestseller, her reaction will probably be: "But I'm such a mess - your life is so organised! Your flat is so lovely!" Watson writes, "When a woman says, 'I'm useless, you're the extraordinary one", it's because that's exactly how she feels. And she feels it more than ever now because anything and everything seems possible."

I can personally relate; I have often found myself making "By the time I'm 30, 40, 50" types of promises, and downplaying the things I've accomplished when discovering that my peers are, as I see it, leaps and bounds ahead of me. It's easy to forget that everyone moves on their own schedule, especially in a world that is so focused on obtaining success, wealth, and respect at such a young age.

Watson also provides checklists that women set for themselves; goals to reach by a certain age. At 25, Watson writes, women "typically want to have" such things as "Travelling stripes (outside Europe), A tattoo or nonregulation piercing, and "at least one serious boyfriend." By 35, "Bought your own flat, Been bought jewellery by a man" (ugh), and "Discovered the importance of women." By 45: "Your own office, Discovered your special subject, Children (or godchildren)."

Of course these things are all relatively stereotypical, but there is a bit of truth in the idea that women feel the need to accomplish certain things by certain ages, not the least because there are, of course, biological limits on our bodies, in terms of having children of our own. But Watson's basic argument doesn't lie in the physical as much as it does in the mental: in order to find peace with ourselves, we should stop trying to hit a stupid societal achievement list and celebrate our own accomplishments, finding a sense of pride in who we are at any age.

Why Do Women Feel Useless? [Times Of London]