The internal challenge for women is often in doing the “Self” and the implication that we then do not take care of others. Navigating that is at the core of the struggle. Who am I? vs. Who am I supposed to be?
“The problem for most of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.”
- Gloria Steinem
As women, we have traditionally been taught to be caretakers and nurturers. Although we would like to blame modern patriarchal society for these strict rules, the truth is that gender roles are as old as civilization itself. In the time of cave people physical strength was a vital part of human survival. Each gender had its role to play in that survival. The physical strength of the male body was needed for safety and the tasks of hunting and gathering. Women had the tools of creating life. These mutual tools went from cooperation to control as civilization “progressed.” Today, men and women can do these roles reciprocally, yet the struggle remains to conform to the traditional roles.
Many are bravely stepping into these new versions of being men and women. Women have fought politically, socially and within families for change. And younger men are now seeing and investing in the benefits of these changes: they are more interested in emotional relationships, creating community, being involved and hands-on fathers and nurturing various sides of themselves.
Unlearning any learned idea or behavior is a challenge. The process of learning is to create pathways in the brain that can allow for retention and recall of information. Without that, we would have to start over in every task daily. So while that is a self-preservation strategy inherent to human beings, the need to unlearn is also crucial. To learn new things and ways is how we progress and prosper. The internal challenge for women is often in doing the “Self” and the implication that we then do not take care of others. Navigating that is at the core of the struggle. Who am I? vs. Who am I supposed to be?
Some ways to begin learning to “unlearn” are:
Embrace change. To learn something new, you must be willing to explore the new and different. Take risks.
Embrace discomfort. Learning something new forces you to step out of what you know, of how you have done things and this is stressful. We tend to focus on what we are losing, instead of what we can gain.
Encourage curiosity. Of yourself and of your direction. Just because you have done things the same way, does not mean it is the only way.
As we get older, we stop questioning things around us. Society forces us to conform to the “tried and true” ways. We accept things as we learned them. Yet unlearning requires curiosity and risk!