Growing up with five sisters has been rewarding. They have all been role models to me for all my childhood and adolescent years. As a child, I would wait eagerly for one of my sisters to come home from school to give me permission to wear her Sketchers sneakers. Ok, neither of us ever needed permission to wear any clothing item, which is what became the source of conflict amongst us for years. I’ve always wanted to mirror what I admired in each of them, for example their independence and success-driven nature. My experience as a sibling of six has motivated this piece on the Stages of Womanhood.
You’re on the school playground, standing amongst your friends. You can’t help but notice some of them have developed bulging breasts and you wonder: “when am I next?”. During a game of hopscotch one girl suddenly and frantically exclaims: “Look! Blood!” -Embarrassed, she rushes home. She had just experienced her first period at the tender age of 12. Nobody knew when their time would come. We did however know that it symbolized an evolution from a girl to a young woman. Getting breasts and buying your first sports bra was a much-anticipated event in a young girl’s life. Ten years later we’re dreaming of returning home after a long day to take our bras off, to exhale in deep relief.
Adolescence is a period marked by exploration of our new and increasing desires as well as the world’s perception and expectation of us. We seek to discover who and what we are and our place in the world, especially as a young woman.
‘Why don’t they like me?’ ‘Why won’t he just LOOK at me?’ ‘How can I improve in this subject I hate so much or love, but doesn’t seem to reciprocate this love?’ ‘Mother wants me to pursue a career in medicine… Exams! OMG. Will I pass? Oh, Lord, help me.’
That’s pretty much how most of us experience adolescence, constant questioning and navigating through high school trying to establish an identity. If you’ve gotten through this incredibly confusing stage you’re already WINNING.
The Identity Crisis
You’re in a class at a college or university you didn’t think you’d even get into wondering if this is really what you want to study. Who am I, really? Who decided that this is who I will be? Suddenly now even you are a philosopher. And what on earth is this strange and impervious pressure I feel from no longer just myself and my family, but also from society, the media, and the job market? Will I make it? Am I strong enough? What are my chances of success?
You may have decided to take a gap year, or to work part-time. Whatever decisions you make at this point have a ripple effect on your future. Your identity will ultimately be based on where you spend most of your time, and what or who you frequently focus your energies on. If you’re spending all your time doing something you don’t want to be doing, you are welcoming an identity crisis. Don’t be afraid to pursue yourself. You can only experience the ocean by immersing yourself in it.
The Love Crisis
So, you’ve probably already fallen in love. But you’re asking yourself is he the one you want to invest your future and life in, because relationships are investments. More importantly you’re asking yourself what ROLES you are comfortable with – that of a mother, wife, and all the unspoken roles we adopt daily that we are not conscious of. You’re evaluating the quality of your relationships at this stage, your friendships and romantic relationships. You’ve got to prune the tree of your life which may mean ending friendships, and ending romantic relationships sometimes. Your goals and the roles you will adopt are bound to eclipse with those of others, this is a stage of growth. You may become a mother, a wife, or both, or neither in this stage. Your identity will inevitably become guided by these roles. Embrace every minute of it. No teacher is greater than that of experience.
The Self-Actualized Woman
Abraham Maslow developed the hierarchy of human needs, and at the top lies the need to become self-actualized. The self-actualized woman accepts her true self, has developed a willingness to succeed and to improve, has embraced and accepted both her strengths and weaknesses, has a strong internal command over her inner self, as well as the power and ability to influence her environment. She is self-aware, self-forgiving, and does not compare herself to others. Mark Twain wrote; “Comparison is the death of joy”.
There is no specific role, job, or dream that can provide a woman with this kind of fulfilment, at least not completely. This is found somewhere along her journey and somewhere inside herself. It is a fire that cannot be extinguished. A force that many young girls will strive to emulate and imitate. You will become a force to be reckoned with – both in the household, in the workplace and in society.
In conclusion, there are critical moments in life where you will be faced with decisions about who you are and what you will be. They are not stages, but moments. You decide what woman you want to be, the doors are opened to us, all you need is courage to walk through them.