Let me throw some stats at you:
The average American woman stands five foot four and weighs 164.7 pounds. She wears a size 14. Her waist measures 37 inches.
The average American man stands five foot nine and weighs 195 pounds. He wears a size 44. His waist measures nearly 40 inches. (CDC stats)
The recent economic downturn hit men harder than women. Forbes says, “The share of men in the United States with a job is at its lowest point ever.” And forty percent of working wives are the family breadwinner according to the Chicago Tribune.
Now, allow me to pull in some other interesting data for your perusal. According to research at Boston College, the accepted societal norms for women are to be:
Use all available resources on her appearance.
Men are supposed to:
Be in emotional control.
Put work first.
I learned this from a powerful and straightforward new TED talk by Dr. Brene Brown on the subject of shame, and vulnerability.
What got me thinking while viewing Dr. Brown’s new talk is the wide gap between what we expect ourselves to be and who we really are.
Women should be thin – but the reality is that most of us are not a size zero.
Men should put work first, and pursue status, but the recent recession put more men out of work than ever before. Hard to put something first when you don’t have it, huh?
Women should be modest, which I figure means quiet, self-effacing and non-confrontational. Exactly the recipe for career success, don’t you think?
And speaking of time, what working mom has the time or energy to put all available resources on her appearance? I don’t know about you but I find it’s easy to spend money on my kids’ clothes, shoes, haircuts, dermatologists, orthodontists and dentists, and if there’s any money left maybe I’ll get myself a new t-shirt on sale at Target. Maybe.
Yes, the gap between who society says we should be and who we are is often quite large.
And it’s right in the gap that shame nestles.
Shame keeps us a far distance from feeling real happiness and fulfillment. Because it’s shame that says, “There is something profoundly, critically wrong with you. You should be different than you are.”
[There’s that word again – Should.] You all know I have no fondness for that particular word. Because The Word That Must Not Be Named usually comes from an external source, and often is in conflict with what’s truly best for us.
“You should be a doctor.” says your father, even if you have it in your heart and hands to be a glassblower.
“You should be thin if you ever want to catch a husband,” says your mother, even if she’s heavy herself. And her sisters are heavy. And her mother was heavy. [And they’re all married, btw.]
If shame has roots in the conflict between what’s expected and what’s real, then shoulds are its potting soil.
Now, here’s what I know – if you can break the Should Habit, you’ve got a shot at breaking the round-and-round shame circle.
And it’s easy. Stop shoulds by simply substituting a wonderful word – choose.
Without any shoulds in your life, you are free to choose to be that happy, outspoken size 14 bread-winning woman that you are.
Without any shoulds in your life, you are free to choose to be that fantastic at-home dad whose size 44 suits found a new home at Goodwill.
Without shoulds, you can be you. Finally. Without any shame.
That’s what I choose. How about you?