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This morning as I drove my step daughter to school I heard a super profound 15 year old prophecy hidden behind the catchy melody of a Britney hit from way back. (No, I’m not usually a Britney kind of girl these days but my step daughter discovered my stash of old CD’s and no 8 year old can resist the saccharine of Spears!)
We were actually listening to Britters Greatest Hits – released when the star was just 23 years old (telling of our times much?!) – and when we hit track 13, “Lucky” I heard the words that literally gave me shivers…
“She’s so lucky, she’s a star
But she cry, cry, cries in her lonely heart, thinking
If there’s nothing missing in my life
Then why do these tears come at night?
Lost in an image, in a dream
But there’s no one there to wake her up
And the world is spinning, and she keeps on winning
But tell me what happens when it stops?”
Well my lovelies, I can tell you what happens when it stops in 2015. Perfectly healthy young women, who, bombarded by choice, and the pressure to be successful and “have it all” before their baby making equipment goes kaput, who just need a bit of guidance, a mentor, someone to talk to and tell them how to slow down and get back to centre, are put on antidepressants if they’re not already self medicating with food, booze, sex, “recreational” Class A’s etc. because that’s a cheaper, faster fix than guiding them through the growing pains of an extended youth.
Because let’s face it, the definition of “youth” has changed – it’s not unusual to still be living at mum and dad’s at the age of 30 while you save up to get on the housing ladder / figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life.
Of course after Lucky was released way back when, Britney herself, victim of child super stardom, too much too young, suffered a very public emotional meltdown, much to the delight of the gossip mags and websites. Since then we have seen ever increasing numbers of young women in the public eye, many who were once child stars, who lived the dream and amassed enough wealth, fame and royalties to see them into a very comfortable old age before they hit 25, fall from grace. And oh how we love to judge.
What’s Lohan been arrested for this time? Did you see what Bynes just tweeted?! But the sad truth is there are young women acting out similar breakdowns all over the world, the only difference is they don’t have the paps eagerly following their every move and Oprah offering to step in and pay for rehab.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, we are failing our young women (and men for that matter, but having been one for 28 years I feel more qualified to comment on the plight of the female of the species) by conning them into believing that there is a set formula for “success”, with a detailed list of difficult to obtain requirements and a pressure cooker of a timescale.
And you know the most destructive thing about it? Our bright young things have fallen for it hook, line and sinker.
In my spiritual coaching I use the metaphor of a baton of emotional “stuff” being passed from one generation to the next. It’s natural. Those who teach us as children do the best they can with the resources they have, and even the most conscious well meaning parents and guardians inevitably pass on some of their own psychic crap and limiting beliefs. The problem really occurs when we don’t drop the baton, instead we grip onto it, carrying it round for a lifetime, eventually taking full ownership of it.
As a society this is what we’ve done to our young women. We’ve created a massive baton of very difficult to achieve parameters for success, with scary time limits, and passed it on. Through social media and an increasingly frenetic world that doesn’t allow for headspace, time to think, time to heal, time to regroup and recoup, they are holding that baton tight, brandishing proof of it’s existence all over Instagram and Twitter.
Busy has become a badge of honour. Overworked and underpaid just part of the process. Stress and anxiety are natural bed fellows of distorted body image, the race to find a mate before fertility goes south, and the clamour for VP (because everyone knows it’s either kids or CEO, right?) And my God do they do a good job of it.
We’ve created a whole new tribe of burned-out over-achieving young women who are especially adept at fighting fires, while spinning plates and wearing many different hats. When they finally get to the point where they’re seeking help, which could be at 25, 35, 45 or beyond it’s often because they’ve figured out that despite putting in all that work to “have it all” – and so many times succeeding – just like Britney warbled all those years ago they’re wondering why nothing is missing but they still find themselves feeling empty, unfulfilled, alone and soaked in the confused tears of surrender.
In her 2012 TED Talk ,“Listening to Shame”, Brené Brown said “Shame for women is do it all, do it perfectly and never let them see you sweat. Shame for women is this web of unattainable conflicting competing expectations about who we’re supposed to be.”
Brown also quoted research by Dr. James R. Mahalik “He asked what do women need to do to conform to female norms? The top answers [in the US]: nice, thin, modest and use all available resources for appearance.” Actual shudders.
That list for me paints the picture of a pretty scary 1950’s Stepford Wives kind of existence. Except this research is recent, and rings worryingly true, while the financial pressures of a recovering and uncertain world economy often mean that as a woman you’ll be expected to do and be all of these things to conform as well as work full time to contribute financially, never mind about satisfying your desire to fulfill your professional passions.
BUT could you please remember to be nice, modest and save enough time to juice and workout so you stay thin and pretty with flawless skin while you ruthlessly climb the corporate ladder before your ovaries shrivel / you start being prejudiced against for job roles because your lady parts are a maternity leave ticking time bomb?!
And people seriously marvel at the fact that this generation of women is the most stressed, depressed and anxious to have ever lived!
So what’s the answer?
Well, of course I’m biased but I know for sure that a spiritual practice, however that looks for you, helps. It gives perspective, headspace, and strengthens the ability to let go of the baton. Our young women must find a way to follow their hearts and souls, because they will always lead them in the right direction.
Maybe that means they’ll end up “having it all”. Maybe they’ll just have some of it. But the most important thing is that whatever they end up with makes them happy, fulfilled and wholehearted people, with slightly less shitty sticks to pass onto the next generation.
We are suffering from an epidemic of anxiety and overwhelm, it’s crushing our creative hearts and holding us back from shining our beautiful lights.