I reached out to a few girls and women, between the ages of 20-35 years, and asked them about their experiences with being forced to live up to expectations, and the effect it has had on their mental health.

Academic pressure

Scoring good grades and being the best at academics is something most students try to live up to, regardless of how terribly pressuring the situation can get. Being compared to peers, and forced to take up subjects they are not interested in is also something that bogs many down. And sometimes, there are aspirations that may never be achieved. At other times, one gets so caught up fulfilling responsibilities to make others happy and loses out on time to focus on their own goals.

Fitting into boxes

There are certain standards of femininity that people consider ideal, and if a woman does not fit into them, she is often shamed. However, she is usually met with odd comments and criticism whether she fits these boxes or not. Women are expected to have a “hot” body, and wear pretty, “feminine” clothing most of the time, and if this isn’t followed, people can be quite unkind.

Bullying

Being bullied as children for being different or not as academically proficient as others can have a huge effect on a person’s mental health growing up. To make things worse, many schools and institutions don’t take action on instances of bullying, and continue letting it happen. When a child steps up and talks about their struggles with being bullied, it is the responsibility of the adults around them to do something about it, so that the situation is eased.

Work and family stress

Sometimes, the amount of workload at professional spaces can get overwhelming. Pair that with pressure from family and having to take care of the household almost entirely by yourself, and the situation can get quite stressful. Growing up in a dysfunctional and abusive environment can have a severe impact a child’s mental health, and continue to have a negative effect on them as they grow up. Seeking help for mental health struggles can be scary, but is often a necessary step towards understanding oneself better and leading a more peaceful life.

Many girls and women who shared their experiences also said that there are mixed opinions and reactions around them when it comes to mental health. While some are very supportive, others don’t want to talk about it at all, or tend to ask intrusive questions. However, once the discussion of mental health is brought to the table, approaching a professional can go in different directions. It can be easy and affirming, as it is for a few, or difficult and invalidating as in the case of others.

Words like OCD, depression, and bipolar are loosely thrown around, and as a result, people who really need help can feel extremely ashamed to seek it. The more these issues are used only in jokes or are talked down about, they’re not taken with the gravity that it deserves.

Keeping your mental health in check is extremely important. Having a good understanding of yourself, and learning how to cope with your issues and challenges can help with a better experience of life.

Here is some motivation and encouragement from the girls and women who shared their stories:

“Not everyone will listen or believe you because most people don’t take mental health seriously. Talk to someone you think you can trust and find something that makes you happy. Try to distract yourself and do things you’ve always wanted to even if it’s something very small. You could also write down things that bother you.” – Krystin

“You don’t have to hit rock bottom to take your first step towards recovery. Plus, rock bottom is different for all of us. In a society that constantly tells women their feelings and thoughts are irrational, delusional or irrelevant, it is even more important to take care of oneself. Taking the help of a professional, or even multiple, is a very normal and healthy thing to do. Listen to your body and set healthy boundaries in all circles of your life. Do not hesitate to ask for help. I promise it gets better.” – Tara

“It’s okay to not be perfect all the time; it’s okay to not be what you’re ‘supposed to be’. Take your time, figure yourself out. Be kinder to yourself and accept yourself. And know that it’s okay to not be okay. Ask for help when you need it; you’re not alone in what you’re feeling and you definitely don’t have to be alone in dealing with this.” – Brianna

Everyone struggles. Do not ever give up. And if you need help, please seek assistance.

xo BeBelle

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