In today’s world, we are overwhelmed with the pressure to achieve. Facebook pages are flooded with crowing moments of achievement used as a personal badge of worthiness. The pressure to be great is, in fact, much greater than it has ever been in the past. It seems we idolize the girl who can do it all. It is the #girlboss who has become admirable because she is a woman building an empire or killing it in a male-driven business world.
I’ve always identified with Miss Independent, the girl who could do it all. While I’ve always striven to challenge myself, I actually fell into being self-reliant by default over the years.
Coming from a family-owned business, I was strong because I had to be. I learned to do everything myself in the best way I knew how rather than risk of jeopardizing a business my parents worked their whole lives to build. Solving a problem before it was a problem became a way of life for me, and I found myself constantly saying, “If I want it done right, I’ll do it myself.”
The better I became at my work, the better I felt.
When things in my personal life let me down, I’d find comfort in knowing that them business world was always a place that I could find my redemption. If I got in a fight with my boyfriend, at least I could throw myself into my work and directly see my effort pay off as I logged into my online banking account. As strange as it sounds, the business world was safe to me. It never let me down as much as my relationships had.
Because of this, I slowly used my success as a crutch any time my personal life had a bump in the road. “Screw them, I’ll show them.”
Yes, it was true: The best revenge was my own success. I proved that I really could do it all myself, but being Superwoman doesn’t necessarily make you a strong woman. It was a mask I was hiding behind. I was confusing my success with strength. I realized that being able to support myself on my own was great, but that we’re not meant to do everything ourselves. We all need support in our lives.
The problem with this girlboss mentality is knowing when to turn it off. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in being successful that we forget to be human. We are instantly shut down in the business world if we show any signs of vulnerability, so we learn to be assertive. In turn, we end up closing off a portion of the vulnerable side of ourselves that is necessary in our personal relationships.
Sometimes the strongest girls you know, those who seemingly have the world in the palms of their hands, are actually struggling more than you could realize.
There seems to be some sort of misconception making us think that the more independent we are, the less chance we will have of getting hurt or making poor choices in a relationship.
While independence is something everyone needs to have, it is not something that needs to overpower your life. We all need someone to lean on, be it a friendship that has its ups and downs, a partner who has hurt us, or a family member whom we have low-key resented since birth. None of these relationships are perfect; far from it, they are messy.
Somewhere within the mess, though, lies the beauty of it all. Have you ever stepped back from a screwed-up situation and realized how perfect it is in its own way? The mess is perfect, and it’s perfect because it’s real, it’s authentic. The screaming kids, the messy kitchen; the daily chaos, all of it is perfection whether we realize it or not. The root of it is love. Your business can never give you that.
Your career will never love you back, only people can. Be sure to leave room for them.
What I’m saying here, girlboss, is to learn to let love in. In your quest for everything great, never forget to save a seat for love in your life. The problem with being an overly independent woman is that you leave no place for a man. If a man feels that he has no place in your life, he will most definitely pull back effort to avoid the risk of being hurt. This leads to the girlboss building resentment toward the relationship because she feels alone, but unfortunately more often than not, we might be lying in the bed we made ourselves.
I recently asked one of my guy friends about his thoughts on trying to pursue an overly independent girl. I was expecting him to say the biggest negative aspect for men was feeling like they had to compete with a woman’s success, or something about girls jumping on the feminism train, but his answer was nothing of the sort. “Guys just want to feel needed. There’s no better feeling than that.”
My mind was blown. His opinion really struck a cord in me. For years, I had convinced myself that men were just intimidated by independent women, and in some cases, that could still be true. But his opinion was true as well.
What if the problem that Superwoman faces is not that she is intimidating to men, but rather that she simply doesn’t need a man, or anyone else, for that matter? Men have a deep-rooted need to care for women, and when the feeling of being needed is gone, problems arise. It turns out that this has nothing to do with gender roles. It just comes down to feeling valued within a relationship. After all, everyone needs a place at the table.
Just because you are capable of doing everything yourself doesn’t mean you will find happiness in doing everything yourself. We have to learn to let others take the lead sometimes.
You will not lose all your girlboss qualities by allowing someone to care for you, so strive to find that balance in your relationships. Keep the “boss bitch” at work where she belongs, do not invite her into your personal life. Drop the incessant need to always be right, to always having the perfect rebuttal at the mere sign of a disagreement.
I think a lot of girlbosses use their independence as a defense mechanism, as if constantly being on guard will protect us in some way from feeling vulnerable.
But trust me, this is real life we’re talking about. There is no way to run from feeling silly or vulnerable.
We have to check our pride at the door when it comes to relationships, and just be real. Now, I’m not saying to throw away your independence. Far from it. Just try not to be a callused, ball-busting superwoman when you don’t have to be, because to some degree, it’s a front. It’s just a form of protection we think is necessary. If you step back and look at the best relationships you can bring to mind, I’ll bet the reason they work is not because one person is a super-hero constantly taking the lead.
The best relationships come when couples operate as a team. Teammates respect each other and realize they work better together. Each team member has a valued spot. Both are there to help, not hinder, the other person.
Yes, my advice to you in a world telling you to be tough? Be soft (at least sometimes).