Thursday, October 1, 2009

Final Thoughts on Women and Happiness

2666724429_d1ec11b825.jpg Happy women image by ShelbyHays

Knowing what I’ve been writing about lately, my father sent me a link to this article about What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently.  It’s a piece by Marcus Buckingham highlighting findings from his recent book.   

I had seen this article last week.  My first reaction had been “What does a person named Marcus know about women’s happiness?”  But when I got past this resistance, I realized the author has some very good information.   

In surveying women, Buckingham found that the “happiest” among us strive not for balance but imbalance—in other words, leaning toward moments that create happiness while letting go of those that drain us.  As my friend Shannon once told me, “Do what makes you strong.” 

This is simple, yet not easy.  To do what makes us strong means knowing what makes us strong.  To know this, we have to commit to finding out.  This, I believe, is our path to contentment and connection to others.         

A thoughtful and generous blogger friend brought another idea to mind.  She commented on my recent posts about how cultural norms can harm us.  Then she pointed out my inconsistency in posting, last week, a list of ways French women stay slim.  Was I contributing to the problem by bolstering the importance of thinness?  

This is a good point.  On the one hand, I want the world to take women seriously.  On the other, I’ve absorbed many messages about what I think we’re supposed to be.  The list includes pretty, thin, and accommodating.  As long as I hold myself to these expectations, it follows that I will continue to pass them around.     

Twice this week I’ve observed how I unknowingly devalue the “feminine” in myself and other women.   At a social event at our house, I found myself taking a much greater interest in the husband’s academic work than the wife’s business selling cosmetics.  Why did I?  I don’t like it when that happens to me.  Now, I think I’m genuinely more interested in history than cosmetics, but still…why didn’t I ask about her work to take an interest in her life? 

A couple days later I got my hair cut.  In the salon, I became aware that I quietly look down on “women’s” talk about clothes, hair, food, and their husbands, such as I heard in the salon.  This time, I allowed myself to join in.  My jaws flapped and I laughed freely.  In the process, I found that the subject matter was just an entry to the heart of talk that was not shallow.  We were sharing, in a way that’s maybe uniquely “female,” how we make decisions, relate to others, and solve daily problems.  This is the stuff of real life. 

It felt good to let myself join a sisterhood that day.  It didn’t matter, really, what we talked about.  What mattered was that we were women listening to each other and being kind.  I had a good time.  I felt part of a community.   

I felt happy. 


Click photo for link to Photobucket.   


Lianne said...

What a great post. I've always enjoyed the company of men, but some of my happiest moments have been with my girlfriends. I agree that figuring out what makes us strong is the first, and most difficult, step towards achieving happiness. Sometimes I think it's also about embracing simplicity (which also might be simple but certainly not easy).

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Sallymandy: I love that - "lean toward happiness" - that's going to be my adopted slogan for the next while. It's so true that we can find ourselves leaning toward thinking about what is wrong with things, or always problem-solving . . . but we could ask ourselves, how could I lean toward happiness here?

I love your comments about supporting other women and how we have not necessarily been 'groomed' to do so. Your example of being aware and reflecting on your own behaviors is a good one. If we can catch ourselves - we can change our conditionning. I'm going to try and follow your example here too.

How lucky are you to have a father who not only reads your blog, but read articles about women and can refer you to them!! Wow - I would love to have had a father like that.

Thank YOU S.M. (((Hugs)))

Elizabeth said...

Although it goes against conventional wisdom, I thought that was an excellent article. Buckingham's conclusions might not all be true, but they are definitely worth serious consideration.

Lemondrop Marie said...

What a lovely post, I am also a bit snippy at the women's gossip hour, but you've made me think about my attitude a bit. And- to defend your discussion of think French women, we can discuss that if it's related to HEALTHY weight instead of vanity weight. Happy Thursday~

Duchesse said...

What "a person named Marcus knows", he knows frm polling thousands of women. (So you've got to give it to a man who's actually interested in hearing what thousands of women have to say:)) I found the questions the poll asked powerful:

1. How often do you get to do things you really like to do?
2. How often do you find yourself actively looking forward to the day ahead?
3. How often do you get so involved in what you're doing you lose track of time?
4. How often do you feel invigorated at the end of a long, busy day?
5. How often do you feel an emotional high in your life?

Sometimes happiness is right under my nose and I just need to stop living in my head and see it.

Life Potentials Network said...

S.M. you bring up so many wonderful talking points in this post! I loved how you said that people should look to achieve a state of "imbalance", going for more zest or happiness and letting the rest go. When I was studying feng shui with my teacher, she said that Feng Shui people often talk about achieving balance but that nothing happens in that state. We NEED imbalance to produce anything! That was a new way of thinking and you have introduced many other new ways of thinking here! Fabulous post! xo

Deborah said...

Sallymandy, I am glad to have found you! Yours is a calm, rational and thoughtful voice, clearly very open to exploration and self-knowledge.
I have excused my misogyny by the fact that I grew up with two older brothers, so isn't it just natural that I would be more interested in what men did and said? What you have said today has made me take a hard look at whether the satisfaction I get from being able to engage men in discussions which many women are not interested in or knowledgeable about is a way of distancing myself from my sex and what I perceive to be its lack of substance. A show-off, in other words, eager to display my 'worth' in a man's world.

I didn't anticipate being challenged to examine my behaviour like this. All because of your very honest and articulate post! I'll be back often.

Protege said...

I think a way to happiness is to accept imperfections in one self and others and to be content with the outcome of any task, as long as we do our best.
Happiness is elusive and consists mostly of moments in time. I believe it our capability to enjoy those that is the road to happiness.
Have a wonderful Friday sallymandy.;)

La Belette Rouge said...

I am absolutely loving this series. And, the Marcus article ties into something I have been thinking about, balance is not achieved by seeking balance. Balance is achieved by accepting imbalance and trusting that at different stages,energies, impulses and interests will not last forever and then another stage will come. Thank you , Sallymandy, for exploring this topic and for your honesty.

Jan said...

This series you've created about women and happiness is profound. I have read them all, though said very little. They truly touch my heart. I am a woman of words and I am finding few to adequately express my joy about what I read here.

Though the day you wrote about depression and all the shabby treatment you received by therapists made me so distraught that I wanted to respond, but couldn't. I know that my wisest thoughts come in time when I am calm. :-) So I stayed silent.

I believe that depression (for many) is a soul sickness. A sickness of too much, overwhelm, and never feeling like we can live at the pace that life expects us to. Or live up to society's imaging of us. This does great damage to women. I have been there...Recovery of our holy and whole selves is the invitation being offered here. What I hear you say in today's post is that you are doing that. That sisterhood is birthing in you and that comes when we begin to accept ourselves and one another as we are--wounds, warts, and all. With compassion...

I am truly celebrating your journey. My heart is dancing. Yes, may we continue to listen to each other and be kind.

I think this must be a divine moment of synchronicity. Last week I relaunched my old website and a new blog. It's a women's circle and I'd love for you to stop by to find more encouragement there. And if you don't that's fine too. I continue to hold you in heart and thought. You are a blessing to many through your blog.

In joy,

Stephanie Baffone said...

Hi Sallymandy!
What a great post. I think many of us probably are guilty of the same things you did but don't always admit it. It is a struggle to work against such strong cultural norms.
I appreciate your honesty!

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

pop over mine and add a link to this post...inkeeping with todays theme...thanks

sallymandy said...

Thanks to all of you. This started out as a sort of rambling, only half-conscious rumination on some issues that aren't very clear to me, and I've received so much new food for thought from all of you. I appreciate you more than you know! ♥