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I’m Not A “Superwoman,” and I Don’t Want to Be!

I’m Not A “Superwoman,” and I Don’t Want to Be!

Enter SUPERWOMAN!

There are a thousand versions on the internet of this very famous image — a woman with ten hands holding different things: a feeding bottle, a briefcase, a cooking pan, a mop, a diaper, etc. It signifies the power of the modern woman who juggles all the roles in her life with ease and panache. The superwoman who is held back by absolutely nothing: she has it ALL. Not to forget, of course, that she looks like a million dollars while doing all this — I don’t look like that after 10 hours of sleep and a day at the salon. Superwoman indeed!

I guess such a representation is supposed to make us women feel proud and powerful. Frankly, the image just leaves me feeling distinctly uncomfortable and inadequate. For that matter, any time anyone starts off giving an “ode to a woman,” she is a daughter, a wife, a mother, a friend, a teacher, a professional, and fifty other lofty roles that I struggle to keep count of, I feel like rolling my eyes and well, climbing into bed to sleep off the exhaustion of just hearing it.

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The Endless Need to Do More

It seems that women’s progression is not about changing roles; it’s about adding them on. It’s no longer just home — it’s home plus work; not just mother — mother plus mentor; not just caregiver — caregiver plus financial contributor.  Don’t get me wrong: I love the new roles. It’s the “plus plus” game that gets to me. It reminds me of hungry teens at a buffet, mindlessly loading their plates with food that they cannot possibly finish, ecstatic about the good deal they are getting, but, blissfully oblivious to the impending stomach ache that will greet them the next morning!

So when do we women realize that we need to stop loading our plates and avoid that stomach ache? While we can praise a woman’s abilities to the moon and back, the fact of the matter remains that evolution has not exactly kept up! I don’t see any females being born with 10 hands, and I don’t see the hours of the day increasing from 24 to 48 so that we can fulfill all the roles on our overloaded plates.

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For that matter, have we asked ourselves whether this is really what we want. Do we want to maximize every second of every day to have that optimum life where we “manage” all that is expected of us (and what we expect of ourselves) just to have a peaceful guilt-free sleep at night?

There are two problems with living like that: first, we are not able to manage everything to the level that we want (and the sleep is quite guilt-ridden and far from peaceful). Second, we don’t always want to “be everything”; sometimes we just want to “be.” There are times when we don’t want to take care of the kids, or cook that weekend meal or work extra hours at our jobs to prove that we “have it all.”

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 Doing Everything Is Not the Solution

The solution is as simple as it gets: say “I can’t” or even “I don’t want to.”

That is the starting point of true empowerment. Sometimes it will mean that our loved ones will have to step up and sometimes it will mean that everything is not going to get done exactly as we imagined. Nonetheless, that’s not a crime; it’s normal. Every time the guilt comes creeping, we need not drive ourselves to exhaustion; we just need to remember that we have two hands and limited hours.

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More importantly, enjoying moments of leisure is not an “avoidable luxury”; it is an “essential necessity” to keep ourselves and those around us happy. At the end of the day, happy not-so-perfect mom trumps tired grumpy perfection. (If you don’t believe me, ask your kids!)

It is much like the beauty debate; we are not the size two plastic that we see on our televisions — that’s not real. Just the same, we are not the ideal “superwoman” glorified across media. That’s neither real nor ideal! About time we hand over that imaginary cape and truly empower ourselves!

So ladies, make choices, and reduce the to-do list: delegate, get help, let the people dependent on you get a little independent and once in awhile, just let things be “not perfect” — because everything cannot be and because everything is not supposed to be!

Featured photo credit: consultealespecialista.com via consultealespecialista.com

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

How to Self-Taught Effectively

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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