On this International Women's Day our team of psychologists brings to you our first edition of stories on Women's Mental Health. We are excited to begin this journey with you and hope to share with you information, best practices and all resources you need as a woman, for your mental health.
Do I Deserve My Success?
As a driven, goal oriented woman in India, we are still a minority. For those of us who have managed to create careers for ourselves, our work holds a sacred place in our life. When we work, it is not just to earn a living, rather it has become an expression of our dreams, our aspirations, our values, and even our tribe.
One of the most prominent feelings in women who are working towards their goals, regardless of their field, is this chronic feeling of being a fraud. Women across the working spectrum go through this recurrent thought of “not being smart enough” despite contrary evidence. We call this the Impostor Syndrome. Women who are struggling with this have a fear of being “found out”, it is an intense feeling of intellectual inauthenticity where these women constantly feel that they are not competent and probably will never be. And all the world's evidence of their success fails to help in this moment.
These feelings are found in both genders but more so in achieving women who find it difficult to internalise their accomplishments and live in the fear that they’re just “impostors” who have been lucky in their work to have succeeded at all. Women who experience these feelings are quick to dismiss their achievements be it in any form, from ranking first in entrances to promotions at work, to being invited as esteemed speakers to even receiving awards for their efforts. Instead, they believe they have just managed to fool everyone around them into thinking they’re worthy of these honours.
Feelings like these create a considerable mental health burden on us as women. We become more prone to low self esteem and self confidence, constant self doubt, extreme frustration, growing angst with inability to achieve one’s personal standard of excellence to depression, anxiety and even social isolation. We might give up on opportunities, become risk averse and unconsciously end up limiting our horizons of growth. As a woman, these feelings can come at you in any achieving phase of life. You might be a student, a senior executive, a homemaker, an entrepreneur, a sportsperson, an actor, a chef, a manager, and still not be immune to feeling like an impostor. So what can you do?
The first step to overcoming impostor syndrome is to begin to identify and accept the reality of your thoughts and feelings. Understanding the complex influence of societal expectations, parenting, gender roles and stereotypes on your achievements and how these influences contribute to this feeling of being a fraud. Each of your stories is different and it is important to unravel where your ‘impostor’ stems from and therapy is a safe space where you can explore these feelings. Apart from this, engage in conversations about this with other women, educate yourself on the syndrome and find your own ways to define success for yourself.
And always remember, you’re not alone. Most of us are going through these feelings and we want to tell you that it is okay. We hear you, we know you and we are here for you.
Read more stories on dealing with PCOD here.
5 Books On Mental Health Every Woman Must Read!
The issue of women's mental health has largely been an ignored one. From research to therapy, most focus has been given to men and their experiences which was then generalised for all of us. We bring you 5 books you ought to read if you're working on your mental health as a woman.
Revolution From Within- Gloria Steinem
A champion of women rights across the world, shares her journey of rediscovering her inner self which had gone silent for too long owing to the injustices she faced as a woman. If you're looking to reach out to your inner woman, give this one a read. It will remind you of the glorious woman in you.
Moment of Lift- Melinda Gates
Melinda Gates shares her journey of finding herself as a champion of women's health rights across the world and how she connected with other women. She talks about her self doubts, how she has dealt with being Bill Gates' wife and the self limiting thoughts she overcame to emerge as a global leader.
Bad Feminist- Roxane Grey
Grey talks about her personal journey of understanding feminism and her changing understanding of it with the current times. She takes up thoughts we've all had as women, "Does liking pink, reading vogue, enjoying misogynist songs make me a bad feminist?" and more. Well, read this one to answer your inner contradictions of being a feminist.
Mosquitoland- David Arnold
Mosquitoland will take you on a journey with the 16 year old protagonist as she visits her sick mother. On this journey, she discovers herself, grapples with her mental health struggles, her inner insecure monologues that compel her to face her perceptions about herself.
Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts - Karen Kleiman
A go-to resource for all new moms on the journey of motherhood. Find for yourself, how all moms are struggling with the same fears, discovering how to be a 'good enough' mom all the while trying to maintain their own sanity. Kleiman shares with you simple exercises, tips and resources you will need to help with your mental health as a new mom.
Read more stories on dealing with abusive relationships here.
Stories from our support group on Women's Mental Health.
At our first support group meeting on Women's Mental Health, six women got together to bring in International Women's Day 2020 and begin a journey of self discovery, compassion, health and hope. These women are from different parts of the country, different backgrounds and upbringing who have decided to come together to share and support each other in their journey as a woman.
The session began with each of them introducing themselves and sharing what brings them to this unique group. These beautiful women opened up to share with each other their unique stories, ideas, thoughts, expectations, experience and decided to help each other with solutions, support, best practices, empathy, knowledge, information and care to ensure each other's growth despite their struggles.
We all agreed to take up a wide range of topics concerning women's health. From sexual and reproductive concerns, to intimacy, gender roles, relationships and even sexual and domestic violence, to how to make public spaces safer, help other women, deal with online harassment to our struggles at the workplace. We also vowed to take up specific concerns about our mental health like dealing with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, body image, PCOS to self-harm and overcoming trauma.
We decided to educate and help each other will all of it. These glorious women agreed to create a safe space for each other, to bring with them into each session, understanding and patience to hear each other out.
It was heartwarming to be a small part of this group, to find that we were not alone. It was empowering to know we were all doing our bit to make the world a safer space for our gender, there was gratitude towards these women who had decided to come together to give their time to help each other and it is a sincere message to all other women out there that we're all in this together.
Read more stories on dealing with body image concerns here.
Experiences Online: Bullying, Harassment, Trolls & Stalking
Meghana Vasanth, currently pursuing her Master's in Clinical Psychology
Shreya Handa, M.A in Psychology
Meghana Vasanth & Sruthikeerthy