Disclaimer: This column is full of generalizations and stereotypes and based on non-scientific research, but you will probably see yourself in it, especially if you are of the female persuasion. And since generalizations and stereotypes usually arise from actual facts, it’s probably true, even if it has never been posted on a tri-fold board as a fifth-grade science project.
I have a question for women that I have contemplated for years. Why do we have a tendency to think we are always doing worse than every other sister we know and all the sisters in the whole world? Our homes, our appearance, our weight, our abilities, our accomplishments—we hold them up to all the other sisters who seem to have their lives together, and we always fall short.
I remember a conversation I had with a friend of mine when she came to pick her son up when I had wall-to-wall teenagers and their friends hanging out at my home.
As she stepped into the cluttered living room, I immediately went into my apologizing mode.
“Just ignore the way my house looks—I haven’t cleaned up the living room yet,” I said, reaching toward jackets and toys and basketballs.
Then she started apologizing for the way her house looked, and I couldn’t even see it.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “My ironing board and stuff is still all over my den.”
I replied, “You should see my downstairs! I wish it was just my ironing board out. It’s every toy in the house.”
“Talk about downstairs,” she said, or so my writer’s mind remembers. “My downstairs looks like the Blitz of London.”
“The Blitz of London?” I said. “My bedroom looks like the aftermath of Armageddon.”
You can imagine the rest. When I got to the possum that had wandered into the garage one summer and died while we were on vacation, I knew she couldn’t do any better than that.
Boys vs. girls
Of course—and here’s where the vast generalization gets going--I think this disparagement of self is worse with girls than with boys. And I have raised both, so that’s almost as good as a scientific experiment.
When complimented on how good he looks in a new pair of jeans, does a man ever answer with “You’ve got to be kidding. I look so fat in them, and I couldn’t do a thing with my hair today. You look so much better in jeans than I do and your hair always looks great.”
No, they tend to just say “thank you” or shrug, or as my daddy used to jokingly say when I told him he looked nice in his Sunday suit, “Thank you. Always do.”
The apparent lack of confidence, which I sometimes unofficially think is disguised as a fishing trip for compliments, starts early too. When my youngest daughter was only five years old, she came up to me and asked me how she could get as thin as Barbie. Shame on Ken for encouraging Barbie’s anorexic appearance. Or maybe shame on me for talking too much about calories and my own weight. But at the age of five, she was beginning to believe she just didn’t measure up.
Then when I took her bowling with her four brothers, she dissolved in tears with every gutter ball while her brothers spent their time blaming their own bowling inadequacies on their brothers or how they had hit their leg with the ball or their knees were weak from playing such great basketball all the time.
I haven’t told him I remember this, but one of my sons went the whole baseball season not hitting a ball. I mean, not at all. Then the last game of the season, he hit the ball the last inning of a tied game, brought in two runs, and won the game for them. As he told it in later years, that was the season he was such a great player that the team dubbed him “Home Run King.” Go figure.
A friend of mine used to be a high school basketball coach for both the boys and girls teams. He told me once that after girls lost a game, they would go into a locker room in tears, believing they had ruined the game for everyone. The boys, on the other hand, would blame the refs, the other team, and their team players.
“Why is that?” my friend asked me. I had no answers.
Standing with confidence
One scripture that has always baffled me is a simple one and not even about deep doctrine like the Atonement, the Fall, or where God might live. The scripture that makes me pause is part of D&C 121:45: “. . . then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God.”
I can’t imagine myself ever being able to stand forth in the presence of God with any degree of confidence. A more comfortable place for me seems to be within King Benjamin’s “Ye can not say that you are even as much as the dust of the earth” address.
And I think I’m probably in good company there. Most sisters seem to have no trouble thinking of themselves as not having done much worth while in their lives, while they see other sisters as almost perfect and able to stand in the presence of God, while they themselves stand at the fringes, apologizing for all they didn’t get done or didn’t do well.
Well, I suppose a column should provide answers at the end, but I haven’t really gotten to that point in my life that I know all the answers to this particular quality or fault in women—I can’t even figure out which it is.