We've created a world with expectations for one another that don't make sense.
Whether it's due to our own insecurities or some deep-rooted desire to shut one another down, we're quick to call someone out for not quite meeting our standards: She's good, but she's not good enough; he's strong, but he's just too strong.
When I first began writing this, I was going to cite all the ways women are expected to behave and all the things we're "supposed to be" without crossing that imaginary line. But I realized that these double-edged swords don't simply apply to females. They apply to everyone: males, females, our world as a whole.
We seem to be happy for others when they're successful, just not too successful. When someone is kind, he or she receives accolades -- until he or she becomes too nice because then society tells us that person must have an ulterior motive, right?
We need to reevaluate the rules that shape our opinions. Here are a few common examples you've probably experienced.
Women need to...
1. Be strong but not opinionated.
Emma Watson's now-famous UN speech spoke to this point perfectly.
“I have realized that fighting for women's rights has too often become synonymous with man hating," Watson said. "If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop."
Women are expected to be strong, forthright and loyal, without coming off as "opinionated" or "aggressive." The word "opinionated" itself has become a way to describe a woman who needs to calm down, stripping her of any legitimacy, as well as any respect for that opinion and why she might have it.
Even the most solid of points is likely to be brushed off if a woman demonstrates a bit too much passion. But it is not the "cool" thing to stand off in the corner during a great conversation, either uninterested or too afraid to speak up and be heard. Passion and opinion are what make people strong, not the other way around.
2. Dress well but not promiscuously.
There's often a very fine line here. How short can a nice looking skirt be before it becomes suggestive?
The better question is, why is it a woman's job to tailor her attire so that it won't give off "the wrong idea"? Why are we expected to jump hoops and opt for the sweetheart cut versus the v-neck top because others are hasty to make unfounded decisions about the people we are based on how we clothe ourselves?
The idea is that women should look nice and well put-together without turning anyone on, or reminding anyone of sex. Completely objectively, does that really make sense?
3. Be successful but not threatening.
"Please be independent both emotionally and financially, entirely able to take care of yourself and others and continue to climb the promotion ladder at work, but remember not to intimidate anyone!"
This mentality boils down to the person who chooses to be threatened, not the person who's doing well in her life.
Being with someone who drives you and inspires you to better yourself should never be viewed in a negative light. If you're choosing to let someone else's success intimidate you, that's your own prerogative. It's not her responsibility to build your life the way she's built her own.
While men need to...
1. Be confident but not cocky.
Confidence is attractive; it's often what people look for most when considering a mate. Unfortunately, we've made it nearly impossible to remain in the realm of "confident" but not "arrogant" because we're so quick to judge.
Is he failing to demonstrate how grateful he is every single day? Does he have just a little too much swagger in his step? Does he have a jubilant, outgoing personality? He doesn't self-deprecate to make others comfortable? Sounds good; let's label him as "too full of himself" and move along.
It's nice that some people are openly modest on the regular, but that's not how everyone's personality works. Just because he doesn't fit the magic recipe above doesn't mean he's egotistical.
2. Demonstrate sensitivity but not be sensitive.
One of life's greatest paradoxes is that we ask that males are understanding, open and empathetic while demanding that they behave as robots with no personal emotional outlet. It's as though sensitivity is a weakness.
It's not fair, and we need to nip this in the bud -- if not for males alone, then for society at large. This is a detrimental, unhealthy standard that has led to a lot of trouble.
3. Be protective but not overbearing.
The line between the two is different for everyone. What one person might view as "too much," another might see as "endearing." Each and every relationship draws up new lines.
"Please have my back, be aware of our surroundings and maintain the physical ability to keep us safe. Oh, but don't smother me. Let me run my own life, make my own choices (that you may or may not think are wise), and you can deal with the aftermath."
This is not entirely reasonable.
Perhaps if we made the happy medium the standard, instead of holding one another to impossible regulations, we could have better relationships altogether.