We’ve all got a greatest fear. But then there are the other core fears that are also dancing around our brains, competing for dominance on our hierarchy of fears. They’re all a part of who we are and they affect virtually everything we do. We like to think of our fears as private, personal things that we don’t share with others, but the truth is that we ladies share a shitload of them. As Millenials, the media touched every aspect of our development, including the development of our fears. Knowledge of the monsters that keep us up at night better equips us to beat them to death! Or at least weaken them so we don’t have so much goddamn anxiety all the time.
1 We fear that we’ll never find “true love.” Or rather, we’ll never achieve the conceptualization of “true love” informed by years of Disney movies, teen magazines, and pop music. Will we ever meet a man who will whisk us away from all of our troubles and ensure we lead happy, fulfilling lives? What must we do to meet our respective Prince Charmings? How should we look? How should we act? Are we thin enough, tall enough, pretty enough? Despite our efforts at female self-empowerment, feminism, and you know, simple logic/reason, we are nevertheless haunted by memories of how bored and purposeless Princess Jasmine felt without exciting and whimsical Aladdin. Or how lonely and stifled Ariel felt under the sea without Prince Eric and the promise of mobility? Or how Sleeping Beauty’s life really fuckin’ sucked until her prince showed up. Are we waiting for men to save us? If we do not nix this warped “true love” concept, we truly will be forever alone because we’ll push anyone away who doesn’t meet the requirements of being “the one.” Prince Charming isn’t real and if we wait around for him we’re gonna be sorely disappointed. We also need to accept and understand that our lives do not need entirely defined by the acquisition of love. Love is not all you need, ladies. There are many other venues through which we can achieve happiness and fulfillment that we haven’t been able to focus on due to our obsession with love and crippling self-esteem issues.
2 We fear that our dream careers will remain dreams. A banner hung across the walls of my elementary school’s cafeteria that read: IF YOU CAN DREAM IT, YOU CAN ACHIEVE IT! Girl PLEASE. This banner stuck with me not because of its general corniness but because the ideology of its message was already being sneakily nestled into the folds of my psyche. Our entire generation suffers from the illusion that if you really, really, really want something and work hard to get it, you’ll get it. Just like that! As if it were some millennial remix of the American Dream, it really did a number on our parents who assured us that by going to college and working hard, we will get the job we want and be able to support ourselves by doing what we love. We’re in our twenties now and we’re scared. Maybe we’re working in a completely different field, maybe we’re broke and working whatever jobs will pay the rent, maybe our circumstances are in the way. Whatever the reason for the distance between ourselves and the career of our dreams, we harbor deep worry about that distance never waning. The depressing fact is that it’s not easy to get paid doing what you love. In fact, it’s a luxury that most people just don’t have. Does accepting this mean we’ve given up? No, it doesn’t have to. I argue that it’s not always helpful to dream big. Learn to compromise with yourself. What’s so bad about finding a job that keeps you financially stable and professionally fulfilled? So maybe you’re not performing in sold-out shows on Broadway, writing books featured on the New York Times Bestseller List, or making tenure at an Ivy League university teaching philosophy. Many of us cling onto the notion that what you do defines who you are. But it isn’t true. We’re a hell of a lot more than that.
3 We fear that we are not pretty. Good god, look at our thighs/bellies/boobs/ass/legs! How unattractive. We’re totally disgusting. We must fix ourselves. We need to do everything we can to make sure we look as pretty as humanly possible. Ask any of us what we want to look like and we’ll write you a whole goddamn book. Ask us what we find pretty about ourselves and we’ll grow uncomfortable and question your motives behind asking such a question. What we often fail to consider is WHY are we so concerned with “being pretty?” Is it in some primal quest to establish dominance over other females? Is it as simple as the desire to attract a mate? Or is this obsession perhaps fed by cultural channels as well? Barbie taught us that pretty meant blonde hair, giant knockers, and a waist the size of a baby’s fist. Fashion mags taught us that pretty meant a diet of heroin and cigarettes to achieve a more dramatic, frail look. Beauty pageants taught us that the presentation of our prettiest selves can win us the crown! As women, we subconsciously marry our perceptions of self-worth and appearance. If we are pretty, we believe that our lives will be easier, that we will be more successful, more attractive to men/women, more liked, more loved. We want to be wanted. While there’s nothing wrong with that inherently, the level that we allow beauty to influence our lives must be scrutinized if we don’t want to drive ourselves absolutely bonkers.
4 We fear growing old. And thus growing irrelevant. The fear of becoming our mothers or grandmothers causes us great shame. We love these older women and we know that one day we will become older women, but that doesn’t mean we’re rolling out the welcome mat for age. I argue that men do not suffer from the fear of age in the way women suffer; as women growing older fear not only for the loss of another year to enjoy on this earth, but also the loss of relevance and worth. Our culture doesn’t value the sexiness/fierceness of older ladies. Therefore, they’re not worth a damn. This is evidenced by the drought of older women in our media. With some exceptions, older women are present in the media to fulfill certain tropes, like the matronly caregiver, the risqué cougar, or the masculinized boss. There aren’t too many romcoms or dramadies about 45 year-old women searching for fulfillment. Young women are a commodity, something to be objectified for profits. We see young, pretty women plastered all over our billboards, our television screens, our computers. They’re selling things to men. They’re selling things to women. If a young, pretty girl has it, the men want it so they can have the young, pretty girl. And the women want it so they can BE that young, pretty girl. Welcoming age comes only with accepting that our cultural construct of beauty need not govern our lives. We can observe it and fight against it. Whatever age we are, we can be fucking fabulous.
5 We fear that the world doesn’t know or care about us. I know—“wah wah poor us,”—but I’m serious. We suffer from a widespread delusion that we have to somehow matter to the world. Whether it’s by “making a difference” (helping to inspire monolithic change), fame, or serving a god, we feel a deep intrinsic need to matter to not only a few people, but all people. It’s what underlies our dreams. Perhaps a by-product of our fear of loneliness, our fear of not mattering influences many arenas in our lives and is another massive blow to our piss-poor self-esteem. If everyone knows us, cares about us, loves us, we will be happy. Right? No matter how many tragic overdoses or suicides of famous people being dramatized on our televisions, we still cling to the false notion that being known means being happy. It’s another example of us gals searching for some external force to save us from a shitty life. All of these shitty fears come down to our skewed notion of what it actually means to have a good life. It’s a hard thing to do, but if we can free ourselves from the Clockwork Orange-like grip the media has on how we view our own lives, we could perhaps see the simplicity behind our core desire, which is to just be happy. If happiness is determined by the exceeding our expectation of the outcome, then fuck, let’s reevaluate our expectations! To do this, we have to identify and rebel against the forces in the media that fashioned our unrealistic expectations. We will overcome these fears. We will, goddamnit! It takes some awareness, self-analysis, and time. Welp, ladies, looks like aging is gonna help us out after all.