Women have a great need for security. It is part of our nature to seek security because we are naturally insecure. On a survival level we have a subconscious awareness of our small size and weaker physical stature and seek protection. While our need for physical protection to compensate for our vulnerabilities that come from being smaller, pregnancy, frailty, etc may be obvious our need for emotional protection is controversial.
Our natural instincts are to seek security because we are naturally insecure to a certain extent. This is not to say that we can not feel confident and secure or even that we can’t develop our own sense of security. I am simply saying that many of the things we do, especially those things that seem confusing or counter-intuitive can be explained by looking at our need for security.
Another clarification, I’m not saying that women are lesser or inferior because of our natural insecurity. I’m stating that it’s a fact of our nature and understanding it makes understanding women and ourselves a lot easier. Further, understanding women and ourselves makes it a lot easier for us to love women (ourselves), forgive women (ourselves) and from there to grow. We can’t grow if we don’t understand where we are starting from.
Our desire for physical security has been covered extensively. Our desire for emotional security is greatly misunderstood by both men and women. We have a natural level of low-grade anxiety. For survival, perhaps this is meant to make us hyper alert to potential risks. It makes us pick up on clues that are not overt. It makes us notice patterns, behaviors, inconsistencies that can inform us of a potential risk that aren’t obvious to someone without this tendency.
On the upside, this low-level anxiety is what I believe makes us generally better at reading faces, reading body language, understanding indirect communications. This low-level anxiety is also known as our sixth sense or women’s intuition. It is what informs us, correctly, of the indirect clues to what is happening in a situation. There may be no obvious explanation, nothing to point to or support our sense of something and yet, when we act on it, we often find we are correct.
On the downside, this low-level anxiety can give us feelings of nervousness, anxiety, insecurity, doubt, confusion. Especially if we can not find an observable reason for this anxiety we begin to doubt our feelings or doubt our reality. If I FEEL a certain way but can’t figure out why, maybe there is something “wrong” with me! We are constantly looking for an outside justification for our internal feeling. Finding a reason makes us feel both absolved and calmed. If there is a REASON why we feel anxious or insecure (someone has lied to us, someone is deceiving us, rape culture, men are awful, so and so is out to get us) then our feelings are justified. If our feelings are justified with an observable, justifiable reason then we are absolved. Our “gut” and our sense of the world was accurate. There is nothing “wrong” with us.
This pattern has caused a lot of problems! I’ve experienced it myself and I see it playing out on a grand scale in society. Women have a general, low-level sense of anxiety and in the search for blame, we have turned everything into an enemy! The workplace, men, other women, magazines, sexuality, feelings, relationships! Everything is suspect and out to get us! But what if we were to simply accept that it is natural for us to feel anxiety and that at times, our anxiety is heightened for no specific reason other than to propel us to look for security?
Little girls, for the most part, do not suffer this anxiety. They are carefree and confident. They will twirl and put on shows for others. They will talk to adults and other kids. They create fanciful worlds and have few fears other than the same fears little boys may suffer: fear of monsters, fear of the dark, etc. But at puberty, young women start to encounter many social evils. We get mean girls, we get cliques. We have weight issues, anorexia and bulimia. We get girls who become increasingly nervous and shy. During puberty, our sexual system is also kicking into gear. For some it seems to kick into overdrive with hormonal bursts that cause a shitstorm of emotions for no reason. As is natural, young women look for REASON for their moodiness. A deep sense of insecurity will make her reflect on her friendships. Does everyone hate me? Am I ugly? Why am I ugly? If the girl concludes that there is something wrong with her causing others to MAKE her feel this way, she will become focused on fixing herself. This can lead to a variety of destructive, unhealthy patterns. And if she concludes that there is something wrong with others she will develop an antagonistic view of the world and antagonistic relationships. She will become a mean girl.
The abundance of female empowerment, “go grrrl” accolades seems to be a desire to counter the tendency for girls to turn on themselves. There’s nothing wrong with you! You are perfect! It comes from a desire to save these girls from self-destruction, crippling depression and sabotage. We seek to be absolved of flaws and we seek the approval of others to confirm that we are absolved. But in lifting up the girl, we have turned the attention outward to the world and to men. “It’s not you, it’s him. It’s society. It’s rape culture. It’s the patriarchy.” We’ve made the world our enemy at every turn. While we have absolved ourselves of the blame we have not actually found the security we were seeking. In fact we have just redirected blame for our anxieties outward and created enemies around us.
Additionally, while we have created enemies in every direction which increases our sense of anxiety “everything is out to get us” we have attempted to resolve our feelings of insecurity by ganging up in huge groups of mean girls (feminism) and by medicating our bodies to reduce or eliminate our naturally occurring hormones (to defeat our low-grade anxiety). Consumption of antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications and sleep aids are very high. In addition, the birth control pill, which many women start taking during puberty also dampens our natural hormonal levels, tricking our bodies into having a stable hormonal ride throughout the month.
While it may seem beneficial to relieve young women of their moodiness during the tumultuous time of puberty, we are really robbing women of the tools to understand and cope with our own bodies. If we deny our own hormonal nature and fight against it or medicate it we become out of touch with ourselves and we lose our ability to use our natural tendencies to our advantage!
We are how we are for a reason. Yes, our moodiness can be a hassle, but it has a purpose! It urges us to seek security. It urges us to form bonds based on trust. It urges us to evaluate our surroundings and not put ourselves in unsafe situations or attach ourselves to unsafe people. When we get a “bad feeling” about someone, we should consider that there is a reason, use caution, confirm our instincts.
Men also have hormonal surges during puberty. Testosterone makes men have sudden, inexplicable bursts of a need for violence or combat. Hair trigger tempers that want to be resolved through fighting. Men also have an intense and sometimes insatiable need for sexual release during puberty. But we teach our young men how to handle the new hormonal surges they are experiencing. Men understand, and society reinforces, what is appropriate and acceptable sexual behavior. Men conform to this. We create healthy outlets for male violence in sports, in exercise. Men who are bullies looking to pick fights face social rejection. And in the best, most noble cases, if the country is at war, we encourage our young men with an abundance of testosterone to be our soldiers and fighters to protect and serve.
For young women, we have done none of this. It is a great disservice to women to ignore the importance of our hormones. We fail young women in not educating them in how to understand and cope with the new surges of hormones in puberty. Young women should be discouraged both from turning their anxiety inward into self-hatred but also discouraged from hating and fearing the world. Education that her cycle is meant to protect her, make her sensitive to threats, build her awareness of the world. During puberty, these hormones are at their highest and her understanding of them is at her lowest. So, much like a man who learns that every urge to punch someone in the face is not healthy to act on and not justified but simply his abundance of testosterone, a woman should learn that every sense that “so and so is out to get me, or I’m ugly, or I’m worthless” is also a result of puberty and should not be acted on. Puberty is when one of the hardest but greatest characteristics anyone can develop is self-restraint. We teach this to boys and we do not teach this to girls.
An understanding of a woman’s need for security and the way her very nature drives her to seek security, causes her to feel insecure, and provides her with a basic, low-level (healthy) does of anxiety to elevate her awareness of her surroundings will help to explain many female behaviors. When we understand what drives us and we approach these subject seeking understanding as opposed to blame, we are better positioned for self-acceptance. We can’t accept others until we accept ourselves. We can’t live happily until we can accept the world and our natures as they are, instead of how we wish them to be. If we are always fighting our nature or blaming each other for who and how they are when it is how we were designed, we will never be happy.
I choose happy. Complicated, emotional, hormonal, baffling, exhilarating happy.