10 Gender Narratives Women Can Break to Bloom

Have you ever felt like you were playing by the wrong “rules”, but didn’t know the right ones? 

Are you experiencing the awkward “ick” vibe at work, in a relationship, or in life? Do you sometimes feel like you just don’t fit?

Throughout our lifespan there are times when we simply outgrow our circumstances. When we find ourselves trying to fit into a job, relationship or lifestyle that no longer serves our needs, desires or values, it’s an inauthentic move. It can feel suffocating, anxiety-provoking, uncomfortable, irritating or just plain wrong. This is the feeling that signals to us that it’s time to pull our focus inward — and maybe change some things.

Studies show that inauthenticity can affect mental health in young women. The culprit? Gender expectations are stifling young girls (and big girls) into their very own Glass Box. When she becomes more educated, healthy, stylish, genuine, independent or wise, it can threaten a certain crowd. Something seems to shatter regardless of the direction in which she grows. Change is hard to swallow for some.

But when women buy into the tired, preconceived notions of what a female is supposed to do, think, wear or say, we perpetuate the myth that women must be anything in particular in order to be liked and right at all times. 

The good news? Glass shatters. We can all choose our time to break through limiting societal beliefs in the name of freedom and authenticity, and Spring provides a beautiful backdrop.

When we avoid uncomfortable situations — like taking a good hard look at our lives — this is called experiential avoidance. It actually maintains or exacerbates psychological distress. Conversely, when we bravely challenge false beliefs in our own lives, we can receive positive results in return. This makes it exponentially more likely we will face adversity, gain confidence and continue to make healthy changes in the future. 

See if you can create a little experiment of your own this week. Below are the ten most popular gender narratives that hold women back along with suggestions for how to actionably challenge these beliefs in your own life:

Be Small

Challenge this: Physically open your body (laying down or standing with arms and legs spread wide) and look to the sky. Speak one truth you’ve been holding back with grace, love and power.

Be Soft

Challenge this: Do one thing that makes you feel strong or seen today, like advocating for yourself. We rarely recruit strength until life calls for it, but this is also in our control. 

Be Fixed

Challenge this: Choose one physical or mental attribute you’ve spent time and energy on fixing for someone else and find love for it instead. 

Bonus: research the Japanese concept of Wabi Sabi and use it as a guide. 

Be Dependent

Challenge this: Write down the things you would do if you had a partner (romantic, business or otherwise). Do you truly need to be dependent upon someone else for every one of those dreams, activities, desires?

Be Chosen 

Challenge this: Enjoy a date with yourself. Plan a museum visit, a lunch or simply a long walk in a new neighborhood.

Be Stifled

Challenge this: Feel your emotions, out loud! What injustices do you face today? What breaks your heart? Who do you need to set boundaries with out of pure self love? Scream, shake (really) and let it out.

Be Less

Challenge this: Make a move that sets you exactly where you want to be without entertaining the belief that you are less worthy (than a man or the person next to you). State your reasons for a promotion or divide household chores evenly with your partner. 

Be the Exception

Challenge this: Help yourself or another female change a gender based narrative, fill a role or complete an activity typically reserved for men. Did you know you could pay to race cars?!

Be Everything

Challenge this: Be nothing. For an hour or a day. Notice your compulsion to serve, support, or check things off your to-do list. Leisure and silence is underrated. As a neuroscience-based meditation teacher I can tell you this will cause a necessary but uncomfortable shift. 

Be Sexy… but Sweet

Challenge this: Update your definition of sexy according to you. Powerful, creative, dominant, submissive, nurturing…

Keep this list somewhere in your home as a visual prompt to remind you that change is always possible. Pro Tip: move it’s location every two weeks to avoid habituating (becoming “blind”) to it!

 Gianna Biscontini is a behavior scientist and lifestyle design coach. She is author of F~ckless: A Guide to Wild, Unencumbered Freedoms


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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