Sigmund Freud, the 18th century Austrian neurologist, hailed as the father of psychoanalysis, famously asked the question, “What do women want”? He didn’t have an answer. All he had were theories.
Simply put — Women want to — Eat, Say, Love
Women want to be able to eat anything and not gain weight!
From time immemorial, beauty has been a priority. Today we have access to the latest trending diets, fitness fads and beauty hacks that promise unparalleled beauty. Most of us are vulnerable to the ridiculous diets that guarantee everything from a fabulous body to eternal youth.
While eating may seem like a very ‘physical’ thing, food is not always about physical hunger. There is such a thing called emotional hunger.
Many women seek solace in food to assuage an emotional hunger that they don’t quite know how to address. Our answer to everything seems to be in the fridge. We take refuge in food, and not surprisingly; as children, we are taught that food is closely related to almost everything precious around us: We are bribed with food for being good or punished by being denied our favourite treat. Families and friends gather around food in joyful times. We take offence if food is refused.
Food is intricately woven with emotions, besides satisfying physical hunger. It is easily accessible (unlike alcohol or drugs), socially acceptable and “eating well” (read too much) seems perfectly normal.
Though food has great emotional context, it cannot solve problems of loneliness, depression, anxiety or stress. In fact it can compound them.
But we cannot eat whatever we want (in whatever quantities we want) and not gain weight! That is not scientifically feasible. The energy balance equation does not allow this to happen.
However, we can balance our intake with optimum expenditure using exercise and activity. Use discretion while indulging and eat smaller portions. Give food its dutiful place, enjoy it, but respect it and more importantly, respect our bodies consuming it. We have to be mindful of what we eat and listen to our body’s signals of hunger and satiety as opposed to stress, sadness, depression, anger, fatigue or anxiety, all of which can be mistaken for physical hunger.
And then we want to ‘Say’
Women want to be able to say what they believe, think and feel and more importantly, they want to be heard.
Why are women sidelined, even ridiculed for ‘talking too much’? Don’t we have important things to say?
Why are we being killed even before we are born? Why is the rate of female foeticide still so high? Are we not important?
Don’t we have a valuable contribution to make in this world?
Of course, we do!
The Indian scriptures accord a venerable status to women. The female is believed to be an embodiment of Shakthi or power, tempered with virtue, Buddhi or wisdom, Tyaga or sacrifice and Karuna or compassion. Most of all women are revered for their capacity to nurture and care for others.
Why is it then that in our country that supposedly reveres the female form, women are disrespected? Why is the rate of domestic violence, female foeticide and rape so high? Why do women often hesitate to voice their thoughts or beliefs?
Most of it has to do with societal conditioning. While the feminine energy is considered all-powerful, it is also repressed, conditioned to be held in check and tempered with what is believed to be “feminity”.
A woman, who speaks her mind or contradicts a common belief system, is considered unfeminine or too aggressive. Society is, by and large, governed by men and adhered to by women. Often, we will find it is women who run other women down, silence them.
Every woman has a story to tell.
A story unique only to her and that she should be able to tell it in her own way. She should be able to work with that story to create the life she wishes. It doesn’t matter if what she has to say is troubling or contradictory or painful. If she has a secret life she wants to share, or a shameful experience she would like to forget, she should be able to say what she wishes and be heard with respect.
What she says might have consequences, which may not always be pleasant. But, if a woman believes in something, being able to verbalise it is empowering in itself. It may not win her popularity, but will definitely improve her self-esteem.
To say also means to be able to say “I’m sorry” when needed; to say, “I appreciate you”, “Thank you” or “I love you”. To be able to speak her mind also requires her to listen attentively to other women and allow them to tell their stories. Women should be supportive of other women and their wish to speak, be heard and actually listen.
And then there’s ‘Love’
Women want to be loved; they thrive under the influence of being loved and desired. It is an innate need. Some psychologists go as far as to say that women need love more than men do.
Her traditional role, as homemaker and nurturer, instinctively makes her more inclined to this emotion.
But this old school of thought that portrays women as homemakers and men, breadwinners, has shifted over the years, and along with that has evolved several conflicts in the roles women play in their personal space. A woman wants more than just emotional security. She also wants to be recognised for her contribution to the workspace.
And there are women from conservative background who have to juggle between being a homemaker at home and a professional at office. Some of them had to face hostility for not playing their stipulated role in the home. I speak to women who have had to sacrifice their marriage for their job, and eventually are blamed for having made a wrong choice. It is, indeed, a very difficult choice. But they should not be judged for doing so. I also speak to women who have had to withdraw from the workforce for the sake of their family. This is also a difficult decision. I speak to women who manage to win both ways and others who struggle endlessly in both worlds. They are all trying to figure out a way to move forward.
Love and support will certainly take a woman’s efforts forward. Any one of these women may be your sister, mother or friend. Loving her may not always be easy, but it will certainly empower her like nothing else can.
The whole life experience today is truly challenging for women. This is especially so if they do not have the support of people around them. Love certainly turns the wheels eventually. Money, fame, power and success are only the trimmings, which amount to nothing if not adorned with love.
In return, we need to love too. We need to love in a way that makes it easy to be loved back. Sometimes we create a “conditionality” with which we love. We pose expectations and pressure on those we love. We would do ourselves a great favour if we could love for the sake of loving and in return, be loved back.
A woman should primarily love herself and everything else will fall into place.
The author, an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, is a fitness and lifestyle consultant, and has published two books: Get Size Wise; Gain to lose. www.drsheela.nambiar.com