So much of how I understand personal development is genderless, at least in my mind. Maybe, I thought, as a man I overlook how my gender affects my drive to be a better person.
What is different about personal growth because of our gender? Why was it that my personal development was genderless in my eyes while this group of women all had some semblance of their journey in self-discovery guided by a concept of a feminine goddess?
I couldn’t answer it, and I probably won’t be able to. I don’t think I can understand the need to bond based on gender in that way. I tried through the lens of being a person of colour — still nothing. My race impacted the way that I saw myself and in some cases, the conceptions I had about who I was, or should be. But, it wasn’t central to how I cared for myself and directed my personal growth and development.
Maybe there is no connection I can draw, other than perhaps a connection to how socialization affects the constructs we ultimately can hope to escape from through self-discovery. A lot of these women suggested that one of the things they had to overcome was the need to care for others before themselves. Perhaps one of the things men have to discover is the need to care for themselves at all.
We are slowly moving into a generation where gender boundaries have less and less to do with traditional roles such as caretaking. But, at this stage, I would argue that the majority of young adults are raised with their mother as their primary caregiver. Caring for others, to some degree, is in a lot of cases considered a female trait.
Men don’t, typically, judge themselves based on whether or not they are good caregivers. They do, however often judge themselves on whether or not they can be good providers. The provider who brings resources and stability to a family, or themselves.
The subtle difference here led me to think about the subtle difference between the mentalities that would guide the development of these underlying modalities. Women attach their ability to care for others to how successful they are. Men attach their self-reliance they are to how successful they are.
Perhaps this small distinction could create a pronounced difference between how both genders perceive and refer to personal growth. Fundamentality, the difference I noticed was the use of the word care vs. another word such as development. Do gender roles affect the way we interpret how we refer to the need we have to grow as a person in life?
The semiotics student in me believes that the language we use shapes our experience. Personal development doesn’t imply a lot of activities that self-care might. There were constants between the elements of self-care that the panel mentioned and the things my male friends reference as being at the core of the personal growth strategy. But I found that women extended self-care in a lot of ways that perhaps the men I know don’t.
Maybe I do need to use better cream, take the time to get a massage, and be more willing to consider getting hair cuts, exfoliating, and moisturizing as a part of my path to personal growth.