Is Our Culture Placing Undo Pressure on Girls?

Is there a reason for the seeming rise in health issues in young ladies? From both my observations and personal experience, I would argue unneeded stress plays a role in many hormonal, digestive, and adrenal issues many of us face. While there are certainly physical factors (and doctors are great!), what impact would exchanging the unreasonable pressure of the world for the amazing rest the gospel provides have on our mental, physical, and emotional health?

First of all, a little from my own story. I started having digestive and hormonal issues in early high school that seemed to come out of nowhere. They weren’t debilitating, but they did plague me from about ages 15-22. I went from mainline medical doctors to natural health doctors, tried out diets, and took too many supplements. Most of it seemed to make it worse.

While I thought it was just a trial God was taking me through at the time I had to bear (which was partly true), looking back, there seems to be more to the story. My parents and doctors asked me if stress was a factor, but I didn’t want to admit it. To me, being stressed equated worrying and thus sin against God. And what a bad testimony to unbelieving doctors that would be!

So instead, I kept up my hectic life pace. Because I decided I wanted to take a more academic high school track so that college would remain a possibility, I felt pressure to keep up high grades on top of doing everything a stay-at-home daughter was supposed to do: serve as a mothers’ helper, cook for my family, do laundry, help at church events, spend tons of time with my siblings, help my dad any time he needed me … and the list went on. Plus, I put a ton of pressure on myself to practice piano a few hours a day, keep up my writing, and manage my garden and orchard.

I laugh now, because if I had only woken myself up to the reality that I was simply doing too much, I could have solved a lot of the problems. No one ever said I had to do most of my family’s cooking. Or help every mom who asked me to babysit. In fact, if I had explained to my parents that I was overwhelmed, they would have been more than happy to take some responsibilities off my hands. But in my pride and self-competence, I never communicated.

But underneath such common sense, there were deeper issues. In reality, I wasn’t living out the gospel in my life. Though I would have never said this, in all practicality I believed that grace was for my initial salvation, and then I had to work to please God and become holy on my own. In other words, serving Him was up to me. If I was tired, oh well, that was part of the sacrifice.

Fast forward to my junior year of college. I was still pushing myself hard — taking a full college load, working two jobs, and involved in campus and church — when the gospel re-shattered my life. A friend invited me to my now pastor’s house for a bible study. He was teaching through Romans 4, and it changed my life. I realized that the gospel applied to every single day. That I would become holy through embracing Christ’s grace, not working to keep the law. And that Christ’s beckoning to “come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden” wasn’t only for when I had finally checked off everything on the list of being a “godly woman.”

That’s why I believe pressure on young women is real:

Health and body image pressure.

Could it be that the unhealthy image of beauty that Hollywood (and every ad around us) portrays is contributing to this sense of stress? We’re expected to eat overly healthy and exercise, not for our overall health (which is needed), but to keep a slim figure. Instead of trying to simply honor God in our activity and food choices, we end up not eating, or simply eating too few carbs for our bodies to function the way God intended them.

Academic pressure

We live in the first time in human history that the higher academic world is open to women. This is an amazing blessing, and some of it certainly due to the influence of Christianity on Western Civilization. Let’s face it: Muslim women often can’t go to school because their religion objectifies them, instead of valuing them. Many of them would give up everything to have the opportunities we have at our fingertips.

While feminism has certainly tainted this blessing, the gift of learning is a huge blessing! I know many single young ladies who have pursued undergraduate and even graduate degrees to better serve their churches, ministries, missions, and even their future husbands and children.

But at the same time, grades and academic success simply cannot define us. This is a real struggle for some of us “overachiever” types. Finding the balance between excellence and prioritizing time in the Word, rest, and relationship takes following Jesus closely.

Church and Ministry pressure

While trying to help, the church and ministries can actually add to the world’s pressure on young ladies. When serving becomes an act of legalism or an endeavor to gain approval, we’ve lost the point. It’s hard, because there are so many good things we can be involved in! And many of us need to invest more in these areas! But ultimately, it comes down to our motivation. Are we serving out of an overflow of the rest and grace we have received from Christ, or is it from an obligation to please others or fit the mold?

I’m passionate about it — don’t succumb to the pressure this world, peers, institutions, or even the church places on you. Learn to relish in the rest the gospel gives. And you’ll become the best-balanced, most productive servant of Christ He made you to be.

— Your sister Julianna

P.S. I want to hear from you. This article is phrased as a question because it’s based off my observations. What is your experience? How can we as young women live out God’s calling on our lives without succumbing to stress?

3 Comments Add yours

  1. This is a much needed blog post. I hope it goes viral! Everyone needs to read this: young women, parents, leaders of youth, pastors, educators, etc. Nicely done! Winsome. Honest. Hopeful. I have a book outlined similar to this I want to write based on my daughter Destiny’s life. Thanks for being so transparent and yet so faithful to God’s Word and His Gospel.

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  2. Hi Shari! Thanks so much for your feedback! I meet with a lot of teenage girls, and this seems to be a very frequent problem. Hope your book writing goes well! You definitely have a gift for writing!

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  3. K Cover says:

    I think you are on to something, and it doesn’t just apply to young women, but older women, and men too! And as you say, the stress and burnout isn’t just in the world, but in the church. Maybe even more so in the church.

    Personal experience and observation says that it comes back to a lack of faith and a misunderstanding of the gospel. We feel a need to “save the world” from evil, and so we work and work and work, not trusting God that He has and is saving the world. Or we are, like you said, trying to “please God” or others and earn our salvation or prove our good standing with the Lord to others, or something along those lines.

    I too, have found so much rest and peace and joy in serving God from a heart of love and gratitude and rest in the knowledge that He has saved me and that my life’s goal is to please Him above all else. Sometimes that means doing life in a way others may not fully understand, but I am learning that is okay, for it is not others I am here to serve.

    Thanks for sharing!

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