After completing my Master’s degree, I was supposed to settle down into a well-paid office job somewhere, marry somebody in a similarly well-paid office job, and settle down to a life of debt in London.
Gender Roles Vs. Gender Identity
But I knew my gender identity separate from how society viewed gender roles. So instead of doing what other thought I should do as a woman, I broke the mold and fulfilled my life-long dream of becoming a horse trail guide. I chose a life of independence for females.
It wasn’t the first time – my decision to remain childless had already shocked friends, family, and strangers long before I exchanged my pre-destined career ladder for a mounting block. However, what it meant for me was much larger than offense taken by others. To me, it was important to be your best self now instead of settling for less.
What Is An Unconventional Woman?
Our societal drive for sameness and acceptance makes breaking the mold not just challenging but terrifying. To be your best self now can feel impossible with all the pressure society puts on women.
Fear of rejection often keeps us locked down in a socially constructed closet that prevents our differences from emerging and restricts our unique talents and abilities at the same time.
I can’t say I felt particularly courageous doing what, in my heart, I knew was right for me, but responding to the challenges of others, affronted by my unwillingness to conform, required more strength and courage than I thought.
How To Be An Independent Woman
There are certain challenges you need to be prepared for when contravening conventions and disregarding the norms, but there are also aspects of breaking the mold that bring you joy and inspiration.
1. Multiple Perspectives
We need multiple perspectives to solve complex problems in the workplace and our personal lives. Your ability to break the mold shows you can think outside the box. Be empowered by your difference, knowing that it brings a new perspective to every problem and, potentially, a new solution.
2. Don’t Take It Personally
When you break the mold, you make yourself a target for criticism. Rather than trying to avoid these differences of opinion, be prepared to challenge them. Those who choose to confront you will often do so out of fear. Respond by offering reassurance rather than hostility, encouraging them toward acceptance rather than pushing them away with defensiveness.
3. Practice Listening
Breaking the mold doesn’t mean rejecting everyone else’s opinions. Standing out from the crowd is one thing, but isolating yourself is of no benefit. Instead, listen carefully to others’ points of view and take them on board, even if they’re at odds with your perspective.
Knowledge is power, and the more empathy and understanding you have for others, the more leverage you have to help them understand your decision to break the mold and, as a result, gain their support.
4. Surround Yourself With Other Mold Breakers
Take inspiration from others who’ve broken the mold, and be your best self now. For example, if you’re an aspiring politician, read up on others who’ve stepped up and out of the crowd, like Hilary Clinton or Barack Obama.
If there are other movers and shakers in your workplace, team up with them and share your stories. This approach will help you identify trends for being successfully different, rather than having your difference treated as a reason to tease or exclude you.
5. Be Prepared For Self-Doubt
It’s not always going to be plain sailing, and there will be times when the comfort zone of social acceptance seems overwhelmingly appealing. Don’t give up. Keep striving to make things better, knowing that, in the long run, you’ll not only be happier because you remained true to yourself but that you’ll gain more by sticking to your guns than surrendering them.
6. Stay Humble
While a positive, confident outlook is essential, remaining humble is equally critical. Just because others have chosen to stay firmly within the mold doesn’t make them inferior. Rather than judging them, you need to try and help them understand your perspective and why stepping out of the conventional roles society has forced on us could be the first step towards changing those roles for good.
7. Belonging Is Over-Rated
Those mornings when you wake up thinking it would be easier to stop fighting and be accepted, remember that belonging is over-rated. After all, to what, precisely, would you belong?
Are you willing to sacrifice everything just so you can belong to “a mundane, close-minded, innovative-less, limit-full existence where all of your edges and lines and aspirations can be neatly starched, ironed and folded and packed up into a box and placed on society’s ‘OK’ shelf…”.
8. Difference Allows For Creativity
Look around at inspirational women from the past who’ve broken the mold, and you’ll find scientists, artists, inventors, doctors, entrepreneurs, and many more besides. Refusing to conform gives your mind freedom to explore, uninhibited by society’s standard rules.
9. Strive To Be The Best You Can Be
In breaking the mold, we also liberate ourselves from the tyranny of comparison. Standing alone means no longer comparing yourself to others, giving you the freedom to “be a first-rate version of yourself” rather than “a second-rate version of someone else.”
10. Stay Consistent
Whether you broke the mold on purpose or it accidentally shattered around you, now you’re out there, be consciously present. There’s no time to rest on your laurels when you’re standing alone. Using past passions to create new initiatives helps you remain consistent with your past selves while developing your new ground-breaking one.
“Make sure that everything you do – how you show up, how you act, what you say, what you do – is a reflection of who you are, so your character and spirit are consistent across every situation.”
There Must Be Freedom Of Choice For Women!
Everyone says it’s difficult to break the mold that requires bravery and courage, but I don’t. I found breaking the gender roles for women a lot less daunting than trying to remain inside the box society had built for me. The difficulties for me came only once I had made the break and found myself needing to justify it.
Many people won’t like you breaking the rules simply because it reminds them of how trapped they are. The expectations of women’s roles are hard to break out of and conquer. People forget that only what is broken can be rebuilt and, if no one ever broke the mold, we, as a society, as humans, as women, would never evolve.