What is Emotional Labour?
I thought it was just me.
I struggled with being 'authentic' all the time. And I could not pinpoint the reason.
From the first chapter from Gemma Hartley’s FED UP I knew I was about to read something epic.
Her book discusses the idea of excessive emotional labour with most women.
Emotional labour is how we alter out speech, our appearance, mannerisms about our internal expectations to keep peace.
We walk around with hidden beliefs and expectations of ourselves to survive in this social world.
And social norms are necessary to peacefully co-exist with other people but how do we know when we are excessively extending our emotional energy?
We have different expectations for our romantic, professional and personal lives. We absorb what we know of the world through the media, culture, history and religion.
And we are taught that if we are not nice, pretty and quiet that we are disturbing the people around them.
When we step out of line, we can believe we are not being feminine and just not being ‘good’.
And the use of the term ‘good’ is being used very loosely because we attach ‘good’ behaviour with being a good partner, a good lover, a good mother, a good citizen, a good peacekeeper or deep down - a devout believer in their faith.
We fear of not being a team player. We fear of being seen as negative. Fear of speaking will call attention to ourselves.
And when we call attention to ourselves - be ready for the negative feedback. The collective mentality is you deserve it for all the wrong reasons.
When we walk down the street in clothes that make us feel beautiful, we deserve to be harassed by men.
When we decide to go for promotion, we deserve to be heckled and bullied by our competitors.
When we don’t attend to every minute emotional need from every family member, we are ‘bad’ mother AND a ‘bad’ partner.
We can compromise accepting a lavish courtship of a man with a grand engagement but compromise on the idea of an equal partnership within the household.
Not long ago, we - as women - are brought up to believe we exist to please and serve men through cultural and religious expectations.
From the age of 18, I did not live out the normal teenage life. I lived out my mothers life.
Because of a dramatic change to our family dynamic, I was looking after the ‘womens’ duties in the household.
The expectation to not only live a normal teenage life including going to university and going out with friends but it came along with heavy expectations to be the ‘woman’ of the household.
My new role - and additional role - was to looking after myself and four other human beings - emotionally and physically.
The daily schedule was to make breakfast and lunch in the morning. Go to school. Pick up my sister and check in with her emotionally. Check in with the other humans. Get dinner ready. Clean up the dishes. Check in with my sisters school work. Do my homework and assignments. On the side, check on groceries and bills, vacuum and sweep the floors.
And it may seem mundane, repetitive and - to be honest - easy but doing this every day takes a toll on your emotional well being.
And the brilliant term expressed by Gemma Hartley, we call emotional labour.
And yes - i did this for a period of time before intense adolescence kicked my body clock and I started to relax my mental energy from being perfect.
But there was also wasted energy to discover who I truly was. I lacked the social activity compared to most teenagers, my worries revolved around my family and I had little interest about my future.
Women need to recognise emotional labour is real and the idea needs to be questioned.
Are we doing enough to communicate and show our expectations to other people?
Are we compromising our own goals, agendas and dreams for our mental and emotional energy to be taken away constantly?
While our beliefs and expectations are ingrained in our beings, we can learn to adjust for our sons and daughters of the next generation.
We need to teach our daughters not to carry other peoples’ baggage and our sons to look after our daughters.
There is a difference between compromise and sacrifice.
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