What This Social Experiment Shows Us About “Having It All”
You’ve heard a lot about the elusive search for “it all” — as in, having it all. When we talk about the cliché of “living the dream,” we often mean striking the perfect balance of #allthethings. Having it all means achieving dreamy romance, professional success, consistent friendships, good relationships with family members, and an impressive education. Oh, and did we mention that you should also have plenty of time to dedicate to self-care so you can constantly be looking and feeling your best?
New York University associate professor of psychology Dr. Emily Balcetis explains that women have articulated the pressure to have it all since 1982, when noted journalist Helen Gurley Brown coined the phrase in her book Having It All: Love, Success, Sex, Money. “This [book] is sort of the first call or push for women to strive for being a master of all domains of their lives,” Dr. Balcetis says. “Even though the definition of what ‘having it all’ means has changed since the early eighties when this phrase was coined, a commonality across the conversations over all these decades is the struggle that women, in particular, have with trying to achieve it all and figuring out what having it all really means.”
In order to learn more about the state of the larger conversation about having it all for women in 2018, Dr. Balcetis recently worked with the team at Lean Cuisine to develop a social experiment titled ItAll. The experiment — which took place over two weeks in the spring of 2018 — involved two parts. One prompted the participating women to articulate very specifically what having it all meant to them in somewhat of a vacuum, and another gave them the chance to get similarly specific but in the context of a shopping trip with female friends, family members, and colleagues. After completing a questionnaire made up of questions about their ideal family life, career, finances, personal enrichment, health, and education, the 18 participants (who, it’s worth noting, Dr. Balcetis describes as ambitious, high-achieving women) were invited to “shop” at the ItAll pop-up store. The items on the shelves within the store’s four walls mirrored the items listed in the initial survey, with labels like “two kids,” “8+ hours of sleep,” and more. Dr. Balcetis and her team then compared each woman’s survey responses to the shopping cart she cultivated while in the presence of a trusted shopping buddy.
Nearly 90 percent of participants actually set more ambitious goals when they were around their female pals, coworkers, and family members than they did when they were completing the private survey. More specifically, about three-fourths of them chose those more ambitious goals in the domains of life that they themselves noted were most important to them.
“To me, what this means is not that when we’re around influential women, we’re pushing each other to take on more responsibility,” Dr. Balcetis says. “Instead, it’s helping us to realize what it is that’s most important and will bring us the most satisfaction.” Perhaps most interesting, Dr. Balcetis tells us, is the extent to which these results demonstrate a shift in the way we talk about having it all — or, as she prefers to describe it, having her all. “These conversations [between women] weren’t reifying the stereotype that women are supposed to do everything,” she says. “These conversations were really helping these women to find what it was that would make them happiest — and that’s where you should spend most of your time.”
While the campaign did face some online backlash, it also opened up a discussion of what it means to more effectively pursue whatever having your all is or to support the women you care about in doing the same. “When we’re in the position to give advice, it has a big impact,” Dr. Balcetis encourages. “Our friends, family, and coworkers are listening, and they’re making choices in response to that. And when we’re in need of help making these big life decisions, the social support in our relationships is a great place to find it.”
How do the women in your life encourage you in your pursuit of “having it all”? Tweet us @BritandCo.
(Photo via Getty)
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