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Book review: Whose Life is it Anyway?

WHOSE LIFE IS IT ANYWAY? LIVING THROUGH YOUR 20S ON YOUR OWN TERMSBy Dr Linda Papadopoulos Hachette Australia. $32.99.

The expectation placed on young women to live the perfect life and to meet society’s standards of beauty, career success and happiness is a both unrealistic and damaging burden.

The pressure cooker of life for twenty-somethings is leading to increasing levels of young women battling with anxiety, low self-esteem, bullying, perfectionism, toxic friendships and relationships, and poor body image.

Renowned UK psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos says at an age when life should be exciting, fun and relatively care-free, more and more young women are adrift and struggling.

In Whose Life Is It Anyway? Dr Papadopoulos implores young women to throw off the burden of expectation and start living the lives they want to lead.

“We live in a world that floods us with expectations about everything – from what we should weigh to what we should wear to how often we should be having sex and how much money we should be making.

“As a consequence, we begin to feel that we need to tick all these boxes in order to have the ‘perfect life’.  When we inevitably fall short, we feel anxious – we feel that we are failing and have the sense that we are losing control.”

Dr Papadopoulos has been the resident psychologist for readers of Cosmopolitan UK for the past 12 years and her academic work and research has informed government policy.

In 2010 she headed up the highly-acclaimed independent review for the UK Home Office on the effects of sexualisation on young people and regularly informs media discussion on the psychology behind news and current events.

She runs a private practice in London.

There are some powerful messages in this book about the role the media plays in objectifying women and the entrenched double standards that apply to genders in society.

Dr Papadopoulos writes that our “appearance oriented culture” demands that women’s bodies are works in progress and that we are just one beauty product or weight loss miracle away from perfect.

Men are seen by society as whole human beings whereas women are an amalgamation of parts, and she says men don’t have to look a particular way to be taken seriously.

“We don’t see men’s underwear advertised with close-ups of testicles and slogans shouting ‘Hello Girls!’; men’s bodies aren’t dismembered to get us to buy random products; men don’t dance around semi-naked in music videos while women play instruments and sing fully clothed.”

She writes that social media platforms like Facebook have encouraged young women to seek validation of their appearance and present their perfect lives to the world – thus losing sense of their identity and sight of what they actually enjoy.

Dr Papadopoulos takes readers on a journey through a variety of topics from frenemies, to perfectionism, to the super sexualisation of women and neatly sums up at the end with some simple life advice.

While statistics presented in the book apply to studies primarily conducted in the UK and America the subject matter is easily transferable to Australia as pressures and expectations remain the same for young women regardless of country.

And it is a positive that the book encourages women to speak up and challenge the status quo and not just accept the issues discussed as how it will always be for future generations.

This book imparts advice that would be useful for all young women embarking on this decade of life, which is above all supposed to be about fun, trying new things and working out what you want to do.

And it seems it’s still OK if you haven’t quite figured out what you want from life by the time you’re nearing the next decade – it’s your life after all.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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