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Life’s “F-Word”: Fairness

Growing up, you likely heard others, at some point, say the “F- word”, and it wasn’t’ “fudge.” It was a taboo word, and could possibly land you with a bar of soap in your mouth.  In this blog we will discuss a different “F-word”, and it still isn’t “fudge”, but it can still cause all sorts of unpleasant side effects for the unfortunate user.  The guilty word is FAIR, and by extension, FAIRNESS.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

What’s so bad about fairness?  The concept itself seems benign enough and has the ring of righteousness to it. When we perceive that a situation is fair (usually that means it benefits us in some way), life is good. However, that is precisely the problem.  It is the expectation that things should be fair, and when they are not, we can feel like our world is in despair.  We feel indignant, out of sorts, and want the situation to be corrected, pronto. At the extreme end, if we feel we have been legally wronged in some way and the justice system has not righted the situation for us, some may take matters into their own hands.  The idea of fairness can literally  be a loaded gun.

For those of us women who have been around for a while (say, over 40 years), we know that life is NOT fair, and we must learn to roll with it.  We see examples of this all the time. Starting in childhood, maybe you had a sibling who got more attention than you did.  Maybe they got straight A’s without studying while you sweated every single math test only to get a C on it.  In my case, I had to earn an “A” average my freshman year of high school in order to earn contact lenses that I desperately wanted, while my younger brother did not have to do anything to get his contacts a few years later.  Meanwhile, he thought it wasn’t fair that our family cat liked me more and would choose to sleep on my bed at night instead of with him.  Of course, I found this arrangement to be delightful. 

Fast forward to the present day, and the stakes are higher. On a broad perspective, it is not fair that women continue to earn roughly 22% less than men on average. It is unfair that we live in a culture that idealizes youth and beauty over age and wisdom. On a more personal note, it is not fair that for years I had hot flashes that felt like my hair was on fire. I dressed in layers not as a fashion statement, but a necessity, since it is frowned upon to peel off all your clothes in public just because you feel like it is suddenly 400 degrees.  Men don’t have to go through this, and it is definitely not fair.

How Do We Navigate This?

Since it does no good to scream and stomp our feet when life is not fair, we must develop coping skills (you can tell I was a therapist in my earlier career).  Here are some that are helpful:

Shift the Lens from Comparison to Gratitude         

Resist the urge to compare your life with someone else’s situation. Remember, Facebook is called Fakebook for a reason.  Most people only post their happy-looking pictures for the world to see; no one posts the pic of them crying in the corner, mascara running down their face in rivulets.  We all wear a mask in public, to some extent, even if just to get through the day at the office after a fight with our best friend the night before (she is miffed that she was not invited to your family-only barbeque, that she found out about because your sister posted the pics on Facebook).  We do not know what is going on behind the scenes, so it’s like comparing apples to peaches.  And even if you have apples and they have peaches, so what?  Be grateful for your apples—you can make a great apple pie!  They can make a great peach cobbler! You always have the choice to appreciate the good things in your life, and the more you look for the good things, the more you will find.

Understand the Uniqueness of Your Journey

Every person has a unique life path, with its own challenges and victories.  Acknowledging this helps in realizing that fairness is not about equivalence but about the individualistic nature of our experiences and the growth opportunities for you specifically. 

In this Watch Her Thrive community, managing your money for your unique situation takes into account the many aspects of your life that are specific to you, including your goals, dreams, and intentions, and current funds.  What works for you may not work for others.  The focus is on you and your situation, and not comparing it to anyone else’s situation.  Your portfolio is tailored to you.  Other’s situation has no impact on you whatsoever. Fairness is not in the equation, and that is a good thing.  You are not limited to what you can achieve by anyone else’s circumstances.  This is yours alone.

Turn Envy into Clarity and Action

Let’s say you can’t stop thinking about your best friend’s brand new red BMW with the sunroof, and comparing it to your rusted out minivan with Cheetos hiding under the passenger seat.  How can you handle those feelings that it just isn’t fair that she gets that car?  One thing you can do is to take a look at what it is that you are really envious about.  Could it be that you envy the carefree vibe that goes with her Beemer? Perhaps is not the car at all, but the idea of renting a convertible and driving up the California coast for 2 weeks. It could be that you really do want a new ride, so you are inspired to start a new car fund for your dream car. Talking to your financial advisor may be in order to help make that a reality sooner rather than later. Or maybe you just need a good detail job on the minivan.  Whatever it is, use the feeling to help you identify what is lacking in your life and make a plan to fill it. 

Empower Yourself Financially

For women in their 40’s and up, achieving financial independence is of utmost importance.  Talk to your financial advisor about financial planning, retirement, and investing.  Getting a handle on your finances allows you to pursue financial abundance, while mitigating some of life’s unfair curveballs. Financial abundance allows you to have options in dealing with injustices that come your way, and that feels good. The fact that you have a financial advisor is something to celebrate—circling back around to gratitude.

Dealing with Unfairness

Fairness and unfairness are perceptions.  Fairness is also a relative term; what is deemed fair to one person may seem totally unfair to another.  Regardless of how we feel about our circumstances in any given moment, it is up to the individual to decide what to do about it.  Empowerment lies in recognizing how we can redefine our circumstances. The Chinese symbol for chaos is the same for opportunity.  The choice in perception is up to you.  Some choose to see “unfair” situations in their lives as opportunities to develop resilience, strength, and character. One thing that may be helpful is finding support in tough times.  A support group can alleviate that feeling of going through an unfair situation by yourself. We offer support groups for those dealing with divorce, and you can try out a complimentary session with this link https://www.greatlakesdfs.com/divorce-support-groups

At the end of the day, our attitude plays a huge role in how we experience life and its challenges. We always have the choice to accept challenges with grace and a positive attitude to find the good in our situations, or we can bemoan the fact that there are things in our lives that are less than optimal, and begrudge others who seem to have it better than us.  We can address the aspects we can actually do something about, or we can blame the fates for our misery.  The choice is up to you. Just strike the “F-word” from your vocabulary—nobody wants to hear it.