What is a Type E Woman

The Type E Women concept was created by a dedicated and passionate researcher (and recovering Type E Woman), Dr. Harriet Braiker. She was a social and clinical Ph.D. psychologist, best-selling author, and internationally-renowned expert in women’s issues. She was the first to publicly identify that women experience more and different types of stress than men. Her pioneering book, The Type E Woman: How to Overcome the Stress of Being Everything to Everybody, made mainstream and medical news around the world when it was first published in the late 1980s.

In the 60s & 70s we (society) experienced a revolution, women in droves began to enter the male-driven arenas of the workforce. A significant percentage of us began to “climb ladders”, take on leadership roles and began to be openly recognized for impacting significant areas of science and tech (in ways only rogue women of the past were able to do).

In her book, Dr. Braiker observed that the Type-A stress that was being experienced by men, pales in comparison to what women experience. She coined the term “Type-E stress” – the E being Everything to Everybody – to help women better understand that in trying to be Everything to Everybody, they subjected themselves to a completely different and more debilitating type of stress than men experience. Her work nailed down and really dug into what it means to be stretched thin, compartmentalized and suffering under the stress of wanting it all.

Side Note on “Rogue Women” of the past:

What I have observed when reading or hearing about the female change-makers of the past (i.e.Headstrong 52 Women who changed Science and the World)  were patterns of sacrifice and passion. Many of the highly influential and genius women of the centuries past, had to sacrifice “being a woman” in order to accomplish their brilliant birthright. The female scientists and doctors, programmers and social workers, driven to change the status quo (regardless of their personal intent) and unabashedly share their gifts with the world often did not marry, nor have children. Many did not care for a home (often living where they worked) or socialize. They committed themselves fully to their passion (similar to their male counterparts of the time) giving up the socially acceptable and typical female role. Those that were able to find “balance” between their careers and families did so with enormous support and money (not to mention some very open-minded and forward thinking friends and family).

And here we sit…middle-aged exhausted women, generations away from many of the sacrificing change-making women. Living with a shared mindset that we are free to do whatever we want, be whatever and whoever we want. There is not one industry we can not thrive in and yet we are currently more depressed, we suffer more anxiety and burn out at an alarming rate. Why is that?

Because we (as a generation and society) have not been given the tools and strategies to get really clear on how to “have it all”. The female super-heros of the past appeared to understand that in order to have what they most greatly desired, to live out their purpose, they needed to let go of the societally-defined role of “women” in order to carve their own path to greatness. I am not saying that the women of the past had it better…what I am saying is that they seemed to have a better understanding of the system and the rules (albeit they were severely limiting).

My experience as a Type E Woman

I have been told my entire life by powerful and amazing women (and men)  that I can absolutely have it all, family, career, home, social life. What and amazing time to be born into…freedom. Right?

Many women, like me, are grateful to the mothers and fathers who fought through the 60s & 70s, who empower us to believe we could do anything and yet we now find ourselves butting up against the pre-defined gender roles we grew up observing them play out.

Everyone does the best they can with what they have, and our parents believed that things could be different for us…even if they felt it was too late for them. So as a result we now struggle to play out all the roles we observed to achieve all our dreams. And we are failing, not knowing how to balance being 100% Mom, 100% Wife, 100% Career Women, 100% Homemaker, 100% Engaged in our communities…the math doesn’t work.

Our role models varied and  that variety opened our minds to what humans, all humans can be truly capable of. And in response to generations of women being stifled, held back and forced to sacrifice, we the freedom generation have dutifully stepped up and claimed our place in every arena. However one small piece of the puzzle was missing from our generation’s education, missing from the script. How?!? How can we be it all and remain connected to our whole selves and make the math work? How can we see who we are in all we do, as opposed to seeing all we do in who we are.

“I can no longer separate myself and become an entirely different person for each role I inhabit. I am exhausted from changing hats and my persona numerous times throughout the day. I choose to be whole. One person with an enormous skill set and passion for growth. I choose to wear one hat, my core values hat, and it fits in every role.”

There is a reason we, Type E (middle-aged) Women are seeking out wholeness activities…yoga, practicing mindfulness, building meditation habits, exploring energy work, discovering creativity, engaging in ongoing (non-crisis) therapy…we are waking up and coming to terms with the idea that although we (and our well-meaning role models) had great intentions we were (are) missing that one crucial piece, that nugget, of how we can be our whole-selves without trying to be more than our selves.

I wonder what we are modelling for our children…who are great mimics and terrible interpreters. Are we re-living our own well-intended experiences…sharing verbally the values of an informed and open parent while modelling behavior that circumvents our intentions or at the very least creates a dichotomy/disconnect between our values and our actions? Are we talking to our children about what we want, why we do what we do and why we are choosing wholeness over “having it all”?

I believe that the number one way to impact and influence the next generation, our children, is to become the person we dream them to be…Problem-solving, risk-taking, courageous, compassionate, loving, transcendent beings who believe in being challenged and getting back up again. Who understand fear and don’t fear it. Doing so would be the greatest gift we can give them, ourselves and the universe.

All good things are rooted in love, laughter and learning!

P.S Here are a few posts that describe a bit more of my experience with…

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