TheBlaze's Billy Hallowell contributed to this report.
When life coach, motivational speaker and author Valorie Burton recently stopped by TheBlaze newsroom to talk about her new book, "Happy Women Live Better," she issued a surprising proclamation: "Women are less happy than they were 40 years ago."
On the surface, the statement was stunning. Haven’t women reached an unprecedented level of achievement? As a result, shouldn't happiness simply follow suit?
Life coach Valorie Burton (Image source: ValorieBurton.com)
While females are certainly doing more than ever before, the result of that dynamic may not always be as positive as some would assume.
TheBlaze asked Burton to explain her theory -- and here's what she told us:
“As I’ve talked to women, and just looking at my own experience, there are far more expectations on women today than there were 40 years ago. And I think a lot of women feel like, I need to climb the corporate ladder, have some great business, have something wonderful going on professionally -- oh, and I need to be married and he should be really handsome and very successful. And my kids should be cute, and, you know, they should be well-behaved. And by the way, I should be a size six and look flawless.”
Burton added that all of these expectations that women establish for themselves are ones that “men don’t have.”
“Men get older, and they get gray and wrinkled and we say they’re distinguished, right? Women need to cover the gray; they need to figure out how to stop the wrinkles from happening," she continued. "When men become more successful, there are more women that are after them. And unfortunately, the more money a woman makes, the fewer suitors she tends to have."
Women in the 21st Century
The author mentioned a study in 2011 that said that 43 percent of Generation X women who were college-educated (the youngest being 30 years old at the time) did not have children.
“I don’t think you could find a generation of women in the history of the world that got to 33 and almost half have no children,” Burton said. “And I think you also have to figure that’s the first generation fully after the women’s movement."
[sharequote align="center"]"Women are less happy than they were 40 years ago."[/sharequote]
While she said there are many wonderful elements that came from the women's movement, Burton also argued that there are also some consequences that haven't yet been properly dealt with. The aforementioned dynamics are among them, she says, going on to share a hypothetical scenario that involves two 30-year-olds -- one a woman and the other a man.
“The guy has the ridiculous-looking apartment that’s messy, and he has no food in the refrigerator and never cooks, people say, ‘Oh, well he needs a wife,’" she said. "[But if it's] a 30-year-old woman with a messy apartment and [who] doesn’t cook, there are a lot of other things that people will say.”
"Defining What Happiness Looks Like"
So how do women get themselves out of that mindset of feeling overwhelmed or feeling overstressed, and how can they help themselves progress on the right path?
“I think number one is defining what happiness looks like to you...and not letting culture define it for you. And really being okay with that," Burton told TheBlaze. "I think that some of the message of the women’s movement has been: everybody needs to do ‘X’ -- we all need to climb the corporate ladder because now that door is open."
Watch Burton discuss women and happiness, below:
But of the women's movement, she said that the prevailing mentality should be that the doors are now open to women -- and that, as a result, individuals can choose which option suits them and then go for it -- whether that means entering the workforce or being a stay-at-home mom.
Burton, who also makes frequent trips to speak to college-age women, shared her strategy for speaking into the lives of young ladies.
“I always [tell] women, ‘Look, I know you’ve got a career plan. I know you know what you want for work, or at least you’re thinking about it," she said. "But you need a plan for your personal life. It’s very easy to say, ‘Oh I have time, I have time.’ But you’ll get to be 30, 35, 40, and you’ll say, ‘Oh my goodness, I thought this side of my life was going to fall into place.’”
Burton explained that this type of planning is not just recommended for romantic considerations, but that it also pertains to friendships and other non-relational goals.
“I think we can over-focus in one area to the detriment of the other. And I see that a lot in my generation as we’re getting older," she added.
Burton defines success as a blend of purpose (“How are people’s lives better because you’re here?”), resilience (“Being able to constantly bounce back and navigate those obstacles and challenges”) and joy (“Are you having fun doing what you do?”). To her, joy is a “deeply spiritual concept” that differs from happiness, which she says is “a choice.”
“I think of joy as more of this kind of low-level abiding in your spirit.”
Burton's Views on Christianity and Positive Living
The founder of the Coaching and Positive Psychology Institute (CaPP) also shared a bit about her research and her Christian faith.
After earning her second master’s degree in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, Burton said, “What I love now is being able to share from the research and how much the research lines up with what’s already in the Bible. I love that because I feel like I have kind of this deeper sense of knowledge about what it is that I’m sharing.”
[sharequote align="center"]"Number one is defining what happiness looks like to you...not letting culture define it for you."[/sharequote]
Burton has had the opportunity to reach out and help more women as an author and a life coach than she feels like she otherwise could have had she pegged herself as a “Christian author.” Instead, she trusts her readers to infer the Christian teachings that permeate her works.
“I can’t separate faith from life strategies. Otherwise it’s just Valorie talking.”
In her book, "Happy Women Live Better," Burton talks about the 13 “happiness triggers” that influence how we approach and interpret life’s circumstances. Learn more about that here.