In the Western world women have more opportunities and choices about how they live their lives than ever before. They may still have to battle to get equal pay and status, but there is no question that huge strides have been made in the last hundred years or so.
Women are particularly challenged in today’s world because we have more opportunities and choice about how we live our lives than ever before. We may appear confident, but often lack self-esteem, and end up feeling anxious, stressed, or even depressed. We all seem to have too much to do, with never enough time for ourselves. We make too many demands of ourselves, trying to be perfect. We tend to doubt our capabilities and feel we’re not quite good enough. We can sometimes be envious of others’ seeming good fortune, comparing ourselves needlessly, or we may feel burdened and frustrated.
Restraint, self-discipline, and simplicity are somehow considered unfashionable these days. The marketing supremos and our consumer culture entice us to spend, indulge, enjoy - we deserve it, they tell us. Now I don't want to be a kill-joy - of course there are occasions when it's perfectly OK to do just that, but constantly giving in to temptation and instant gratification will never result in anything other than temporary satisfaction.
Valentine's Day can be a day for thinking about love and opening our hearts in general, not just the romantic exchange of cards and flowers that has become tradition on 14 February.
Who was St Valentine anyway? He lived in Rome in the third century AD and was arrested and imprisoned for carrying out marriages in secret. The Emperor Claudius had banned engagements and marriages because he was having difficulty getting men to join the army for his bloody campaigns.
I was so thrilled to unpack the advance copies of my new book, The Woman's Book of Joy, when the package arrived fom my publisher. I sat and stared at it, savouring the moment. Along with the feeling of elation and pride, however, I was surprised to experience a sense of trepidation. Knowing that it's part of my job as an author to reach out publicly to my potential readers - those who want inspiration in their lives - made me feel vulnerable. I suddenly felt overwhelmed at the thought of everything there was now to do. How was I to get to grips with social media?
According to a new survey carried out in the UK*, almost half of those polled have no religion. Hardly a surprise - given the general loss of trust in organizations and institutions, rampant materialism and prevailing liberal attitudes.
Fortunately it doesn’t mean that people don’t believe in a higher power or don’t engage in some kind of spiritual practice, such as prayer or meditation.