The fig tree analogy is the reason you’re not satisfied with your life.

Sylvia Plath’s fig tree analogy perfectly encompasses womanhood, and the fact that so many of us have a strong desire to do it all

The metaphor first came to life in Plath’s book The Bell Jar, when her 19-year-old protagonist, Esther Greenwood, is feeling overwhelmed about the future and wondering whether she would ever live up to her own expectations.

Watch: Maggie Dent on the mental load. Post continues below.

Video via Nova.

Looking out onto the metaphorical tree of life, Esther ponders, “I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

Despite the book turning 60 years old this year, the analogy resonates more than ever – especially amongst Gen Z women. The hashtag #figtree has 26 million views on TikTok, with creators posting about their life's “figs”, using it as a metaphor for their fear of picking the wrong career or life path.

Creator Steph Bohrer recently posted a video to the platform, saying that while she “loves her life”, she sometimes thinks about the other things she “would really love to be doing at the same time”.


“sometimes i can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives i’m not living”

♬ original sound - steph bohrer

“I want to live in a cottage by the river, and open a bakery bookstore, and just spend my days baking cakes and reading books,” she said.

“But I also want to live in New York City, and live in a high-rise apartment, wear business casual outfits every single day, and go to high-end restaurants.

“But I also want to live in a small town, and have a farm, and a lot of animals and children, and be friends with all my neighbours.

“But I also want to live in Hollywood, and be an actress, and go to cast interviews and cool award shows.

“But I also want to live by the beach, and learn how to surf and wear bathing suits every day.”

This continues for a minute, as Bohrer lays out everything she wants to achieve and do in her life — each goal vastly different from the next.

This dilemma is not uncommon amongst young adults, and there’s a simple explanation as to why: It’s the paradox of choice.


i think about it almost every day

♬ lacy second chorus olivia rodrigo - amelia🎀🍒🪩🎧💌🦋🥞🧸

You would think that having so many options would serve you well in the long run, but instead, it seems to cause dissatisfaction, according to American psychologist Barry Scwartz – just as the fig tree analogy suggests.

As women, many of us want to be mothers but also climb the career ladder. We want to live a quaint life in the country but also have the option of staying in the city. As women, we want to do it all, and while there are some things that are entirely possible (there are many women who have successful careers and families), it does leave us running the risk of burning ourselves out.


Pair that with the constant comparisons that take place because of social media and suddenly we’re made to feel like we’re falling behind because we haven’t ticked off every single goal on our list.

It’s the ‘grass is always greener’ mentality, where we think if we quit our current job, or move to another city, life will magically get better. Until we do and then suddenly we want to try something else to fill the hole that still exists.

@anotsofriendlypiscesbij feeling a little lost these days #figtreeanalogy #sylviaplath #singlelife ♬ use this sound if ur depressed and anxious - gillian 🎬🍿

In a study conducted by Cangrade, an AI hiring company, it was discovered that 26 per cent of Gen Z are unhappy at work, compared to 13 per cent of Millennials, 13 per cent of Gen X and 9 per cent of Baby Boomers.

And 17 per cent of Gen Zs have thought about quitting their job – more than any other generation.

Sure, it may be because they’re genuinely made to feel miserable at their places of work – but it could also be because they have the world at their fingertips.

Having that much access comes with a lot of positives, but it also comes with some negatives, it seems.

So going back to Plath’s analogy, “As I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet."

Don’t let good things get away because you’re too busy chasing what you think should be next.

Feature image: TikTok @keiraamber/@anotsofriendlypiscesbij.

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