How to be happy regardless of how much you accomplish.
Start a company. Support your family. Save the world. Stay looking like you are twenty-five. And by the way, don’t break a sweat while doing it ... after all, other women seem to be keeping it together, what’s wrong with you? That’s the mind chatter of the twenty-first-century superwoman who looks like she has it all together, smiling the stress away through her teeth.
Behind this facade, however, is the reality that we superwomen feel completely overwhelmed, yet we don’t know how to do our busy lives any differently. Dig deeper behind the mask and you will find that as insane as this may sound, most women wear their busyness like it’s a badge of honor, proving we are worthy because we can get so much done.
We have become a generation of achievement junkies and doing addicts. Forget Generation X or Y, how about calling us Generation E, for exhausted! But it’s not totally our fault, you know, we were bred to be this way. Girls and women today have more opportunities, self-confidence, and independence than any generation of women before; a reality that many women and men fought hard for, and one that we don’t want to give back.
However, like all forward movements for humankind, the feminist movement has also had unintended impacts. Women today, while freer in many ways, face more pressure than their grandmothers and mothers combined, which leads to more responsibilities, choices and ultimately stress, but not to more happiness (a fact backed by last year’s Time magazine study which compared the level of happiness of women in the 1970s to today, the same.)
Quite simply put, women have been liberated, yes, but we’ve basically moved ourselves into a new jail cell with the nameplate:
“I feel empowered to do anything, but pressured to do everything.”
As it turns out, the lifestyle expectations for the modern world woman are completely unsustainable. Most women are running on fumes, on the verge of burnout, and now even our grade-school girls, driven to be super achievers from a young age, experience chronic symptoms of stress once only known to adults. (My biggest stress at eleven was getting caught sticking my finger in the chocolate chip cookie batter!)
The solutions thus far have been focused on giving girls and women around the world self-esteem, teaching the message, “You can do anything.” And there lies the problem: the focus is on “doing.” While self-esteem has been a critical step for raising the confidence of women and girls around this country, the unintended impact is a generation who defines themselves and their value by what they do.
We have conditioned our selves and our girls to believe that if we are not doing everything, then we are failing, ultimately leading to the damaging and crushing belief that you are not enough.
The unintended impact of the self-esteem movement has left us with this problem: No matter how much a woman or girl does, she will never feel like she is enough, and therefore she will never attain the happiness she works so hard for.
So what is the new solution?
How is self-love different than self-esteem?
Self-love has nothing to do with what you do, but everything to do with how you respect and love yourself. Self-love, when you have it, doesn’t measure your worth by what you’ve accomplished, but instead ask yourself if you have treated yourself and others with unconditional love and respect.
The definition of self-love posted on Dictionary.com is “conceit, vanity, and narcissism,” a testament to how our society currently views self-love. Is it surprising that most women feel guilty when they take time away from the doing to take care of themselves? Or that they don’t value the ability to relax, find inner peace or just “be” like they value the ability to get it all done?
Our patterns, habits and beliefs as twenty-first-century women have been formed based on valuing ourselves by what we can do instead of by who we are, regardless of what we accomplish. If we ever hope to have lives that sustain us versus drain us, we must rewire our thought patterns and change what we value.
The ticket out of the overwhelm and overwork is not another downward-dog pose, a new time-management system, or the holy grail of balance. The ticket out is your belief that you are enough simply because you are, and that is the act of self-love.
Three Acts of Self-Love You Can Start Today:
- Stop wearing your busyness and overwhelmedness like a badge of honor.
Give up saying things like “I am so busy. I have so much to do.” Stop looking for sympathy and acknowledgment for your busyness. If you feel overwhelmed or too busy, don’t be a martyr, instead take your life back. Go through your calendar and say no to previous yes. Renegotiate promises and deadlines. You’ll be amazed how the world just gives you the space you ask for when you stop valuing yourself for being so darn busy.
- Stop acknowledging other women for their super-human feats of multitasking.
When a woman flashes her busy badge of honor—whether your are face-to-face or Facebooking—instead of congratulating or commiserating with her, either ignore the invitation to collude, or invite her to put less pressure on herself by sharing your personal experience of transforming your own overwhelm into self-love.
- Start your morning by asking, “What do I need to take care of me today?”
How you start your day is how you will live your day, so before you even get out of bed, close your eyes and ask yourself what you really need that day to take care of yourself. Listen to what your intuition tells you. No matter what, keep that promise to yourself, even if that means doing nothing!