“You can have it all.”
“Be everything you want to be.”
“If you can dream it, you can achieve it.”
As contemporary, driven professional women, we’ve heard these kinds of messages many times before. They lend optimism and encourage safe risk-taking with the most positive intentions.
The trouble is, these bright inspirational nuggets don’t always fit in with the complexities of self-identity and the reality of everyday living. Put a beautiful sentiment like “You are more than your limitations” in the context of a stressful career, and this statement becomes a trap instead of a freeing, empowering mindset.
I’m sorry to say it, but these rosy affirmations can easily heap on something none of us needs more of: pressure.
I’m certainly not here to discourage you from maintaining a hopeful mindset. But it’s essential we align those optimistic thoughts with reality, the other side of the picture.
We cannot, in fact, have or do it all.
After all, how many hours do you have in your day? How thinly can you spread your attention before it breaks? A relentless quest for perfection is nothing less than a guarantee of failure—or at best, a recipe for exhaustion and disappointment.
Perhaps it’s time to step back from the kind of anxiety that “You can do anything you put your mind to” can instill. As an elegant woman of distinction, you want and deserve a more balanced view of life—one that allows you to respect and take advantage of go-go-go energy and vitality…and at the end of the day is content to welcome restorative rest, leaving the driving and achieving to someone else for a while.
Being honest with yourself is of paramount importance. So today, let’s explore a few ways to remain upbeat and keep looking forward without dismissing the realities of time and our own human frailties.
- Recognize your unique talents and interests—and revel in them.
Grab a paper and pen and find a quiet corner. Ask yourself, “What do I do well? What do people come to me for because I do it better than anyone else?”
Next, ask yourself, “What and whom do I love? With what pursuits do I like to spend my down time?”
Take your time. Jot down a whole assortment of skills, inclinations, and interests that help make up who you are.
Now read all of that over, and ask yourself one final question: Who else has a list just like this?
Chances are, no one has an identical list. Your list represents the essence of you, what makes you unique and valuable. That’s the beauty of your individual blend—it’s not the same as mine, or your best friend’s, or your spouse’s, or your boss’s. We are all different, and the world is richer because each of us is in it. How wonderful!
- Embrace your weaknesses.
That heading above? It is absolutely not an invitation to browbeat yourself over imagined failings. The simple fact is that some of us aren’t cut out to…fill in the blank. Cook a 4-course meal? run a marathon? manage a stubborn employee? keep a cool head in commuter traffic? stay on top of expense reports? write a book? provide full-time care for an ailing relative?
Relax. You’re not responsible for everything. Those not-talents, the things you’d just as well never see on your to-do list again, are priceless gifts. They serve to remind you that you’re not a cold, unfeeling accomplishment machine. Even better, your so-called weaknesses are precious opportunities to savor the savvy and skill other people lend to our lives. I know I’m amazed and truly uplifted when I see the fruits of another person’s talent, whether it be creative—as in a beautiful painting—or analytical—as in a flawlessly completed income tax return.
Please, let’s stop pretending that perfection is a fair standard to measure ourselves against. No one—not one!—can do it all. When something needs doing that’s not within your expertise, field of interest, talent, or available time, you need feel no shame in saying “no” and hiring the task out to someone who can—or otherwise asking for help.
That deserves a repeat, especially among professional women (Hint: Listen up, because I bet this applies to you): There is no shame in saying “no” or asking for help.
- Adopt a new affirmation: “I am enough.”
No individual is perfect to begin with, and no one gets through this life without picking up a few bruises and scars along the way. We have flaws—and that’s okay. We are all works in progress, continuously changing and growing. Just remember that, at every point in your growth continuum, you are exactly where—and who—you should be.
If you find yourself comparing your career achievements, family, personality, finances, appearance—whatever—with someone else’s, remember that what you see on the outside is only part of the picture. The other person feels, and is, just as flawed as you under the surface.
Yet you admire her, right? That’s because she—like you—is wonderfully dynamic and talented, warts and all.
I guarantee it. You are enough, always.
Nothing is at all wrong with striving to grab the next rung. But please, don’t devalue where and who you are now, at this very moment.
Having a hard time finding that healthy balance between lofty goals and real limitations? Give me a call at 212-686-0939. I would be honored to mentor you in your pursuit of a forward-thinking, yet self-nurturing mindset.