The theme for this year’s Women’s History Month is “Choose to Challenge!” – which I find quite appropriate since this is a year when women are faced with choices that challenge almost every part of our lives. There are new paradigms at work, home, schooling, caring for parents or others (who normally would be in daycare or having outside resources which are no longer available). And then there is house work, cooking, cleaning etc., which add to the already mountains of responsibilities we have. Challenge after challenge. Sometimes we are blessed with a great partner or family member who works beside us. Sometimes not. In either case, it can become easier for us to just settle and not go after what we need because our lives are upended. Some days it feels like there is not a lot left for us to give back to ourselves.
Just Get Through or Thrive?
How can we not only ‘get through’ and stay sane, but also thrive? This article is not to tell you How To do this all. There are tons of articles on the ‘how to’ for you to find. What I want to convey now is that you need to make yourself a priority. Period. Set boundaries. Set time for real self-care. Be committed to you at least once a day. This is about making a promise to yourself because unless you do that, all of the articles out there will be of no help unless you accept that you MUST take care of you. Stop settling for any less.
Finding Inspiration from Women’s Stories
When we look back at just the history of women in the U S, the stories of women who have been challenged by the hardships of daily life, and also who challenged the system around them, are abundant! From the women who took their families and pulled up stakes to go across country in covered wagons, to the courageous women struggling with the terrible slavery of themselves and their families, to women who had the tenacity and perseverance to stand up for the Vote and started the Women’s Suffrage Movement to women going through the Great Depression – there are boundless stories we can learn from which will support us in getting though our challenging times. All of these stories are about women warriors- which I doubt they would have thought of themselves that way.
Resilience in Us All!
I am reading the Four Winds right now by Kristin Hannah. She writes about how the lives for everyone during the Great Depression and the years of the Dust Bowl were almost unbearable. It was daily survival in the truest sense – food, shelter, money, work – all of which were scarce beyond imagination. And the impact on the women – the mothers, grandmothers, daughters – well – the word ‘challenging’ does not even seem to come close to describe how these women were able to survive and still take care of others. And yet they were able to find how to keep going on. What we can learn from them is that we have such a deep capacity for resilience – it is really unlimited.
Smile More. Laugh More. Everyday.
Take a few minutes to read even a small article which will inspire you. Write down what you learned from then and then what it is you need right now. Next write down just one action you will take everyday to use your resilience to make your life a bit happier. Smile more. Laugh more. Hug more (where you can). And mostly love yourself more. I know the women who preceded us probably didn’t think so much about the concept of self-love. But something inside was so driving them to live differently and so they found their resilience to move forward. I do know that by following their instincts for survival and for making things better for themselves and to those important to them, they brought about small and enormous changes that made a difference. Learn from others. Learn from ourselves everyday. There is a ‘warrior’ in each us longing to come out.
Photo credit – I took this photo at the Orvieto National Archaeological Museum in Orvieto, Italy. I discovered that the ancient Etruscan women were a strong and powerful part of their society and we can go back to ancient times and learn from them as well.
A couple of months ago I had the greatest joyful time I’ve had in a long while. I flew west, into the desert and spent 3 days in a hotel with 1.000 women at the International Women’s Summit in Phoenix, Arizona (ok – a city in the desert). I listened with all my heart to be inspired, loved, challenged, stretched, encouraged and energized.
In this eye opening event, I got all of that and more. I didn’t have to be good, or look to make connections for business. I didn’t have to worry about being judged for what I said. I didn’t have to think about the challenges in my life. I just got to open up and absorb and be with energy that flowed from the stage and from each other. These women – Liz Gilbert, Lisa Nichols, Dr Tererai Trent, Cheryl Strayed, Laverne Cox, and others, bared their souls – talked and cried and yelled and danced and laughed and whispered their truths. All this was so that we, as women, would not just keep going, but to move through our lives with the joy we were meant to have.
While I was there, I allowed myself to be open, in each moment, and to connect – to ideas, and stories and beautiful women who have been through hell. I know that everyone carries around their “thing;” their ”story;” their “tragedy,” but it was so powerful to hear these human people talk and bare their souls so that others can learn and keep moving on through their grief and loss and battles of everyday life. We need to hear from strong women who are finding their joy so we can find ours as well. That is what makes leaders — woman or man. To be the leaders of our own lives. On our terms.
To hear Glennon Doyle Milton say “Self love is the opposite of self-control, and to “forget the balance” – what is important is “passion and self love.”
Cheryl Strayed said, “Open your heart. It’s the most important thing you can do with your life!”
It’s not about your job or title or making the bed everyday (which I do find satisfaction in the orderliness of it). It is about being “compelled to find a different version of yourself.”
When I flew back east, I entered my empty house and my challenging work. Instead of feeling sad or lonely, I looked for how to keep the energy going and listened to a podcast with Liz Gilbert (Magic Lessons) and Glennon and this is what was said:
“I am so tired of being good. I just want to be free!”
Whoa! Most of our lives we do what is expected by others. We don’t give ourselves permission to be bad or listen to our inner voice, which is always right. Maybe it is time to be bad. To do what our hearts yearn for. To be kind; be merciful and “be open to Serendipity – to Coincidence and Magic” – now this is what we are here for – to be free to be who we are. Everyday badness and goodness.
Reach deep down and pull out that courage and resilience we all have within. It is our reservoir of life for us to dip into whenever we need. And there are helping hands so we don’t need to do it all ourselves.
Go out and be bad. Then you get to be free to be who you are here to be.
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Over the past two weeks several of my friends and business acquaintances have talked to me about the pressure they have of getting it ‘right’ all the time. They are worn out, exhausted, crabby, and complain a lot to others about how hard they work. They often put in many hours of hard work; sometimes doing things over and over because it just wasn’t ‘perfect’ in their minds.
3 Signals that You May be a Perfectionist
- Procrastination – if you often put off what you need to do, thinking that it is too hard, you’re not good enough or no one will like what you do, the effects are that you freeze up. You may have a lot of excuses so you just put things off or don’t accomplish anything at all. You miss deadlines. You want to keep making it better and better, but most likely, you become paralyzed and stop doing what you need to do. I like this quote by Margaret Atwood: “If I waited for perfection… I would never write a word.?”
2. No one can do it as well as you – You feel no one else has the skills/experience/ talent to do it as well as you can. Do you (or others) think of yourself as a control freak? There are a lot of tasks you really need to delegate or outsource.
3. You are stressed, angry and disappointed most of the time. Everything is urgent. Nothing you or others do lives up to your high standards. The result is disillusionment, unhappiness and nothing ever getting done.
If you are a perfectionist, you may not realize this, but the pursuit of perfection is limiting. Perfectionists limit their energy, their output and their happiness in the pursuit of perfection.
What to do instead?
- Reach for excellence not perfection
“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.” Michael J. Fox
2. Delegate or hire out those things you don’t do well, or have no business doing at all.
“Pursuit of perfection is futile. Instead, I prioritize and often realize goals or tasks I’ve been aiming for just aren’t that important.” Aisha Tyler
Give yourself permission to LET GO of what doesn’t serve you or others. When a task becomes stressful, overwhelming or just plain loathsome, step back and figure out your options. It may be asking someone else for help, hiring a contractor or virtual assistant. It could be that you have taken on too much work or that what you are doing is filler, non-essential and unnecessary. (really!)
Step back and view what you are doing from someone else’s perspective – pull apart the tasks and prioritize into these categories: Must do, Want to, Would be nice to. Just concentrate on the Must DO. This will help you whiz through the work.
3. Be honest about the root causes of your procrastination – is it really an issue with your self-confidence and not about having the perfect speech, video or website? Do you worry about what others will think of you if your work isn’t perfect? Ask for some support from someone you trust and talk this through. Be more gentle on yourself. Be loving to yourself. We are not here to dot every ‘I ‘and cross every ‘T.’
We are here to love ourselves and others and find joy everyday, not perfection. Know that life is a series of small moments, beautiful experiences and meaningful relationships. Put more focus on what matters most.
Life has fuller and richer gifts in store for us if we just let go of these artificial goals and standards that really have no meaning and bring no joy. Aim high but put it in perspective. Balance your need for perfection with smiling more and letting go.
Please leave your comments below.
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