It's our badge of honor. Ask any women whether mom, entrepreneur, executive and yes, even some counselors and life coaches “How are you?”. The answer will likely be “busy” or “super busy”! And just like that, the competition is on, with each nodding and agreeing to “find time for myself” or “just get a massage” all while comparing crazy plate spinning schedules based on the needs of others.
Before I addressed my own cycle of busyness, wearing my busy tiara proudly, along with an embellished sash that read “Most Productive”. The queen of controlled chaos and loving the constant validation by my friends, family, co-workers. They and the media validating that I was a strong, confident and accomplished woman. YAY ME, I was needed!
For years it was easy to overlook the toll it was taking on my life, invoking the "work hard, play hard" philosophy. I rarely acknowledge the warning signs, such as my inability to control my emotions, lack of self-care (except for massages), chronic lateness, neglecting or leaving relationships, lingering illnesses and the increasing need to self-medicate and escape through other excesses. Inevitable, things ended badly, a crash and burn of epic proportions. But, more about that another day.
So, how the heck did we women get here? Imagine if we had asked Florence Nightingale, Ida B. Wells, Virginia Woolf, Gloria Steinem or Bell Hooks the following question:
If women had the freedom and opportunity to run corporations and universities, hospitals, media empires, branches of government, army divisions, and countries, to stay at home, raise children, have many of the choices you are fighting for, do you think women in the future will be happier?
Of course they will be happier, they would have said. With all these opportunities and achievements, how could they not be?
Equal rights for women is supposed to secure us the opportunity for the same choices as men. Yet, somehow, we have bought into a very seductive storyline which makes it seem as though we are not worthy women unless we are selecting ALL the choices available to us!
The consequences of our desire to do so much coupled with the need do it all perfectly — make for interesting reading. A recent extensive study by the US National Bureau Of Economics showed that women in the US are unhappier now than they’ve been in 35 years (men’s happiness is also decreasing but at a slower rate). Our rates of depression rates continually increasing. This is regardless of whether we have kids, how many kids we have, how much money we make, how healthy we are, what job we hold, whether we are married, single or divorced, how old we are, or what race we are. (The one and only exception: African-American women are now slightly happier than they were back in 1972, although they remain less happy than African American men.)
So it begs the questions…have we bought into a vision of life that is simply unattainable? Do we set ourselves up for happiness failure by buying into certain myths of happiness? You know, the all too familiar....
“I’ll be happy when________”:
★I’ll be happy when I get married or find that perfect relationship.
★I’ll be happy when I make more money
★I’ll be happy when I have kids.
★I’ll be happy when I lose weight.
★I’ll be happy when I change jobs/get a new job/get promoted.
Peter Kreider wrote a seminal article on busyness in 2012 for The New York Times, where he states that the people who complain about being busy are “almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve ‘encouraged’ their kids to participate in.” He reminds us that individuals who are exhausted due to the need to work (e.g., single mothers working two jobs to support her children) don’t describe themselves as ‘crazy busy,’ but instead as “dead on my feet.”
Despite the frequent complaining or bragging about being busy, Kreider states “the present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it.”
Many doctors report seeing more and more stressed out women, citing complaints of running at 110 percent of capacity, getting no sleep, and keeping schedules which leave no room for flexibility
If something goes wrong – if your child is sick for example, we all have grown accustomed to reaching for a quick fix to support our busyness. The link between doing too much and self-medicating is pretty clear. We women now make jokes, share Facebook posts, and memes about the need for “Mommy juice” or large overfilled pictures of “my one glass of wine”, even faucets which deliver wine instead of water. We use pills to relax, fall asleep and Starbuck to wake up.
What can we do?
Well, I’ll start with three suggestions that worked for me. But first, take a deep breath, because the first you will need to hear and accept is an actionable concept that will likely bring on feelings of fear, shame or guilt by its very verbalization.
We must first embrace and validate out desire and ability to:
There, I said it. Yep, we can actually one day merrily decide to opt out of expectations of the current busyness culture.
- Identify the most meaningful ways to spend your life, today, as in right now. Have the people you live with do it too if you would like. Whittle down your list to the top three or five things.
- Schedule time for those things first. Put them on your calendars in big bold colorful letters to support your desire to focus and prioritize them.
- Everything else fits around this things-OR NOT! Learn and encourage yourself to say no to the many things you want to do so you can do the things that matter to you. If you desire to beat the feeling of being overwhelmed and busy, you must be willing to radically limit what is overwhelming you in the first place.
Fair warning, taking action on these may hurt a little. To move forward is to accept that certain things will be left behind. What if, more of us adopted a new ideal that “winning the game of life” is not dependent on finding a slot in our days for everything that matters…to everyone? To opt out of the cultural expectation of Busy=Good and realign to your own individual expectations of what matters to YOU. Hmmm.
Could this work for you? What do you think?
Join us to explore these and other important issues in your life!
And don't forget to find you happy today and every day! ~Lynn
Could this work for you? What do you think?
Join us in the weekly group Authentic Self Esteem, to explore these and other important issues in your life.