Doing Best You Can

Overwhelmed, Overworked and Over It! Giving Up the Addiction to Do, Be and Have It All

In honor of International Women’s Day (3/8), a day that should be celebrated through the entire month of March!

Start a company, support your family, save the world, all while looking no older than 25. 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 that’s been stamped into our brains as 21st century super women who look like we have it all together, but are really smiling the stress away gritting our teeth. Behind the façade of perfection is the reality that almost every woman feels completely overwhelmed and overworked, without a clue how to manage her life any differently. Although few of us would ever openly admit just how stretched and full of self-doubt we are, the truth is that most of us are overworked, overwhelmed, and over it!

Dig even deeper behind the mask, and you will reveal that as insane as it may be, most of us super women wear our busyness like a badge of honor, trying to prove to ourselves and others that we are worthy because we can get so much done.

It’s important to realize that this insanity of our lives is not totally our fault. We didn’t start off as achievement junkies, doing addicts, and obsessive perfectionists—we were conditioned to behave like this; we were not born this way. After decades of receiving the message of self-esteem, girls and women today have more self-confidence, and independence than any generation of women before. We have more choices than our mothers and grandmothers combined, but with those choices have also come mountains of stress and more self-criticism, without the pay off of more happiness—a fact backed up by a study conducted by Rockefeller Foundation and Time Magazine in 2009[1] which compared the level of women’s happiness in the 1970s to that of women today. The results were revealing. Yes, women have more opportunity and equality but we aren’t happier. More work and less happiness. What a raw deal!

So yes, women have been liberated in many ways, but in the process, we became trapped in a new jail cell, with a nameplate bearing the motto we all live by—and unknowingly teach our daughters:

“I feel empowered to do, be, and have anything, but I feel pressured to do, be, and have everything.”

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 over value on self-esteem and the under value on things like self-compassion and self-care. Sure we say we want to relax, take good care of ourselves, but when you look at our actions and how we spend our time, money and energy, we are not.

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?

Self-Love.

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 honor yourself. Self-love, when you have it, doesn’t measure your worth by what you’ve accomplished, but by the measure of, “Have you 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 21st 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.

3 Acts of Self-Love You Can Start Today:

Stop wearing your busyness and overwhelm 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 acknowledgement 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 multi-tasking.

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!



[1] Time Magazine, October 26, 2009, Justin Wolfers, co-author of The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness

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