"It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to feel sorry for. It takes years to find your voice and seize your real estate." - Amy Poehler, Yes, Please
"I'm too tired and I'm too busy."
These are the most common reasons women give for not taking care of their needs.
And we have a cultural belief that that's just the way it is.
Life is busy and life is exhausting. So, let's just accept it.
No, let's not.
How you spend your time and energy is how you live your life.
Whoever owns your time and energy owns your life.
When women come to me for help they want to figure out how to be more patient with their kids, or more passionate with their partners, or more confident in themselves.
No matter the presenting issue, the solution is owning your time and your energy, and using both in ways that serve the life you want to live.
Here are 5 keys to solving your Not-Enough Time & Energy Problem:
1. Trade Either/Or Thinking for Both/And Thinking
The narrative that runs throughout our culture and in between our ears is that if we take care of ourselves, someone will suffer. As if the equation is "Either I experience pain, or my children/partner/school/family/work will experience pain. I guess I'll take the hit." This Either/Or thinking is bad for everyone. It's hopeless and underestimates how creative and capable we can be. You need to catch your Either/Or narratives and rewrite them into a Both/And story. "I can both nurture myself and nurture my children. I can both be available to myself and be available to those I love. I can both take responsibility for my life and be responsible to others."
2. Don't let the default explanation for your exhaustion be that you are inadequate
I talk with hundreds of moms, and the default for our suffering tends to be that we're not coping well enough, that we need to get stronger, less selfish, learn how to tolerate the suffering better. The most logical explanation is not that you are inherently inadequate. There are more possible explanations for why you're tired and overwhelmed than that you suck. You may be in a job that demands way more than is humane, and that's a work culture problem not a 'you' problem. You may be living with children who are developmentally in a high-degree-of-assholery phase of life, and you being frustrated as hell may not mean anything is wrong with you. Open your mind to the possibility that you may be in a crazy situation and you need relief from it or to change it radically. The problem isn't always you.
3. Proclaim only 2 or 3 priorities and devote yourself to them
You'll find this advice any and everywhere. But it's hard to stake claim to the real estate of our lives and stop being sorry for everything, so we don't want to actually do this step. My priorities are connection with my 3 guys, enjoying the one precious life I have, and using my natural talents in the world. I can weigh all my decisions against these priorities. Cooking and cleaning don't really serve those priorities, so I do the minimum necessary to stay sane and healthy. Saying 'yes' to all the school volunteering definitely doesn't serve them. Hanging out in the afternoon with no where to be does fit, so I get to call that really important.
4. Say 'No' to (almost) everything else
'No' is really hard, especially if you've been taught that your self-worth depends on making other people happy. My favorite way to say it is, 'That doesn't work for me right now.' My favorite way to think about it is 'I count, You count.' If I am loyal to my values, I can trust that I will probably be kind and fair to others. If someone is mad or disappointed with me, it's hard, of course it is! But their disappointment doesn't mean I did anything wrong. It means they are having the feelings that come with the limits of reality, not everything is going to go as we want it to, not everyone will comply with our plans. I can't protect everyone from that discomfort. I can be kind, fair and thoughtful, but I don't have to be everyone's favorite person.
5. Get Turned On Daily
If your mind went to a sexual place, get down with it. Sexual energy is one way to be turned on to life, but there are many many other ways. Most of the other items on this list are about conserving energy, but this one is about creating it. Research shows that we are happier when we spend time doing things that light us up, make us radiate, make us feel totally authentically ourselves and all the way alive. These activities can't be reserved for the once-a-year weekend away, we need to get turned on every day. Play some music. Put on some lipstick. Argue about solutions to climate change. Whatever turns you on, baby, do that thing!
These 5 elements are the keys to a life that feels like your own, and a life that feels worth living. No matter what you're struggling with specifically, the answer is in this list. These steps are simple, yes they're hard, but they are also simple. Keep coming back to them. Choose one that jumps out at you and set an intention to practice it today. And then do the same tomorrow.
One day at a time you can do the rebellious, courage thing; you can claim your time and energy as your own.
With love and optimism,