… (and I’m Learning to be OK with that)
I’ve always found the concept of “having it all,” for women and men, to be terribly flawed. If you really break it down, it simply isn’t possible. There aren’t enough hours in the day to show up fully as our best selves in our careers, partnerships, families, friendships, communities, service efforts, spirituality practices AND still have time to proactively care for ourselves mentally and physically (which is what allows us to show up fully in the first place). Add in the basic human needs for joy, connection, fulfillment, adventure… How can we possibly expect to find time for all the aforementioned in the 24 short hours we have each day? I don’t believe we can, and I don’t believe we should have to.
I understand the importance of empowering, positive language around (especially a woman’s) right to choose how she fills her time, what kind of life she builds for herself. But I believe it does us a great disservice to perpetuate the idea that we should be striving to “have it all”. If we are in constant pursuit of an unrealistic and unattainable ideal, we’re destined to end up burned out, unhealthy, unhappy and worst of all, believing we have failed. Simply put, something’s got to give. So in my humble opinion, the more important question is not whether you can “have it all,” but “Do you even want or need it all?”
The pursuit of financial wealth, a successful career, a picture perfect nuclear family, beauty, the glamorous social life and wanderlust we see portrayed in the media leaves little room for discovering with acceptance, love and an open mind, who we really are and what we really want as individuals. If we’re all busy trying to look and be like everyone else, how do we hold space for self exploration, individuality and authenticity? If we’re all pursuing the same unrealistic ideals as the people around us, how do we create a life that feels aligned with our unique needs, desires and beliefs?
Imagine a world where we gave ourselves the time and space to define what a happy, healthy, fulfilling life looks like for each of us. A world where we were taught from a young age to ask, “What do I, as an individual value more than anything, and how can I build a life honoring what I hold so dear?” Now imagine making those assessments from a place of worthiness and self acceptance, and being truly open to what the answers might be. No pressure to effortlessly balance a million things and sacrifice your sanity in the process. Imagine knowing you will be loved, accepted and even celebrated for making your own way and living in your truth. This is the world I decided to live in after over 3 decades of blindly striving to “have it all”.
Almost a decade ago now, I realized the price of “having it all” was far too high for me. Not only did it require me to live life at a pace that felt impossible to maintain, it required me to ignore who I really am and what I need to be healthy and happy, in all my messy, misfit imperfection. It required me to ignore that my mental and physical health could not actually bear the weight of “having it all”. So after years of striving for an ideal that I felt no true affinity to, I finally asked myself, “If I learned to love and accept myself fully, what would my life look like instead of all this?”
This mindset shift has not been easy for me. Any blog I write chronicling the journey from “must have it all” to “this is enough and I am enough,” unless 100 pages long, will be an oversimplification. Suffice it to say that I am still working on, and may always be working on, accepting that what keeps me mentally and physically healthy and allows me to be my best self in this world, is also what limits my ability to live a glamorous, globe-trotting life. I have PCOS, hypothyroidism, a heart condition and spinal osteoarthritis. I struggle with depression and anxiety. As much as I don’t want any of these things to define me, I must learn to accept with compassion and kindness, that they are woven into the fabric of my being.
I’ve spent the last 5 years or so searching for the line between acceptance and defeat. How do I protect my mental and physical health without feeling limited by them? How do I honor my needs without being held back by them? How do I write my very own definition of “having it all” and still take care of myself? I don’t really know.
I do know that I am redefining what “having it all” means from a place of worthiness, enough-ness and self acceptance. I try to be intentional about my decisions, big and small, and do my best to make sure they are driven by my values, instead of my need for approval or validation. I try to approach each day with enough structure to support my mental health and enough openness and curiosity to create space to find my way. For now, I know that has to be enough.
How about you? How will you write your own definition of “having it all”?