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  • SuePattonThoele

The Art of Avoidance

When I was younger, I felt like an eager-to-please gerbil trapped on a wheel with no control over how fast it went. Now that I’m older and happier, life has settled into a more comfortable pace. But as I listen to the familiar ring in conversations among women who are compulsively juggling impossible tasks, obligations, and expectations, I feel exhausted. That was once me.

How and why did I allow myself to get so hopelessly trapped in the Have-It-All/Do-It-All syndrome? Two main reasons contributed to my frantic pace. First, my self-esteem had diminished to a record low and I was trying to convince myself that I was okay by doing a lot of different things and attempting to be wonderful and scintillating at all times. Second, I didn’t feel I had what I wanted and needed, nor was what was wanted and needed to make life joyful and worthwhile. Busyness and overcommitment were my ways to avoid facing how unhappy I was with myself, my marriage, my parenting skills, my very life.

But avoidance doesn’t work forever. Even though I had pretty much mastered the art, finally a very exhausted, depleted, weak, and vulnerable me had to acknowledge the truth about my unhappiness and the failure of my marriage. With a lot of help from friends and family, I slowly and laboriously found the courage to make several much needed changes.

What is your Have-It-All/Do-It-All trap baited with? Avoidance, guilt, and fear, as mine was? Please give yourself a life-saving gift and examine your motives if you are busier than you want to be. When we fear that we won’t live up to others’ expectations, and suffer guilt when we don’t (or think we don’t), we may be defining ourselves as a superwoman who can be everything to everyone. Such a definition pretty much guarantees that our expectations will rarely be met, and even when they are, we’ll likely replace them with higher and ever-unattainable new ones.

Of course, women who are caught in the stranglehold of the Have-It-All/Do-It-All trap are often driven by economic necessity, as well as personal desire, to hold down a full-time job outside the home and a full-time job inside as well. Whether we’re married or single, career women or at-home women, or both, we are often prodded mercilessly by an inner dragon to be perfect. As we find the courage to allow ourselves to be who we are—imperfect, but committed to growth—we begin to untie the ropes that bind us to emotional dependence.

Although we may embrace the paradigm of partnership and believe in our equality with deep conviction, it takes a great deal of courage and hard work to name and overcome the fears that block us from experiencing our emotional strength. As we learn to honor our limits and boundaries and free ourselves from the terror of unrealistic expectations, we will be well on the road to expressing who we authentically are.

Excerpted from The Courage to Be Yourself by Sue Patton Thoele. Available on Mango and Amazon.


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