One of the most damaging myths we’ve been led to believe is that we can have it all and do it all, in all ways, all the time. It’s true, we can have it all on occasion and do it all for stretches at a time. We can even be it all for hours or days. But when we fall into the trap of trying to have, do, and be everything on a consistent basis, we run the risk of draining our energy reserves to a dangerous low.
One of my clients, Sarah, raised three children alone. Then she remarried and raised four more children—her stepson and three emotionally disturbed siblings whom she and her husband adopted. She made nearly all their clothes, cooked all the family meals from scratch, balanced a budget that would send chills up a contortionist’s spine, and remained extremely active in her church. It upset her greatly when she occasionally felt unloving.
Sarah came from a background of trauma and deprivation that left her saturated with fear and struggling with deep emotional scars. Although she’s one of the sweetest women I’ve ever known, fear of failure, abandonment, and not being lovable ruled her life. When she came to see me, she was desperately unhappy due to continually giving herself away, terrorizing herself with expectations only angels could live up to, and berating herself for a bewildering variety of real and imagined small inadequacies. To me, sainthood would have been appropriate for her, but she could only see herself through the lens of her abusive, neglectful, and frightening upbringing.
Little by little, with dedicated hard work, Sarah was able to fashion a small sign to hang over her soul, at least some of the time:
Superwoman Doesn’t Live Here Anymore!
An important question to ask if we find we have chained
ourselves to uncomfortable expectations is, “Who is defining
what is meaningful to me?” Are you responding to your own or
someone else’s urgings? If you’re following your own, are they
kind and realistic nudges toward fulfillment or demanding
kicks in the direction of perfection?