Can We Give Ourselves A Break?

I texted her a short list of my insecurities that Monday. Monday has the market locked on insecurities some weeks and this was that week.  She responded exactly as I needed when she matched her logic to my emotion.  I’m not friends with her because she climbs down in the pit with me to wallow. We’re friends because she throws a rope over the edge and then sits back to say, “if you want this, it’s here but climb out soon because I need to talk to you about something.” Wallowing is not allowed with her.

My list of woes was pathetic but they were mine and so she listened and then she asked me, “Do you think we can ever give ourselves a f-king break as women? I mean, when will it happen that we aren’t THIS hard on ourselves?” And I snapped out of it. We ARE this hard on ourselves. We lament every glass of wine, every calorie consumed, every workout forgotten, every moment not spent meditating but instead spent reading a fun beach read. Why have we not yet learned to evict the mean person living inside our heads?

Let’s applaud each other for not being complacent slobs and high five one another for reaching for more, wanting to maximize the moments of our time on Earth; but why is it so hard to give ourselves a break when we slip?  It isn’t the end of time as we know it when we eat our feelings one day.  The world won’t spin off its axis if over the course of a Sunday that we polished off almost an entire bottle of rose’ by ourselves and baby seals won’t die if we forgot to log time learning a language or teaching ourself to play chess.

It seems that almost every woman I know is afraid of mediocrity. One beautiful Mom of two wonderful Littles is not only a Senior Vice President at her well known firm, she is in the best shape of her life these days, saying to me, “I refuse to be a tankini Mom.”  One Millennial clocks 30 miles per week running as she preps for her second NYC Marathon. Mind you, the NYC Marathon is one of the Big Six and this is her second.  Another is proofing plans with her architect on flights to Saudi Arabia, managing family vacations to Europe and potty training her toddler when not running her firm from the C Suite. Just this week a friend asked me why she was underwhelmed and not challenged at work, wondering if boredom is somehow proof she made the wrong choice?  We’re all expecting to be passionate about how we earn a living, in perfect shape, consuming enough macros and burning enough calories, folding in Self Care Sunday and keeping up with our reading list.  We wear ourselves out when we don’t even have children or aging parents who need doctor’s appointments monitored. Being addicted to bettering ourselves is not healthy. Wanting to BE a better version of ourselves is healthy but needing to mainline it, not recognizing when we're our own worst critics? This is rock bottom and we may need to learn to take things one day at a time.

What would it look like if we didn’t think the world needed our shoulders to turn?  Would we skinny dip in a pool at midnight? Dance in our living rooms when no one else was around? Do more cartwheels? Drink the wine and throwback the popcorn without concern for the nutritional value?   Every woman I know strives to be better. We set our dials to self-improvement and I love that.  I am 100% down with ‘what can I do better this week or this day?”  It’s the lack of self-forgiveness that concerns me and I'm just as guilty. We make mistakes. We are tired. We have too much on our minds.  We need to let loose.  We are human beings who don’t let ourselves BE.

World class athletes all fine tune their bodies. They push, strain, train, break down muscles, fatigue lungs and stress test their hearts as they move to each new level of excellence, They all also know that rest and recovery are the only ways the body gets stronger.  Burning the candle at both ends is not glorious, it just leaves you with no candle. 

Give yourself a break, let yourself be. Don’t hate on yourself for something you ate, a workout you missed or because you aren’t learning Mandarin this year. Put your hand over your heart and feel it beating. Inhale deeply, exhale slowly. Look at your smile lines, your functioning body, fully able or not, your mind which allows you to earn a living. Some of us will suffer from early onset Alzheimer’s when she is only 41. We’ll all bury someone we love in our 30s. We’ll hold hands of a friend as a spouse walks out the door and we’ll all lose a job we never thought we would lose.  Life is hard enough.  Can we just give ourselves a break?

Dorothy JohnsonComment