I remember when my Mum first bought a pressure cooker and I would watch with fearful fascination as it steamed and hissed and wobbled so much I was convinced it was going to leap from the stove and explode.
There have been times when I’ve felt like that pressure cooker; everything building up inside, the intensity increasing until I was near explosion point. These pressured times have been the direct result of doing what so many women do; setting myself extremely high standard and expecting to keep all the balls in the air at once. To be a ‘success’ in my working life, to be seen to be ‘achieving’ more and more, to be a ‘good parent’, a ‘good partner’, a ‘good daughter’ a ‘good friend’, not to mention keeping fit and ‘looking good’. All too much.
Who comes first?
It’s all too much especially while when we are doing all this we are not putting ourselves first; on the contrary most women are constantly compromising on their own wants and needs. They prioritise the professional demands and personal needs of others.
How often have you heard women say things like: ‘
I’d love to do that dance class on a Saturday but I can’t because I have to take the kids to football’
‘I can’t make it to the dinner because I’ve got to stay late at work and show John how to use the new system’
When it’s a one off fine but keep listening and you may find every time they’re invited somewhere or have the opportunity to do something for their own pleasure or self- development there is someone else’s need getting in the way.
We are ramping up the pressure, requiring so much of ourselves while we expend our energy on helping others often to the point of exhaustion. Something’s got to give. And you don’t want it to be your sanity!
Learning to say NO
The most empowering word I know is NO.
Saying no will not be the catalyst for rejection and disaster that many women secretly fear.
Look at it this way. If you are the person who is always on hand, always offering to help, always saying yes when asked to do something, then you are sending others the message that you are a) always available and haven’t got much else to do and b) you therefore have the capacity to take on more. You are inviting more demands, being taken for granted and are probably undervalued for your contributions professionally and personally.
What I’ve learnt is that when you start to say no people see you and hear you again. They are curious. Galvanised by your withdrawal they may start to realise their degree of imposition on you and start to do more things for themselves. Saying no can trigger greater resect and consideration from others, greater awareness of your situation and fairer more effective ways of operating in work and home life.
Give up on perfection
Saying no takes the pressure down and gives you space to think and get your balance back. In doing so you may start to realise that perfection is always unattainable because it’s subjective and organic. Your idea of perfect is not mine and both are constantly being influenced by what we are observing and learning.
Bodily perfection is the classic example. What was considered perfect a few years or even months ago in the constant media stream we are exposed to is no longer the ideal in this moment. The businesses built on our obsession with physical perfection are always moving the goal posts!
Be kind to yourself
Empowerment comes from acceptance of and kindness to yourself. Acceptance that you are okay just as you are; you are always learning and have the opportunity to change what you want to, but that is your choice no-one else’s. Kindness is putting yourself first at least some of the time, appreciating how much you have achieved and recognising that the bad bits are there for a reason; we need contrast to progress. We need to be clear about what we don’t want to identify what we do want and start making that happen.
You don’t have to be anything other than your authentic self. Believing that (and looking after her) is your greatest source of power.
Release the valve and let the pressure out.