December. A time of holiday joy? Or a time of dangerously high stress?
Jessica Turner, the author of The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You, surveyed over 2,000 women for her book. Among other things, she asked her participants to describe the hardest part of being a woman. The common theme?
Being Everything To Everyone
The Disease To Please
This is something Turner relates to herself. In addition to being a writer, she runs the highly popular blog "Mom Creative", has a husband, has three children under the age of six, and tries hard to maintain her friendships. She describes how these multiple roles can become unhealthy.
As Turner asserts:
"For women, this 'disease to please' can wreak havoc on every area of our lives. We are nurturers by nature. We want to help and love on others. But sometimes our actions are not an outpouring of love but a result of wanting to please someone else.
This phenomenon is closely related to the disease of perfectionism. It's dangerous to base our self-worth on what others think of us."
Many people are surprised that I, a man, can relate a lot to what Turner is describing in her book. Perhaps it's because I'm a single dad and accustomed to maintaining a household. Regardless of the reason, I still spend too much time--and more importantly, too much stress--on little things that really don't matter.
Worrying About What Others Will Think
Recently, my financial advisor told me he was going to be in my neighborhood and wanted to stop by my home and give me an update on my money. It was a sign of high service, and I was grateful.
But my mind immediately took off--I better brew a pot of coffee...Is the fridge stocked with Coke? What if he drinks Diet Coke, do I have any of that? We'll be meeting in the kitchen; man, I need to clean the kitchen counter. Is he allergic to cats? I should lock them in the basement...
It's completely ridiculous to think this way about my advisor making a house call. Among the numerous reasons:
- He works for me; he'll keep working for me if I keep paying him.
- He knows far more important things about me--like my net worth--than my kitchen.
- He's a guy and is probably in awe that another guy is able to keep the house as clean as I do.
- He knows me personally and I'm sure judges me by my values and kindness, not my hospitality skills.
It is one thing to have good manners and to want to treat friends well and another to feel like you have to be perfect. Instead of running around for half an hour preparing for a visitor, I could have just greeted him with a smile and asked, "Can I get you some water?"
As Turner says in her book:
"You are never too busy to make time for what you love. It's just a matter of prioritizing--evaluating how you spend your days and dedicating time for what you value. If something is really important to you, you will find a way to fit it into your life."
This is why Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is able to leave work at 5:30 p.m. every day so she can have dinner with her kids at 6:00 p.m. Work is important, but her kids take priority. It's also why entrepreneur Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group and the over 400 companies it's comprised of, always seems to be hanging out on his private island or breaking some crazy world record as an adventurer.
Running a multi-billion dollar conglomerate is important. But so is having a little fun.
Learning To Let Go
So how do you let go? Take a look at your calendar. If you find that you're overworked or over booked, ask yourself: Are all of these tasks necessary? Which can I live without? And which ones can others live without me doing? Which ones can be put off until next month?
Now, take a moment to figure out what priorities aren't on your calendar. Not your boss's priorities, or any other person's priorities--your priorities. Block out the time you need to do those things. Treat these as your most important appointments. (I like to think of them as important or long standing doctor's appointments--they're basically non-negotiable.) Remember, these are your priorities; they're important to you for a reason.
You can try to be everything to everyone. But no one is expecting you to be--or at least, they shouldn't. And even if they are, once you stop trying to please them, they'll quickly get used to it.