Raise your hand if you’re not perfect.
I know my hand is WAY up—is yours?
I try to save, but I overspend. I clean like crazy and feel like it’s not enough. I start my diet and exercise plan with resolve and then crash to a plate of brownies. Sometimes my friends or family members upset me and I don’t know how to handle it. Sometimes I argue with my husband and yell at my kids, and feel like I’m barely hanging on.
And I don’t think I’m alone. As women, most of us deal with the constant internal pressure of feeling like we’re failing in one way or another.
We tell ourselves all we need to be happy is a clean house free of clutter; an awesome and fulfilling career in a job we love; a balanced budget and plenty of money in the bank; kids who are happy, healthy, clean, smart, talented and smiling all the time; a loving & passionate relationship with a spouse that makes our heart skip a beat every day; an active social life with friends, family and loved ones who bring constant joy, and a deep spiritual connection that keeps us on the mountaintop all the time. Oh, and we also need to look fabulous in a swimsuit!
But the truth is that none of us can do it all. There are only 24 hours in the day, which means that in order to excel in one area of our life, another area will almost inevitably suffer, at least a little bit. And that’s okay. Balance doesn’t mean doing everything perfectly, it means giving yourself the grace to not be perfect.
And so I’m proposing that there are a few things we can and should stop doing immediately. Today.
“I’m sorry I bumped into you.” (…when really you bumped into me.)
“I’m sorry I coughed.”
“I’m so sorry I’m bothering you.”
“I’m sorry, but I need to go to the bathroom.”
Seriously: we need to stop apologizing for everything! Not only is it perfectly inoffensive that we have real biological reactions like sneezing and having to go to the bathroom, but also, “sorry” becomes a habit, so we say it when we don’t actually mean it. At least “excuse me” or “pardon me” aren’t quite the tick that “sorry” becomes.
When we apologize for meaningless things, sometimes we lose the meaning in truly saying we’re sorry when we do something that’s actually hurtful. “Sorry” becomes a way to tell others we think they’re being a jerk. We’re trying to preempt their reaction by saying we’re sorry before they have a chance to say something we don’t like.
Instead of constantly saying “I’m sorry,” let’s try to replace it with “pardon me” or “excuse me.” Or, better yet, eliminate it altogether, except in cases when a sorry is truly necessary.
2. Comparing Yourself to Others
Between social media and everything we do online, it can be next to impossible to stop comparing ourselves to those around us. Of course we look at the friend on Instagram and see how amazing and together her family pictures look. We see her fabulous vacation and the amazing party she threw. We see our friends sharing their workouts on Facebook and talking about how fantastic their lives are.
It can be hard not to feel like we’re missing out or like we’re not measuring up to standards. However, when it comes down to it, there aren’t a lot of people sharing their true struggles online. Yes, maybe there are a few Pinterest fail blogs (which are hilarious, by the way), but for the most part, our online personas are carefully cultivated to reflect the best of times.
We photograph the joys in our life and the moments we want others to see. We rarely show the moment our three-year-old decided to make a sandcastle in the cat’s litter box, or the time our six-year-old cut her sister’s hair. (Okay, maybe after we’ve calmed down and can laugh about it, but not in the moment.)
Sometimes it’s okay to step away from social media for a while, particularly if it’s making you feel bad about yourself. Take a break to live in the real world where we’re all imperfect.
3. Buying “Good Deals”
When you find a great deal at the store, do you jump all over it? Many of us do. It can be very hard to pass up a BOGO deal or a double coupon opportunity, especially when you know you might need it in the future.
Here’s the deal, though: more often than not, we end up buying too much. We buy more than we need or can feasibly use up or store because it’s such a “good deal.” We’re not actually saving money when we have a closet full of cheap clothes we never wear or a cupboard full of food that will expire before we can eat it. Even though we think we’re saving money, we’re still spending.
The next time you get a hankering to walk to the back of the clearance aisle at the store, ask yourself if there’s anything you need on your list that might actually be on that aisle. If it’s not on your list, don’t go there. (Yes, even if it’s 70% off and you have a coupon!) For example, if I’m at the store for cereal, batteries and masking tape, I’m going to promise myself I won’t even look at the makeup clearance section or browse the candle aisle.
4. Feeling Guilty for Self-Care
As a mom, it can be hard to practice self-care. We might try to fit in gym time or even a few extra minutes to do our hair and makeup. Maybe you have a novel you’re dying to read for a few hours, but you know you can’t afford to take the time.
So, what do we do instead? When we have a few extra minutes, we surf the web or procrastinate or spend time doing “busywork” under the guise of productivity. …well, I know I do. But when I do, I realize I’m not really allowing myself to have downtime…downtime that is so nourishing, refreshing, and necessary. I’d be far better off if I took the time for myself, embraced it, enjoyed it and made the most of it.
Self-care gives us a chance to keep ourselves feeling energized and refreshed. It helps us look and feel our best. You know how wonderful you feel when you’re dressed up, looking good and feeling fantastic? I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m ready to tackle the world.
I know it can be hard, but try to find time to treat yourself each day with a little gift—a piece of chocolate, a bath, reading a magazine, or a few chapters of your book. Be mindful about your activity and look at it as something special you’re giving to yourself. You deserve it!
5. Beating Yourself Up over Your Diet
Feeling guilty about your diet is a tale as old as women’s magazines. For years and years, we’ve been trying to “reduce,” lose weight, and shrink ourselves to fit into smaller clothing sizes. What happens? We do it for a while, and we’re miserable as we pick through a salad or eat carrot sticks. We feel like we’re punishing ourselves, so then when we crack and finally eat that bowl of ice cream, we feel guilty and like we’ve failed.
Most guidelines suggest a healthier approach is to look at our eating habits as part of a lifestyle, rather than a diet. A diet implies a set amount of time, whereas changing our eating habits is just something we do to feel better and have healthier bodies. Start looking at food as a way to nourish and strengthen your body and give you energy. Drink water, move more, and let go of the guilt.
If you eat something not-so-healthy, enjoy it! Tell yourself how amazing it was—and move on. Rest assured you can have cheesecake or pizza or whatever it is again, but just not all the time. Enjoy food and learn to love healthy vegetables and fruits, whole grains and lean proteins. Base your meals around these healthy things and allow yourself some treats along the way.
6. Saying, “It’s Okay” When it’s Not
Similar to saying we’re sorry too often, we also often say things are okay when they really aren’t. You don’t have to be rude about something that’s bothering you, but you can certainly express it and stop holding it in.
When a friend lets you down or someone has upset you, tell him or her what’s bothering you. Listen to their side as well and see if you can come to a resolution. You may be surprised to find out they’re experiencing a challenge, too. Or perhaps they weren’t even aware of the effect their thoughtlessness was having on you. Sometimes getting it out in the open is all you need to do to resolve it.
If there’s something you’ve done wrong, take ownership of it and apologize. Tell your friend you’re sorry for what you did that hurt their feelings or upset them, and work to make amends. Just ignoring problems or saying “it’s okay” all the time won’t make them go away.
7. Doing It All on Your Own
How many of us feel comfortable asking for help?
Most of us would prefer to be able to do everything on our own. We all want to be superwomen…but when we’re hurting or overwhelmed, we need to give others the opportunity to help us in our time of need.
Think of how great you feel when you can help someone out who truly needs a hand. Yet, when we need a hand, we feel embarrassed or ashamed to ask for some assistance. It can be as simple as asking a neighbor to help you exchange a babysitting day or a meal swap, or it can mean asking your kids to take on some chores or your husband to help out more.
Even though we’d all like to do things on our own, it’s not realistic to expect we can do it all. Give yourself a break and ask for a little help when you need it!
8. Giving All Your Time Away
Learn to say no. Trust me, I know it can be a challenge. We want to help everyone as much as possible. We want to join the PTA, be a Den Mother, and run the church bake sale. We want to help in every way we can.
Unfortunately, when we give all of our time to others, we can take it away from our families, our marriages and from running our own homes. Don’t feel like you have to give all of your time away every time you have a spare minute.
Learn how to decline some events and to maintain a balance when it comes to keeping up with activities. It’s okay to not do every single lesson, every activity and every invitation. You can pick and choose and spend some time at home with your family.
Part of maintaining that balance is keeping your schedule organized. How many times have you felt like you’ve lost hours simply because you were procrastinating or avoiding the things you didn’t want to face? Instead, try using a planner or organizer so you can schedule in your time and keep a handle on your goals and plans for the day.
Our Living Well Planner is back and better than ever! It can help you keep your time under control and ensure you’re setting aside time for the important things (rather than giving away your time and stretching yourself too thin).
9. Worrying About Cleaning
Aside from the few basic household chores we typically do daily or weekly…everything else? Give yourself permission to pace yourself and tackle cleaning projects over time. So often we’re haunted by the closet we need to organize, the fridge that needs to be deep cleaned, or the bedroom that’s less-than-perfect—when we’re the only ones truly bothered by it!
While being organized helps us to be more efficient and gives us a sense of calm and order, we don’t need to have every single thing perfectly in place. It takes time to get everything in order, and most of us hit roadblocks and have good weeks and bad weeks.
Give yourself permission to relax a little. Those spotty windows can wait until another day.
10. Getting to the End of Your List
I’ll admit, if I don’t make it to the end of my daily to-do list, I have to purposefully remind myself I don’t need to feel anxious. The amazing thing is, most of those items will roll right over to the next day without consequence. If I tackle the big items (“eat the frog,” so to speak), the other items are usually not as vital.
So I didn’t make it to the post office today. I can go first thing tomorrow. I didn’t wrap the gift for Saturday’s party. Well, it’s only Tuesday and there will still be time. It’s good to not get stuck in procrastination mode and to make the most of your calendar, but it’s also important to allow yourself some wiggle room.
After all, what happens when our kids beg us to come play a game with them outside or read them an extra bedtime story? Aren’t those the moments we’d rather have some extra time for?
It’s not easy to admit–to ourselves or anyone else–that we can’t always do it all. But the reality is that balance in life is found from taking things off our plate, not putting on more pressure to be all things to all people. Get clear about what matters to YOU most of all, then give yourself permission to let a few things slide. It will be okay–I promise.
P.S. I’d love to hear what things you’re going to add to your stop doing list! Let me know in the comments below!