What does “having it all” mean anyway?
If you ask 20 women, you will get 20 different answers. We each have our own ideas about what “having it all” actually means.
When we look at magazines and websites aimed at females, we see that contemporary media advocates women should want to be:
the perfect business woman, rising to the top of their chosen profession
the perfect mother, always available to their children
the perfect partner, constantly nurturing their relationship
the perfect homemaker, keeping on top of the chores, and
the perfect version of themselves, keeping fit and finding “me-time”
I’m exhausted just thinking about that list.
We are doing ourselves an enormous disservice by trying to reach the unreachable. We are seeing life through a distorted, unrealistic filter.
Our mothers and their mothers
Previous generations did not consider the concept of “having it all”. They were not under the intense media scrutiny that today’s women face. Let’s not forget that far fewer women worked outside of the home in the 1950s than do now (around 30% vs. 70%).
In addition, many of those women were in fairly low paid, non-professional jobs such as care workers, secretarial and shop assistants. Many women now work in what were traditionally male professions, such as accounting, law and medicine. This means much more responsibility and longer working hours.
Despite this pressure, research shows women still take on the lion’s share of the household chores and child care. We are expected to “do it all”, rather than “have it all”.
These impossible standards are rarely applied to men. Men are not expected to be employee of the month at the same time as being a stay-at-home dad. Yet, this is effectively what society demands of working mums.
More people should be saying “Hang on a minute. It’s hard to balance a happy, fulfilled personal life with a respected professional life”.
Something’s got to give.
Unfortunately that something is often mental or physical health. To keep healthy, we need to make a trade-off, or, more likely, a series of trade-offs. We cannot be all things to all people all the time. We have to try to find a balance.
How do we even start to define what our “having it all” actually looks like?
We need to develop our own definitions of both personal and professional success and discard the idea that society has defined it for us. To achieve this, we need to gain a clearer understanding of our values. What is most important to us? What inspires us and makes us happy?
If you have never spent time considering your core values, this is something that a life coaching session can help facilitate. There are also plenty of websites that you could use to do an exercise on defining your values. As this is such a fundamentally important exercise, this will be the subject of an upcoming blog.
Once our values are clear, then we can start to define our version of what “having it all” means. If family is a core value for you, then this may lead to a trade-off with work commitments or with other personal activities. If friendship is a core value, a trade-off with leisure time or time spent doing chores might be needed.
We cannot do it all – there is no having it all.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t aim high and strive for excellence, but we must be careful not to fall into the trap of living by someone else’s core values and someone else’s definition of success.
Right now, we have the “having-it-all” culture shoved under noses constantly with “perfect Instagram lives” popping up on our phones 24/7.
We need to step back from that and remind ourselves that these lives are not real lives – the distorted, unrealistic filter has been applied.
Apply your own real, value-driven filter to the having-it-all concept and expect that to change as your life develops and your values change over time. Remember, what was important to you when you were 20 will not be the same when you are 50.
Above all, don’t beat yourself up trying to find the perfect equilibrium, because the scales are forever adjusting and life is a constant balancing act.
Life coaching can be a great breakthrough tool to help you achieve a better balance in your life and to define your core values so what you want and what you actually do are lined up.
I would love to hear your thoughts about “having it all” and defining your values, so please do comment below and tell me what this means for you.
Can’t wait to chat.