While women have made significant strides in the workforce, the myth of “doing it all” has tagged along with them. Every stage of a woman’s life seems to have a preset picture of what so-called “doing it all” looks like. It could be the college coed who gets A’s, wears a certain size and style of clothing, lands the coveted internship, volunteers at a nursing home, is the head of five committees, and still manages to goes out with her friends; or the 30-something woman who works a killer job, never misses a social event, always has the perfect blowout, bakes her best friend a cake for her birthday, spends her Saturdays at a soup kitchen, and looks like someone on the cover of Shape magazine; or the woman who works outside the home, raises children, and keeps house while also keeping up her social life (and social media accounts).
Yet, there is really no such thing as “doing it all”—every “yes” somewhere means a “no” somewhere else, at least partially. After talking to friends and therapy clients alike, I have found that this notion does not inspire women, but rather makes them feel inferior when they can’t seem to perfectly juggle every role they feel expected to play. Saying “no” to these four things this spring will help us as women to be proud of the roles we are able to take on in life, whatever that looks like.
01. Trying to Get That “Perfect” Swimsuit Body
With spring break and sunny vacations on the horizon and the warming weather reminding us summer isn’t that far away, many women start to think about swimsuit season. And with swimsuits on our mind and all over our browsers, fears about what we will look like in a bathing suit often start to creep in. Many women curse their “winter” bodies and vow to have that six-pack by spring break or lose ten pounds by summer. While staying active and eating well are certainly good for our long-term health, when such changes are fueled by a motivation to look a certain way we put unnecessary pressure on ourselves. More than that, striving to change our appearance is often coupled with critique of our bodies the way they are.
So, this spring, instead of feeling like you have to fit some arbitrary standard of what to look like, try showering some love on the part of your body that you are inclined to change. Instead of trying to get those six-pack abs or slimming your arms, focus on loving that body part for a change. For example, if you have always berated your thighs for being “too big”, instead, think of all the amazing feats your thighs allow you to do. When you catch yourself thinking “Ugh, I wish my thighs were smaller!” quickly replace that thought with another thought (even if it feels foreign or forced) about how your thighs allow you to break it down on the dance floor, run to catch the bus or to class, or squat the most weight on your team or at Crossfit.
So often, we think that if we criticize or shame a part of our body enough, we will be motivated to change it so that we will finally love it and ourselves. Fortunately, the opposite is true—it is learning to love ourselves and the very body parts we wish we could change that eventually lead us to love and appreciate them. Geneen Roth, author of Women Food and God, said it best: “We are truly convinced that if we criticize ourselves, the criticism will lead to change. If we are harsh, we believe we end up being kind. If we shame ourselves, we believe we end up being loving to ourselves. It has never been true that shame leads to love. Only love leads to love.”
02. Buying a New Wardrobe for Spring
Along with swimsuits, spring styles will be lining store shelves and popping up on websites. After months of wearing heavy, darker clothing, it’s tempting to make an excessive number of lighter and brighter purchases. Add to that the fact that your Instagram feed will be full of high-profile fashion bloggers wearing the latest spring trends and that girl next to you at the office or in chem class has the cutest floral dress (“Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking.”). Seeing everyone online and in real life look cute and trendy can, again, give us that sense that we need to go out and buy lots of new clothes. But instead of keeping up with the Joneses (or the Kardashians) when it comes to style and spring fashion, take a look at the spring and summer clothes that have been sitting in the back of your closet for the last few months. Let the warmer season’s clothing that you haven’t seen in a while feel fresh and new again as you transition out of your winter wardrobe. Try packing a bag for a week or two (even though you’re not going anywhere) and mix and match only those pieces. Then, the next two weeks, pick new items to do the same thing with. That way, instead of looking through your entire closet every day, you will have limited options to choose from—making mornings easier and making every set of clothes feel new again. You can also swap or borrow a clothing item or handbag from your roommate, friend, or sister (with her permission, of course!). These tricks will have something old or borrowed feeling new, and will help you put on your metaphorical blinders to what everyone else (including that gal on Instagram) is wearing.
03. Social Media Don’ts
A huge culprit for that sense of not-enough-ness—like not feeling skinny enough or chic enough—is the world of social media. We all know by now that Facebook and Instagram are largely people’s highlight reels. Most people only share the interesting, fun, beautiful, or noteworthy life happenings—not the upsetting or unfortunate, or even the mundane and everyday events. And most of us, too, are familiar with studies linking Facebook to depressive symptoms. The specific cause of Facebook’s depressing effect is the “social comparison” it facilitates. The “social comparison,” that is, comparing ourselves to others, that social media makes so easy also helps to explain why social media is a huge contributor to the myth of women “doing it all.”
So what can we do about this, as ubiquitous as social media is? I’m not necessarily recommending that you delete all your accounts (unless you want to). But you can say “no” to the accounts you follow that make you feel “less than.” Is there a travel blogger who makes you feel jealous every time you see her latest location pop up on your feed? Or an Instagram influencer whose life seems too good to be true? Do a purge of the accounts you follow—“Kondo” your feed so you only follow those accounts that bring you joy. Plus, reducing the time you spend on social media gives you more time to get out and enjoy the long-awaited spring weather (or at least a little more sunlight). It’s easy to let a quick social media check turn into twenty minutes of scrolling mindlessly, and before you know it, you close your phone feeling worse than you felt before and having wasted time. Both Androids and iPhones have built-in monitoring systems for screen time and social media (try setting app time limits), or you can use other apps such as Moment. Try keeping your phone out of your bedroom at night so you aren’t tempted to do any late night scrolling (plus, you will sleep better with that light out of your face!).
04. Overlooking Mental Health
Speaking of sleep, mental health and self-care can take a definite nosedive in the springtime if you aren’t intentional about prioritizing it. College and graduate students have end-of-the-year papers, projects, and tests on the horizon. Schedules fill up with more social events and other activities as people come out of their winter hibernation. We start to make summer plans, whether those are travel, internships, graduating, or moving. With all of this and so much more, it’s easy to overlook our mental health in these months.
Instead, use the warmer weather as a chance to get outside and take a walk and soak up the extra hours of sunlight—even if it’s just for five minutes on your lunch break. As you start to get more invitations for social events and plan for travel, be realistic about what you have time and energy for. It’s easy to let the warmer weather get us excited to go, go, go (which isn’t bad!), but be careful not to overfill your calendar. Especially as stress levels climb with final exams or new work projects looming, take some time for quiet—whether that’s prayer or meditation with your morning coffee or a peaceful yoga class on a Saturday morning.
Whether you say “no” to any or all of these things, remember to choose your yeses wisely. Every “yes” is a “no” to something else—whether we realize it at the time or not—so be intentional about what you do say “yes” to this spring. And when you’re tempted to say “yes” because you’re feeling pressure to be the do-it-all woman, remember that no one actually does it all—and that’s because they’re choosing to do certain things well.
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