Their choices should not be mistaken for mediocrity.
Sunday was International Women’s Day. Throughout the news and social media channels, women from all over the world were celebrated and recognized for their strength, uniqueness, achievements, and ability to be anything they want to be. In more Westernized regions of the world, women can indeed be anything they want to be: Army rangers, lawyers, full-time moms, physicians, or sportscasters. This is all great progress, and it’s amazing to live in a time when women have so many choices.
What I find interesting, though, is the pressure put on women (or that we put on ourselves) to do all things and be great at all things.
I constantly read posts and articles about women who “can do it all!,” and these articles aim to pass on their wisdom to us about how we "can do it all," too. There’s the partner at the law office who leaves work in time to pick up the kids at school, but then logs onto her computer after they go to bed and works until midnight. Or the young professional woman who works until 8 p.m., says “yes” to every volunteer or leadership opportunity that is thrust upon her, and is a member of numerous professional and civic organizations. There’s the social media influencHER who supports her family by allowing the world 24/7 access to her life.
More power to them. These women are doing it all, and hopefully because they want to. But, what do we tell the tween girl who logs onto her Instagram account and sees all the picture perfect squares telling her what it means to be a woman of value in today’s society?
There are plenty of women who don’t want to do it all, but the media rarely shines light on them. Their choices should not be mistaken for mediocrity. Women are multifaceted and complex. Thus, just because a woman works outside the home, it cannot be assumed that she wants to conquer the world, climb the corporate ladder, or shoulder the burdens of the new age feminist movement. Likewise, not all working women want a family or children.
I am convinced women who don’t do everything are the smartest and most Zen of us all. In 2019, the World Health Organization recognized burnout as a syndrome linked to chronic stress at work. A 2018 study from Montreal University found that women are more likely to suffer from work-related burnout than men. According to InHerSight, burnout is one of the leading reasons why 73 percent of women say they want to change their careers.
What is a good way to avoid burnout? One idea is setting boundaries at work and at home. In other words, don’t feel like you have to do everything! In the book From Stressed to Centered: A Practical Guide to a Healthier and Happier You by Dana Gionta and Dan Guerra, the authors suggest that setting boundaries increases our sense of control and reduces stress. In the book When Less Becomes More, Emily Ley suggests setting boundaries in order to live a simpler, less complicated life in a world with sometimes overwhelming demands. Thus, the happiest of our lot may just be the ones who have mastered the art of saying “no thank you.”
Whether you want to conquer the world or would rather sit on the sidelines to cheer on your sisters while they shatter ceilings, know this: you add value to your organization and to the world. Women can be anything we want to be. Even if it isn’t everything.