Many women cross my path with concerns about their abilities, about their responsibilities, about their levels of stress.
Have I been a great daughter?
Am I making the right decisions as a mother?
Is the state of my marriage a reflection on me as a wife?
Am I good enough?
These stressors become heavy, patience gets depleted, relationships suffer, and the strong, confident, kind woman, who was trying to be her best self, finds the days becoming more and more difficult to get through.
Many women have heard phrases throughout their lives that affect their vision of themselves, typically generalizations:
"women should follow"
"women always have to make a lot of sacrifices"
"women should be mothers"
"women should be feminine"
"women should always take care of others"
"women shouldn't appear too smart"
"women should be married"
"women should make less money than their partners"
There are many "shoulds" above, and, we, as women, often "should" all over ourselves. (Ellis, Albert)
There are many contributing factors to the "shoulds" including family, society, culture, media, "experts," etc.
So what's the right answer? How do we stop shoulding?
As many clinicians will tell you, there is no hard and fast way, though an effective and reliable way is psychotherapy. A close and healing relationship with a trained professional will change your life.
Here are a list of tips that can help get you started if you are not quite ready for therapy:
ask yourself whose voice the "shoulds" are in; typically they are someone else's voice that you picked up along your way
process who you really are versus who others want you to be
spend time alone to get to know you; journal your thoughts and feelings if you find it helps you process
be mindful of your evolution and create your own list of "ams": "I am healthy and beautiful" "I am happy and single" "I am a leader and don't always enjoy following" "I am competent and contribute a lot in my job" "I am the breadwinner of my family"
Stress management can be a difficult beast to overcome, and anxiety is common in high-achieving individuals. Asking for help in managing anxiety and stress so you can have more fulfilling relationships, a more successful career and peace within yourself, is a power move that you will never regret making.