Can I encourage you to believe there’s nothing wrong with you if you struggle sometimes to make it all work the way you think it should?
Even when things go wrong, there’s still nothing wrong with you
This episode was inspired by (too) many conversations over the years with women who’re trying to “fix” themselves, who feel like they’re doing life “wrong” while others have it all figured out. I confess I’ve felt that way myself and still do sometimes. But what I want to tell these women and myself is:
“There is nothing wrong with you”
The problem: prevalent feelings of inadequacy and failure
“I want American mothers to stop thinking that somehow their conflict is their own fault, and that if they tried a little harder, got a new schedule, woke up a little earlier every morning, using the right planner or the right app, that they could somehow figure out the key to managing their stress. That’s just not the case.”
Though the article is aimed at American women, this epidemic of stress is certainly not limited to only American women. The article talks about how women blame themselves for feeling this way.
We feel we can’t keep up.
We feel frazzled and overwhelmed.
We feel that we don’t accomplish goals.
Other women seem to be doing it all (or at least doing more than I am).
We think, “What’s wrong with me that I can’t do what she did?” Sometimes we realize we have so much, and yet we feel sad, unfulfilled or anxious, and we feel guilty for those feelings.
These thoughts contribute to feelings of isolation because we feel like we’re the only one struggling with these thoughts. Everyone else seems to have it together in ways we don’t.
One manifestation of this is Impostor Syndrome, which we talked about in Episode 63.
One article notes that “over 70% of people report experiencing Impostor Syndrome at some point in their career.” Imposter Syndrome is something lots of people, particularly women, struggle with. Ironically, research indicates that highly-accomplished women are likely to suffer from imposter syndrome.
I’ve had those feelings too, and I catch myself thinking that way when things aren’t as together at home or I feel like I should do a better job of managing it all.
When I feel overwhelmed or feel like I’m not getting things done well, or can’t get myself to do something I want or need to do, I feel like a failure and a fraud. People assume I know something about productivity since I host a podcast on the topic.
What I do know has been learned from years of trying to figure these things out for myself. And yet, I still ask myself what is wrong with me and why I am not doing better.
What I recognize, though, is we all have areas where we do better and areas where we struggle, and that doesn’t mean something is wrong with us.
The sources of struggle
These struggles we have come from various sources. Most of them are from personal expectations that were communicated to us in our upbringing from our family of origin, such as things we ought to be doing or things we should be capable of doing, and we feel like something is wrong if we aren’t able to accomplish these things.
These feelings are also fed by the media. There are expressions of societal expectations of women in TV, movies, blogs, commercials, etc., where we’re expected to do it all, be it all, and look good doing it.
Social media contributes to making us feel inadequate. It presents an unrealistic view of what “everyone” else is doing and a feeling that we come up short by comparison.
Finally, we live in a day and age where there are so many opportunities for women, but each brings with it obligations, commitments, expectations, etc. We feel that if we don’t take advantage of them all, we’re not being all that we can be; we believe (consciously or not) that we ought to be able to do it, and if we’re not, we feel like something’s wrong with us.
As a result of these expectations and feelings, we have a harder time enjoying our lives because we always carry around low-level anxiety and background noise telling us we’re not doing it “right.”
We hesitate to try the things we dream of doing because we fear failure, looking bad, and not measuring up. Sometimes that comes from past experiences where we’ve let ourselves down by not keeping a commitment we’ve made to ourselves for whatever reason so we don’t trust ourselves to do it this time.
Maybe the worst part is all this causes us to put up walls that interfere with an authentic, deep connection with other people. This is a big part of why I started this podcast. My goal was to open up a platform for an honest and transparent conversation about these things, admit our struggles, and share our learnings with each other and bring down those walls.
Solutions & suggestions
- Recognize that everyone struggles. It’s part of being human that sometimes we do better than others. Some things are harder than others – harder than we think they should be.
“Insecurity is part of the human condition. In fact, it’s necessary: a healthy dose of self-doubt helps us monitor ourselves and our behavior, is necessary to spark introspection, and motivates us to grow and change. We doubt ourselves so we can check ourselves, which allows us to get along better with our fellow humans and ultimately keeps the species going.”
As the author of the article mentioned above says, questioning ourselves can motivate us to improve. Rather than thinking “What is wrong with me?,” ask yourself, “What can I do to improve in that area and take steps to grow and change?” Let those areas where you are not excelling as you’d like to be a catalyst of change and growth.
- Change your mindset
Become aware of when you’re judging yourself harshly. Pay attention to what you’re thinking about yourself and others. As you become more aware of your thoughts, be intentional about your self-talk: “I am okay. I do have worthwhile contributions to make to the world.” Then, intentionally recognize and acknowledge your strengths instead of focusing on your weaknesses. Notice your strengths and give yourself credit for them.
Annabelle, the member in the TPW community who shared the article that sparked this episode, shared how her cousin, a working mom of three, manages her many roles by visualizing having different buckets for different roles. She acknowledges that she can fill only one at a time, and reminds herself not to stress when one bucket is getting filled at the detriment of others. She knows that those other buckets will get filled next as other ones take a break.
“You will never become someone—you are someone right now…whether you influence millions of people or mean the world to just one person. Your impact is powerful, whether you realize it or not.”
- Try some of these suggestions offered in the American Psychological Association’s article (also mentioned in Episode 63):
- If it’s an issue at work, talk to a mentor about how they succeeded and get their opinion of your work.
- Recognize your expertise. Remember what you do well. Be able to honestly and fairly recognize what you’re good at and what your great qualities are.
- Remind yourself nobody’s perfect.
- Talk to those who’ve accomplished great things and find others who feel this way. Find similarities between them and yourself.
- Give yourself credit for your accomplishments.
- If it causes you angst or is affecting your life, consider therapy. Some therapists recommend a group setting in which women can see how others experience Impostor Syndrome. It’s often easier to observe it objectively in somebody else, and then apply that objective observation to yourself.
- Keep a journal of positive feedback you receive, including how you respond to it. What are your reactions when someone recognizes your accomplishments? Are you realistic about acknowledging your successes?
- Understand the concept of seasons of life. The things you’re not doing (or maybe not doing as well as you’d like) might need to wait for a different season. Also, recognize that the way things are today isn’t how they’ll always be. Our circumstances change and that changes what we’re able to do, and where we’re able to focus our time, energy, and attention. But changing our mindset is something we can do right now. Welcome the season you’re in. Acknowledge what you can do now, and let some other things go. Recognize that “not now” doesn’t mean “never”
- Recognize that social media don’t present an authentic picture of other people’s lives. We know this, but we don’t internalize it.
- Extend to yourself the same grace you’d offer your best friend. Give yourself credit where credit is due. Just because you’re not excelling at everything doesn’t mean you’re not excellent at anything. What are you good at?
“Pop culture would have us believe that adequacy comes from one of only a few areas: financial success, fame, career achievement, relationship bliss, or physical appearance. We narrow our own vision accordingly and feel hopelessly inadequate if we’re not rich, famous, powerful, in love, or hot. But these mainstays of pop culture and internet gurus are narrow and, truth be told, misguided. A good life comes from so much more: having integrity, being curious, a hunger to learn, doing things you love, speaking the truth, and most of all, creating and maintaining warm and loving relationships with friends and family.”
- The writer of that article also encourages us to “give our best self a rest”:
“Despite what every magazine cover would have us believe, it’s perfectly okay not to be your “best” self all the time. Too often, we want people to like us or want to come across as having it all together, so we end up trying too hard. But in pushing so hard to be our “best,” we subtly tell ourselves that being just as we are is insufficient. The solution? It’s okay not to push your best self out on stage all the time. Instead, just be your self.”
Please know that you are not alone in this struggle. Let’s encourage each other.
“Feeling inadequate is very common for many high achieving women. With the best intentions, your parents raised you to strive for more. They often raise us not to express our own emotions. This kind of upbringing leads to us not being in tune with our wishes, dreams, desires, and so on. Thus, we may wind up chasing dreams that aren’t even our dreams. Then we compare ourselves to people who are doing things that we may not even care about deep down. . . . Comparison contributes to our feeling of inadequacy. So, pausing and living more organically can help us feel good, just where we are. Figuring out who you truly are, what kind of life you enjoy and what fulfills you will most likely help you realize you are enough.”
What do you think?
Do you struggle with feeling like something’s wrong with you because your house and body and life aren’t perfect? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below this post or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or send me an email.
- Mothers are Drowning in Stress
- “Why Do So Many Women Feel Like Frauds? 4 Tips to Deal with Chronic Self-Doubt”
- “How to Stop Feeling Inadequate”
- “10 Ways I Know There’s Nothing Wrong with You (or Me)”
- “You Are Good Enough – Why Do You Feel Inadequate?”
- American Psychological Association Article – “Feel Like a Fraud?”
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