The 7 Critical Mistakes Working Women Make

Recently Lisa, a coaching client said to me:”Iris, they lied to me. They said I could have it all. They said I could have my family, work outside the home and be able to take care of it all. They lied.”If you are like most women, you feel the pressure of ‘having it all’. As much as the ‘working woman’ is not a new phenomenon to us, this model has only been around for a couple of generations. ‘Women in the work force’ is a fairly current shift in society that became popular during the Second World War when there was a shortage of men. Women whose only option had been to take care of the family were elated at finally having the ability and opportunity to work outside the home and earn money. The problem that followed this shift was that they did not have a wife who could take over their duties at home. Working mothers now faced the expectation of handling both the demands of work and the demands of maintaining their home and nurturing their family. What was once handled by two people was now being handled by one.Whether you are working in your home office or off site, working for someone else or for yourself, you are bombarded daily with messages of how you should cope. If you look at the messages on the radio, television or the written medium, you are continually fed ideas that tell you:§ To be happy with having the ‘opportunity’ to work§ What you should enjoy§ What you should look like§ What you should ownNever have we as women been so inundated with messages that we should be able to deal with life’s demands like June Cleaver and look like America’s next top model. But television’s role models are often unrealistic and lead us to believe that we can have it all and if we don’t have it all then there is something wrong with us. I want to share with you the 7 critical mistakes working women make in their quest for having it all, thereby throwing their lives out of balance.1. Refusing to ask for and receive help!The first and probably the most significant element to having a life in balance is being able to ask for and receive help. Most women feel they have to do it alone. My clients often tell me that asking for help makes them feel vulnerable and weak – as though something is wrong with them for needing or wanting help. My answer to that is that the ability to ask for help is actually a sign of strength and courage. It takes a strong woman to ask for what she wants. I want you to look at some of the following areas of your life and see how much you take on by yourself:a) Family functions – do you do it all? Make all the food? Plan the whole thing?b) Home maintenance – do you do all the cooking? Grocery shopping? Cleaning? Driving the kids to their activities? Paying the bills? Organizing the carpet cleaner or the furnace maintenance company? Social engagements?c) Care of parents – do you do it all? Do you have siblings who expect you to handle it? Do you usually dismiss calling them to ask for help? Do you do more than you have to for your parents? Do you feel guilty if you don’t do everything for them?d) Business Commitments – do you ask for what you need or do you pretend you know it all and are fine handling it?2. Not being able to say ‘NO!’In my coaching practice, women report that one of the most difficult skills is being able to say ‘no’. It seems that saying ‘no’ is like speaking a foreign language. Most often when I talk with my clients about saying ‘no’, they say they are riddled with guilt if they don’t say ‘yes’. I have to admit that although saying ‘no’ is powerful, it does come with consequences. You get to decide whether you are willing to deal with the consequences. Most often, women fear that they won’t be liked if they say ‘no’. They fear that saying ‘no’ will also mean they are weak, so they end up taking it all on, feeling overwhelmed and resentful and wondering what is wrong with them that they can’t seem to manage. Just like the adage ‘pick your battles’, you need to ‘pick your priorities’. You are the only one who gets to consciously choose where you are going to invest your energy and where you won’t. There will be some areas where you are not willing to say ‘no’ yet, and that is ok. Pick an area that is easier for you to say ‘no’ to, such as:a. Parent duty at your child’s schoolb. Planning someone’s retirement party at workc. Being on a committee or a boardd. Planning the street garage salee. Planning the family Thanksgiving dinnerf. Organizing your friend’s 50th birthday partyIf we look at it honestly, we all want to be able to do something special and contribute to the people around us. It makes us feel good and valuable, but when you say ‘yes’ all the time, you end up feeling drained and resentful. I want you to know that by saying ‘no’, you get to save your energy, and ultimately your love, for the people and activities that are really important to you. Instead of being someone who is exhausted and resentful, you will be able to do for and give to these people in your life from a place of love and compassion because you have set some healthy limits in your life.3. Not valuing yourself enough to nurture you!The third critical mistake working mothers make is that they treat themselves as though they are second class citizens. Their place in the grand scheme of things is at the bottom of the ladder. If you have any energy left at the end of a day where you have done everything for everyone, then you will do something for yourself. Most of the time you are running yourself so ragged that the only energy you have left is enough to crawl into bed. When you continually do for others without doing for yourself you end up feeling drained. When you do something for a loved one when you feel drained, you end up doing it anyway but feel resentful.I borrowed this analogy from someone but can’t remember from who, so I can’t take credit for this. When you have $500 in a bank account and a loved one wants to borrow $100 for something really important you will have no problem lending them the money. If, however, they want to borrow $500 for something really important while you have the same $500 in the account, you might still lend them the money but feel a great deal of stress because it leaves you at $0 balance. Now, consider that a loved one comes to borrow $1000 from you for something very important. If you really love them, you might still lend it to them, but your stress level goes through the roof because you now have minus $500 in your bank account.I want you to consider yourself an emotional bank account. You need to make regular deposits into your bank account. These deposits can be the usual forms of self-care. They often don’t need a long time frame to implement into a schedule that is already overbooked.They can take the form of:i. a massage,ii. a manicure,iii. getting your hair done,iv. going for a coffee with a friend,v. having a warm cup of tea 30 minutes before anyone else gets up in the morning,vi. going for a walk,vii. a warm aromatherapy bath,viii. reading a good book,ix. feeling the sun shine on your face,x. smelling the earthy smell after the rain,xi. listening to the thunder and watching the lightning,xii. noticing the drops of rain on a plant after a storm,xiii. smiling at the sunset,xiv. cuddling into a loved one’s arms,xv. dancing to a favorite song,or anything else you can think of. You can schedule yourself for an activity that may take an hour or you can create a short ritual that takes less than a minute. The shorter the activity the easier it will be to find time for it and the more often you will be able to do it and deposit into your emotional bank account. When you make a deposit, you will be able to give to loved ones and feel great about it. When you don’t do things for yourself, you put yourself into deficit. Then you feel the stress when someone asks you for something and you give it to them anyways but feel guilty for feeling resentful.”Thinking about it another way, doing something for yourself is doing your family and loved ones a favor.” Iris Benrubi4. Not challenging the images, expectations and role models society gives you!As I mentioned in the introduction, we are bombarded with messages that tell us how we should live, and what we should do, look like and own in order to be happy. Consumers make a big mistake when they ‘buy’ the message (pun intended) the media sends our way. We believe that when we lose 10 pounds we’ll be happy, when we own a better car or bigger home we’ll be happy, when we get the boyfriend, get married or get rid of the spouse then we’ll be happy.
These messages are found both in the media and fairy tales, and they give us the role models that shape our beliefs and leave us trying to fulfill and emulate these often impossible standards that are set for us. Most of these role models will not give you a sense of fulfillment. They will keep you in an environment of temporarily being pleased and then looking for your next fix that will have you feeling pleased. This keeps you on a continuous quest to finding the ultimate that will have you feeling permanently fulfilled and blissful. I want you to first become aware of the paradigms that are being presented to you since childhood and then I want you to challenge them.a. Who says you have to be Cinderella waiting for your Prince Charming to save you from your wicked surroundings?b. Who says you have to wait to be rescued like Little Red Riding Hood?c. Who says you have to look like the young girls in the music videos?d. Who says getting botox, liposuction or any kind of plastic surgery will bring you happiness?One of the recent soap commercials shows how we are duped into believing the standards we see on television without challenging what we see. It starts with a close-up of a fairly good-looking woman sitting in a chair. Then the picture begins to be altered digitally and her neck and forehead are lengthened, her cheekbones are made more defined, her eyelids are lifted, her eyes are widened and enlarged, her cheeks are tapered and her hair is improved. Then she walks away. What we are left with is a digitally enhanced, ultimately impossible standard of what we should look like. We are left trying to achieve this, but we can’t.We have young girls in music videos who provide us with role models for our bodies. We have Xena the Warrior Princess performing impossible feats. We have Wonder Woman, who stops bullets with her metal cuffs. Now I know you and I don’t go out there and try to stop bullets with our bare hands; however, notice, notice, and keep noticing the images and the models that are portrayed out in the world and decide if this is what you want in your life. Challenge the messages you get from the media and decide if this will make you truly happy and if this standard is even attainable!5. Shoulding all over yourself!These images in the media, as well as our experiences growing up in our families, contribute to and define what we believe we ‘should’ be doing, saying and looking like. Someone once coined the phrase ‘stop shoulding on yourself’. It is these ‘shoulds’ that create pressure in our lives and have us feeling guilty about what we do and don’t do.I want you to challenge yourself every time you hear yourself saying ‘I should _________ (fill in the blank)’. I want you to ask yourself if you are really committed to this ‘should’ or is this some belief that you have taken on from your family, the media or your circle of friends? You can even reframe the thought from a ‘should’ to looking at the bigger picture of what you are committed to.Ø Should you make dinner tonight?Ø Should you keep your room or your home immaculate or is this something you can delegate or delay for another day when you are not so overwhelmed and exhausted?Ø Should you exercise or is this something you want to do because of your commitment to health?When you learn to challenge your ‘shoulds’, you will have the awareness you need to make a different choice. You can either replace them with another activity, choose to not do them or even replace the word ‘should’ with ‘choose to’. An example of this would be instead of saying “I should make dinner tonight for my family” you can change it to “I choose to make dinner tonight because I am committed to creating a warm nourishing experience for my family”. Notice the difference in stress level and burden each of those statements creates. Notice how different you feel when you tell yourself you should do something versus when you choose to do it. When you learn to do this naturally, you will experience great relief in the demands and stress life places on you as well as relief from the guilt that you carry with you.6. Not making conscious choices!Ever notice yourself driving from one destination to another without knowing how you got there? Ever get on the bus or subway and get so preoccupied with your thoughts and miss your stop? Sometimes life gets so busy that we don’t pay attention. We zone out of the present and get in our head with our thoughts and our to-do lists. Most of the time, when we are in our head, we are focusing on either the past or the future. This is an example of living life unconsciously. We are missing the whole ‘present’ experience. If you stop and take account of your life, you may notice many areas where you are not consciously making a choice, but rather have gotten into a habit of doing things in a certain way. It can be as simple as which foot you put into your shoe first, who gets served first at the dinner table, or whether you wash your face or brush your teeth first. These are all habits you have gotten into. Most of these habits are harmless and don’t impact you or the people around you very much. As you continue looking at habits you have gotten into, you may find some habits you have gotten into that may not be supporting you in the direction you are going.At a family function, Jenny saw her mom cut both ends of the roast before putting it into the oven. She asked her mom why she did that, and her mom said she didn’t know and that she should ask Grandma. She went to ask her grandmother why the roast gets both ends cut off but her grandmother didn’t know either. Jenny found her great-grandmother sitting in the living room and asked her why the roast had both ends cut off before cooking, to which she replied, “We used to have very small ovens in my days and in order to fit it in the oven, we had to cut off both ends”.The tradition of cutting off both ends of the roast was passed on from generation to generation without it being questioned. I want you to begin to question things. Is this how it should be? Is this what you are committed to? Do you want this in your life?Notice them and then you can choose to do something else! What can you do instead?7. Not having a Life Plan!Cheshire Cat comes to a fork in the road and Alice in Wonderland asks if she should take the left fork or the right. When Cheshire Cat asks “Where are you going”, Alice says “I don’t know”, to which Cheshire Cat responds “Then I guess it doesn’t matter”.Where are you going? What is your destination? If you don’t know your destination or don’t know what you are committed to in your life, you won’t be able to consciously create what you want. I personally am committed to having awesome and loving relationships and having fun every step of the way. I am committed to the quote:”Life is not about going to the grave with a well-preserved body but rather skidding in broadside, totally used up yelling ‘Wow What a Ride!’”‘and I create my life in alignment with what I am committed to. When I engage in an activity, I often check to see if it is in alignment with what I want. If you want to see what you are committed to, look at what you have in your life. You are where you are now as a result of the choices that you have made. If you want something different you have to create it and declare it.
So what are you committed to? Drop me an email and let me know what your life vision is!

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