The masterful way we women have evolved to keep the solution to our discomfort always out of reach (and out of our control)
At the time of writing this, I’m preparing for a trip to Gran Canaria for my 40th birthday.
I’ve been reflecting on all the ‘shoulds’ I’m supposed to want and have for a ‘big birthday’ like this – and noticing how totally unattached I feel to the stereotypes of ‘feeling old’ or ‘going big’ on some over-the-top party…
Maybe this is just pandemic-influence speaking, where we are all just learning how to socially interact again – but my only real desire for this ‘milestone’ – is the same urge I have every birthday… I want to be near the sea with people I love.
This year, I’m feeling especially pulled to be in the sun (last year this time we were in nationwide lock-down and I was about to give birth so there were zero sunny hols) and to be alone with my man (because, parenting).
So we planned a little 4 day escape to the closest warm and sunny place we could find with a sandy beach.
But as I prepared for this trip I noticed some behavior pop-up, and then saw it reflected in women around me, so I feel compelled to call bull-shit.
The anthem of over-achieving women
Specifically, this behavior is the habit of using ‘Yeah But’ language to push the choices we make out of the realm of our control.
‘Yeah, but’ is the anthem of over-achieving women who are not standing in their power or listening to their intuition, when they are told they should relax, take time for themselves or engage in ‘self-care’.
There is always an excuse.
A response when some well-meaning (usually wise and almost always correct) person tells us ‘You should really just…. ‘insert thing that would actually be really good for us here’.
The good, healthy advice they have for us is sage. It’s right. It would be good for our soul, our body, our mental health.
But before even fully letting the words dissolve from their host into the ether, we’ve got our ammunition ready to fire…
The yes is to acknowledge the correctness and wisdom of the person sharing – ‘I hear you’
The speed with which we say it (and dismiss it) recognizes that we’ve already thought of this ourselves and have calculated the 5,678 reasons why it probably will not be happening right now (or ever).
And then the but. Oh the but.
The but is the anxiety-ridden, fear-fuelled checklist of reasons (read: excuses) that this advice feels impossible, ill-timed, unlikely and/or absurd.
The worst bit is – USUALLY the advice is something we’d LOVE to engage in – but the ‘but’ is the reason we won’t ALLOW ourselves to.
We don’t ALLOW these things (which usually are for our own good health and wellbeing)
The but is a because.
If this sounds familiar then take note: Whatever you find when the but comes up is the reason you’re telling yourself you do not DESERVE this thing, whatever it may be.
Let’s look at a few examples…
‘Hun, you really should stop working and come to bed…’
Yes BUT this thing is done tomorrow and I’ve only just gotten on a roll with it.
Read: I am not allowed sleep or experience a normal healthy routine which includes relaxation because I procrastinated and now must be punished.
‘Hey friend sounds like there’s a LOT going on in your life right now, maybe you could get yourself away for a few days, just you, to relax and regroup’
Yeah I would, but child A has this thing on and I promised so-and-so I’d do x and the timing just isn’t good for me to leave.
Read: Everyone else’s needs must come before mine and because I said I’d do something I must do it regardless of the consequences to my health or wellbeing (because my health and wellbeing are not as important as other people’s and or ‘keeping my word’).
‘Hmm given what I’m seeing here it seems it might be a good idea to xy and z to give your body a chance to heal…’
Read: Even when a professional gives me sound advice (which I probably paid for, our waited for an appointment to specifically seek out) I won’t put enough weight into its importance to truly commit to it and/or act on it until or unless I MUST. ‘Must’ often requires getting VERY ill or losing something VERY important (like sleep, teeth, body functions, relationships, normal use of adrenals, or an existence without persistent pain, etc.)
What the hell?
If you’re a woman the chances that you are guilty of this tired trope, are about 10 out of 10. I’m not saying men don’t also do this, they do, but my experience is as a woman, so I can’t speak with authority to the unique internal conflicts of men.
What I also experience, is that as a woman, we are expected to be natural caretakers (whether or not this comes naturally – it does NOT come naturally to me which comes with tremendous amounts of guilt and feeling ‘judged’ by woman who genuinely aspire to spend most of their time with their children.)
We are expected to want to be mothers over building our careers – and we are also expected by society (at least in the Western societies I’ve lived in) to be the carers not just of our children and/or pets, but of our immaculate home and our partners – while (obviously) maintaining a perfect body, anti-aging skin care regime and consistent personal growth.
None of this is news. It just is, and most of us either accept it, or feel the daily conflict as we ‘but’ up against these expectations we didn’t ask for.
What if we just dropped the ‘but’?
What if when we or our loved ones (or professionals we’re actually paying to help us heal, grow or achieve) suggest something, we simply say yes or no?
While ‘yes but’ is in the murky middle ground between I will and I won’t, plagued with deep and heavy feelings of “I can’t” or “I’m not allowed”…
Yes is “I will” and no is “I won’t”.
These are definitive choices. These are clear commitments.
Yes means I accept your advice and I choose to act on it.
No means, whether or not I accept your advice I choose not to act on it.
Yes and No are choices and they are ours.
‘Yes But’ passes the choice on to the circumstances. It is fundamentally disempowering.
An exercise worth trying:
At the beginning of this year I did a powerful exercise where I listed all the people, all the businesses, all the repeating clients, all the routines I have in my life that I feel connected to or obligated to – and I consciously gave them each one of three statuses:
- Yes, I recommit to you.
- Yes, I recommit to you but I need help to keep this commitment. (and this is the help I require…)
- No, I un-commit. You’re deleted from my energetic field
This was a powerful exercise for making me ‘double down’ and re-commit to the things I’d said I’d do, or people I’d let into the space where I reciprocate communication and connection.
What is also did is eliminate the moments where I feel like choices are being made for me.
I don’t know about you, but I find the energy of ‘obligation’ to take up WAY MORE of me than simple tasks – it swells and spills into my ease and peace of mind.
This exercise helps us say ‘ I choose not to engage in ‘should’ or ‘supposed to’. I am going to choose.
This doesn’t mean you’ll never say yes to another person or task you don’t love
Let’s just be clear, sometimes there is just shit we’ve got to do.
BUT it’s much easier to do (without resentment or procrastination) when we feel we’ve chosen it.
We sat down, looked at it, and said ‘yes I choose this and here’s why’ – now, stop whining and get it done.
I also want to acknowledge there is a lot of privilege woven into the idea that we can simply ‘choose or un-choose’ – and me suggesting it’s just ‘so simple’ might make you feel angry or unseen.
Any of the biggest, heaviest ‘shoulds’ might be part of a familial, cultural, or ‘good person’ obligation – which makes them much, much harder to feel you have actually have a choice in.
There are very real, very difficult circumstances which aren’t going to be overcome in a simple practice like this (thousands of which I will personally will have no experience of so I cannot speak to)…
But what remains true – is that within the sphere of our own control, we all have choices. They might not all be easy ones, but you control you.
Beware the choices you’re making simply because the forces in your life make it so uncomfortable to choose something different, that it hasn’t been worth the effort / fight / agro / climb.
Also, if you’re making choices for reasons like family, culture or the type of person you want to be – then acknowledge that reasoning and feel empowered in your choice to show up as that kind of person, friend, mom, daughter, etc.
There is zero judgement in these words… just an invitation for anyone who needs it.
This is an invitation for anyone who is looking at a brick wall, to get creative about what stairs or a ladder might look like, and where you might source one… or the pieces to build one yourself.
Regardless though, I’d like to suggest we at least consider the idea of eliminating the ‘yeah but…’
Maybe reading this has made you already start feeling the ‘yeah but’ rise within you… sit with it.
Do you choose to take ownership of your choices with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no thank you’ or continue to let the ‘shoulds’ ‘have to’s and ‘not alloweds’ stand in the way of your best, brightest most whole, healthy and soulful life?
As always I welcome your thoughts.
xx – Nic