Strong women say no

Are you doing this? Running rampid through town, around the house and thinking about what you need to get done tomorrow – right now? Yes, I’d be happy rocking these pins too, but let’s see how far the chase actually takes you.

I’m the first to admit to an OTT work ethic. While it’s paid off many times in the past, it’s like a drug. I know it’s bad for me, I’ve tried to kick the habit but on some level the chaos feels good. See it all seems to stem from a list. On the fridge, in the diary on a pretty piece of kiki-k ‘To-Do’ stationery (I’m a sucker for those) the list of tasks looks so structured and organised, even complete, on paper. It sits as a beautiful compilation of all the things I’m going to get done that day. There’s a mindset that it it’s on a list it’ll get it done, I’ll remember to do it.

The thing is I never actually forget. Remembering isn’t the problem. The list morphs from the paper into my head and becomes tattooed onto my brain, not as a friendly reminder (the tone of these lists get nasty), but as a constant reinforcement of what I haven’t achieved that day.

My mantra this week has been ‘Get.Your.Shit.Together’. Last night I laid myself to sleep planning out the day ahead of me. How organised I would be to have vacuumed the whole house in the hour between Harper’s bottle feed and breakfast. I’d have a whole ‘nother half-hour to hang some washing, get dressed, make the bed, do the breakfast dishes, pack Harper up and drive to the gym by 9.30am. Anyone with a child will be shaking their heads at this and not be surprised when I say I got no-where near that list done. And so that’s all I thought about… what I didn’t get done.

If someone kept telling you about all the things you’d forgotten to do, had given a half-arse attempt at doing or just ran out of time to do in the midst of chaos, that is your day, wouldn’t you tell them to back off? Wouldn’t you tell them that the reason your lounge room floor looks like a creche and your car appears to have taken on a 4WD track is because you just haven’t had a spare hour to dedicate to these jobs? Or maybe you’d whip out your diary? It’s jam-packed with work meetings, doctor, accountant and school appointments, just-need-a-decent-coffee-with-an-adult appointments and let alone tackling you’re daily sort-yourself-out schedule. Wouldn’t this be your instinct?

So do it. Tell yourself to back the fuck up.

Let’s just be a little bit more realistic. The ‘list’ does not control you. You control the list. And no matter how hard or fast you work there will always be something on the list. So it needs to be managed.

A very smart and endearing CEO once said to me, “If I see you here past 5.30pm, I don’t see that as you doing a good job. I see that as you not being able to manage your work load.”

Ouch. This knocked my whole perfectionist work ethic out reception’s front door. Fear was my first instinct and I had trouble comprehending his words. In my mind working harder, doing things faster and staying up late to fit more in was a way of life, especially in a (often egotistical) corporate world.

It’s taken me many years, a breakdown, a couple of therapy sessions and much willingness to ‘let-go’ but I now understand what he was trying to instill in his team.

Your list is your workload. Managing your workload means managing the unnecessary, staying focused, prioritising and most importantly saying ‘No’. Now this isn’t another take-control-of-your-life-and-quite-your-job kinda post. It’s a simple reminder that day-to-day we run the list. We manage the workload. We say ‘Yes’ and we should also be saying, and be ok with saying, ‘No’.

And ‘no’ this very word is not weakness, a can’t-hack-it attitude or a cop-out. It’s a conscious uncoupling of you from the list (thanks Gwenyth and Chris). It’s permission, it’s empowerment and it’s ownership. Take yourself back to a time when someone said no to you. Didn’t you feel like they had the power and the say-so? Didn’t you feel like you had to check back with them if it was ok?

So here’s three ways (another list) to try to start taking back your say-so.

1. Keep making the list. But pick only three items for that day.

My lists are epic. They’re comprehensive, detail oriented and completely unachievable. Don’t do this. Set yourself up for success and choose only three that you can achieve.

2. Verbalise it.

Say it out loud to yourself, the cat, dog, the baby – whoever or whatever. The most important thing here is that you put it out there. It’s no longer just a thought, you’ve part-way actioned it.

3. What’s the worst that will happen. Really?

Is it that bad? Will it really be the end of your world (or someone elses) if you say no? Put your big-girl pants on and give yourself a reality check on the situation – there’s a likelihood you could live with the outcome.

So, with every email, phone call, load of laundry, trip to the shops or errand you run – take back your say-so. Say yes when you can and say no when you can’t. Be honest. Don’t ignore the deep inhale when you know you’re taking on too much. You are a superwoman. But even she didn’t have super powers to do it all.

 

Image 1: via Vaunte.com Image 2: simplyseleta.com Image 3:  Lilian Ricano Image 4: webjunkiesblog

 

Why you do what you ‘do’

Rock bottom. Ever hit yours? Ever crashed and burned into a complete heap? There’s a build up. A heaviness, like the calm before the stress-storm. It’s when your body says screams ‘it’s too much, too much for right now,’ but the mind says ‘you must’. Or maybe you’ve all of a sudden found yourself in the situation? You lost your job, someone broke-up with you (or you can’t escape them) or your cash-flow is getting pretty damn low? You’ve felt chained to the bottom (wherever that is).

Well, I’m here to tell you it’s good. Damn good. Get-excited-and wish-it-would-happen-to-you type good. In fact it’s a gift. While I didn’t know this at the time (and it hurt like crazy) my rock bottom gave me more than I could have ever gotten from a self-help book, Tony Robbins seminar, meditation retreat or whatever life-guidance tool I was grasping to at the time. (P.S No offence Tony, I’m sure they’re great, I’m just taking the piss.)

My rock bottom was the complete inability to control my own mental state. It broke me. Key words: inability to control. In that moment everything in my world was bad. I hated the State I was in, the house I was in, the job I was in and even the clothes I was in (given the latter a healthy amount of retail therapy kept me afloat there for a while). I could not stop stop the negative. Of course when you’re looking at your life through a perfectionist’s eyes, comparing it against a standard of rules and expectations, nothing will ever be good enough. And so, with nothing meeting the mark, I felt like I’d failed. I’d convinced brainwashed myself into believing that there was no way out, that I was stuck in this vortex forever and I should just give-up and accept the cards I’d been dealt. Depressed much?

What a drama queen. Really, why was my brain functioning like this? I used to be such a positive person. When I looked at the facts I knew logically that  life wasn’t as bad as I felt emotionally but I just couldn’t shake the overwhelming, all-consuming cloud that haunted me every day.

The thing about rock bottoms is that everybody’s is different. And each is justified – no judgement here at all (and like I’m in a position to judge!). For me it was loosing control. For others it might be having to ask for money, for help or taking a less-than-desirable job. Some things just seem like the end of our world as we know it.

Needless to say it was a ‘Hail-Mary!’ moment when, with the help of a professional, I could actually see why my reactions were my reactions. Why I saw the world around me in black and poo-colours and no longer in rainbows.

“In times of stress we revert to the opposite of our type,” my therapist said.

“You’re not crazy, you’re just not yourself right now,” she said.

After a quick Tom-Cruise-jump-on-the-couch type moment and a shout of relief that I wasn’t sentenced to this state forever, she handed me a Myers-Briggs Personality Type test. Seeing my natural tendencies on paper brought me peace and pride.  ‘I knew this was who I was,’ I said with tears in my eyes. Suddenly the why I was doing what I was doing started to make perfect sense.

Fancy knowing yours? You can take the test here.

Me? I’m an INFJ. I get my energy as an introvert, I favour intuition when considering new information, I use my gut feeling to make decisions and I structure my world by judging decisions quickly, planning and organising accordingly.

If you’re also this type it might resonate with you that we can be determined and passionate, have a creative flair, seem to be able to ‘gel’ with people easily and, as such, seem to be able to talk them into whatever we’re passionate about at the time. Those are strengths.

However, here are some danger zones. Without a goal or direction INFJs loose their sh*&*. What’s the point if we can’t see it, right? If we’re not moving towards a ‘worthy’ goal then that’s just whack. As natural perfectionists we try to match everything to the beautiful and unrealistic picture in our head. It must be ‘just-so’. Which is great, until it must be ‘just-so’ everywhere. At work, at home, at the gym, with our bodies, our outfits, our cooking for Christ’s sake! We fight for the ideal. Always.

This is why I was so crazy, tormented unhappy. I couldn’t see a clear link between my job and my career goal. Nor could I connect the state I lived in to the environment I wanted to raise my family in. I felt like I couldn’t ‘organise’ my way out of the situation so I tried to perfect it instead. I became obsessed with the facts of eating right, to the point where I’d decline dinner invites to avoid ‘bad’ food. I’d prepare the house every morning to a standard Martha Stewart would be proud of. I’d stay back hours at work editing, reviewing and trying to perfect reports sometimes days in a row. And I felt compelled to be out-and-about with work, friends or family events. I was becoming extroverted, super-sensitive, over-thinking basic information and could not commit to a cupcake. The complete opposite of my natural type.

The lesson? My rock bottom was heavily related to the way I’m wired a.k.a my personality type. Without first understanding why I do things, I didn’t have a hope in hell of getting out of my big, over-inflated, depressive rut.

So if you’re toes are touching the bottom, you’re second guessing your thought patterns or you’re just curious about yourself then start on a new little adventure – get to know your type. You’ll be kinder to yourself because you’ll know what drains you. You’ll be happier because you’ll find what feeds you. And most importantly you can be at peace with what you do. Say hello to the naturally perfect you.

P.S I’d love to know what you thought of your type so post your ponderings in the comments below!

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