Embedded between business meetings, diaper changes and the bedroom sheets is the question that has most people hustling in circles to find the answer: how can we have it all? Societal expectations have framed all of us to try to reach an unattainable goal, and for many, that stress can be hard to bear. Whether it’s striking the perfect balance between parenthood and a career, achieving and maintaining a perfect body, or being the perfect partner to their spouse, women and men are often left overworked, exhausted and disillusioned from trying to reach this ideal.
Along with the pressure of measuring up to societal expectations comes the struggle within ourselves that this “goal” may not be exactly what we want in life. What if “having it all” means having no kids and focusing on our careers? Or being a stay-at-home parent who homeschools their children? No chosen path is wrong, yet we have been led to believe it is.
Any thoughts outside of society’s standards are immediately vilified and labeled as selfish. While we want to try to make our own way, women and men fall victim to feeling major guilt when our dreams differ from what is expected of us. It is a storyline that millions have struggled with, but find difficulty breaking free from. How do we become good enough, successful enough, strong enough to assuage this guilt? Although never easy, we must learn to challenge and change these expectations so that we can live our lives happy and (dare we say it?) guilt-free.
It begins with a simple indulgence. We need to come to terms with our own personal and career goals. The best way to figure this out is to write it down. What are our ultimate life goals? We need to take this time to be honest with ourselves and really think about what we want to accomplish in life. Whether it’s to own a business, start a family or pay off student loans, figuring out our goals is the first step in ending unnecessary societal expectations.
After the goals have been written down, it’s time to address the guilt. Guilt is a nuanced emotion that takes a lot of deep thinking to understand. Why do we feel guilty? It may be internal or it may be encouraged by other people, but guilt has long been the guiding factor in society’s expectations. Once we dig deep and work to understand who, why and what makes us feel guilty, we can learn to overcome it by consciously making an effort to focus on and achieve our goals. By following our passions, we open ourselves up to happiness, which in turn, will help put a stop to guilt.
Above all, we need to keep it in perspective. Knowing we lived our lives to our own expectations, and no one else’s, means we can have a happy, fulfilled life that will be an important lesson for all future generations to learn. We owe it to ourselves to show society that we can “have it all” – whatever we decide that “all” happens to mean!