Leaning Back…

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As I write this I am prepping to leave for a meeting in New York in the morning and coming off a long weekend trip to Texas to attend a conference, which capped off a week of lots of work, appointments, meetings, blogging and truly exhausting personal obligations. Oh yeah, and that whole “book” thing. I am bone tired; weary to the point of collapse and yet there is an voice in my head saying “You are not doing enough. Try harder.” Have you ever heard that voice? I bet you have.

As women I think we have it pretty tough.  I think we are fierce competitors, more-so then men in many ways, and we are easily and often overlooking our health in order to maintain crazy schedules, our families, friendships and bodies.  I feel there is this obtuse goal of becoming the impossibly perfect woman who has a demanding full time job, is a wonderfully engaged mother and wife, amazing cook (gluten/sugar/dairy free of course), attends five spin/barre/yoga/pilates classes a week, sleeps 8 hours, voluteers for the greater good  and is dressed to the nines and, while doing so, is perfectly relaxed. Namaste.

But no one can do all that (with out a team of full time personal assistants and nannies, at least).  In this Lean In era though, the pressure to do more and be more is everywhere.   I don’t even take time to draw in full breaths never mind meditate.  It’s not a sustainable pace of life and I am starting to feel like as a gender, we need to both lean in as well as know when to “lean back”.  I came across this article from the Washington Post about just this- the working woman (that includes you stay at home Moms) and her inability to stop and take in life’s true joys because we’re trying to do too much.  This quote in particular sums it up quite perfectly:

Americans work around the clock to be a success, wearing exhaustion like a badge of honor. In the process, they miss a lot of important stuff. Success is less about money and more about valuing wisdom and wonder, giving to others and well-being.

I’ve totally felt like there are other bloggers, writers and designers out there working until 1 a.m. and felt guilty when I turn in at 9:30 for bed.  I’ve berated myself for not more fiercely going after new, bigger business when I already have a wait list.  Just as I’m sure there are others who feel the need to stay in the office until 9pm and still get up for a 6 am run instead of sleeping in an extra hour, or moms who feel they need to produce some incredible Pinterest-sourced kids activities when really all they need is to put them in front of a Disney movie for a little and sit down with a magazine. There is this guilt associated with taking a break, this feeling that others aren’t and so you shouldn’t either. But in reality what we need to do is feel proud of what we’ve accomplished, keep working hard (of course) but also balance that work with more healthy behavior.  For example, I’ve stopped doing yoga in favor of working more.  I’m not taking that time to get myself off the grid anymore and it’s showing now. I feel out of shape,  sluggish and so much more stressed.  And while I know that my career and life are very blessed, that doesn’t mean I don’t feel broken from the pressure and pace sometimes.

So I’m asking you if you have felt this pressure and what you’ve done to try to get off the hamster wheel?  For those working busy jobs, how do you give yourself permission to check out? And of course when you’re a Mom there are no breaks until the kids are asleep or the babysitter shows up (this video perfectly explains that), but perhaps there’s a technique you’ve developed that helps you relax a little?  I’d love to hear what YOU do to give yourself a break and enjoy your life’s little details more and turn this comments section into a little tip list for all those reading.  Or perhaps a forum to vent, because sometimes a nice little venting session is the best gift you can give yourself. :)

 

90 Responses to “Leaning Back…”

  1. Zoe Royall says:

    I have no idea how we give ourselves a break. That is tricky stuff. I was recently having dinner with a colleague and they were sort of aghast when I was discussing some of, what I believe to be, my weaknesses and challenges. They said, “Wow. You are SO hard on yourself.” I think we terrorize ourselves with expectations. To put it eloquently, the whole situtation blows.

    I will say though…I’m a mega-huge fan of the LeanIn philosophy. That said, I absolutely don’t feel that it means we have to torture ourselves. To me, LeaningIn is, in many ways, lessons for the next generation. There are many women who don’t try to figure out where and how they can have a fulfilling career outside of the home, to the extent that they want one. When (some) women are straight out of college – single and childless – they don’t put enough emphasis on finding a career path that makes them happy, and that they therefore they want to nurture and work towards. When it is time to put more time towards other pieces of their life (relationships, child-rearing) sometimes women slam on the brakes instead of tap on them because they don’t really have good options for how to use the skills and interests they have developed. LeanIn uses the analogy of your career being a jungle-gym. If you have developed skills, you can use them in different ways over time, in ways that work best for you and your family.

    To me, I think you have an incredible career that you can take in a lot of different directions, INCLUDING tapping on the brakes. You have worked for and earned such an awesome foundation. You have the options that Leaning In earlier in your career has afforded you. Having options is what I want every young woman to achieve. The trick for our generation (30s and beyond) is not so much Leaning In, but internalizing that we cannot be everything to everyone all the time. Giving ourselves a break. Perhaps we won’t ever be able to, try as we might, but hopefully we will teach our children differently and they can both LeanIn…and LeanBack when the time comes.

  2. Erin Gates says:

    Zoe I completely agree, and changed the wording above to reflect what I was REALLY trying to say (I think it came across wrong) which is we need to do both! Work hard at finding what makes us happy career wise and then when we achieve what we were after give ourselves permission to take breaks and maybe to try to be everything to everyone.

  3. Abby says:

    I totally here you on this! I always feel the pressure to be working if I can vs just relaxing. I find what helps me the most is setting “rules” for myself. I try not to do any work Friday night and Saturday – I feel like I need at least one full day to recharge my batteries and I think I’m more creative after taking a breather.

    The best way for me to unwind though is with a good book and a glass of wine – I find I can turn my brain off more when I’m reading vs just watching tv.

    Abby

  4. Zoe Royall says:

    I also meant to say something that I think helps me! Stick to a schedule and to some rules. I find that if I write a schedule of what I want to accomplish in a day, literally a timeline, it helps me be realistic about what I CAN accomplish and also it helps me stay away from distractions. Also, I think it helps to have limits about social media, as far as the amount of time you allow yourself to be on those platforms. Same for things like no phone in the bedroom, no phone at the dinner table, etc. To be fair, I don’t stick to the schedule and it’s a battle for me to live in a such a structured way…I particularly love the social media distractions, which are the most deadly. But, it makes me happier and it makes me feel less overwhelmed. I honestly believe that, for many people, Pinterest is the hair that broke the camel’s back.

  5. Jen says:

    I’m with Abby–lots of reading is my #1 way to re-charge. With three teenage boys and a part-time job, often the best thing to do is escape through an amazing book. Tip #2: Sometimes I’ve resorted to having “errands dates” with friends, and those can actually be kind of great–we’ll drive around and get all our stuff done together and then have coffee or go for a walk. Finally, I can always count on exercise to wake me up to my life again, so I like to do that with friends and family and get that social connection at the same time.

  6. Amy says:

    This is such a great topic to discuss. It seems that the American work ethic can also work to our disadvantage.
    “The average employee in America has taken only 51 percent of her time off in the past year and that 61 percent of those vacation-takers spend a little bit of their paid leave doing work.” ABC News

    As a full-time mom, it’s crazy to see the amount of extra-curricular activities some kids take (karate, soccer, Spanish, gymnastics, dance- all in ONE week). Are we teaching our kids that they can’t have down time either? Is it so culturally ingrained that we program it from birth?

  7. lisa merrick says:

    Dear Erin, i love your talent and your honesty! Women are a powerful species! What i have learned is that we can have it all,.. but not all at once. After accepting that, we can” lean in”, or say ” not right now” and the folks around us just have to deal, Right! i try to always stay authentic and true to myself in all circumstance,with consideration for parties involved, knowing that i am not going to please everyone. Never let the world define you. i too gave up yoga for my business, right now,but the milder weather has allowed me to take walks where i can enjoy nature, see things i don’t see from the car and hear whats on my heart. it can be inspiring. Plus i bought a hoola-hoop!! Can i tell you my husband nor any of the kids can do it! But this ole girl can. great for the waist!! Anyway ,being creative requires pause from time to time. Load up the ipod and take a walk! Best.x

  8. Erin says:

    Awesome point Amy! As a kid I was busy but not like kids these days! I recall having lots of time to play- creative play with no direction from my parents other than to go outside!

  9. Erin says:

    So here is what I have found, with 2 school aged daughters, a part time job, a puppy and a husband who travels most weeks: you can’t have it all, all the time, or with out help. I don’t use babysitters but I do have a housekeeper. I don’t have a full time job but I LOVE what I do part time. I have found that when I set reasonable goals for myself, I’m much happier. I know I don’t have time to take a spin/yoga/barre class every day, but 4 times a week? Great. That’s how I give myself a break. I also give myself a break with an early bedtime, a glass of wine, and some Real Housewives.

  10. Well said Erin. I enjoy never knowing what topic I will see when I land on your page in the morning. You should know that you deserve to relax, you are doing everything you should be doing. It’s enough. More than enough. Take time to enjoy your successes so you will have the wherewithal to continue progressing forward. Life should be enjoyed, and moments savored. This is an amazing time for you, don’t let the enjoyment of your hard work pass you by.

    For me, I know the hustle to tackle everything and more importantly be everything (everyone else is pretending to be) isn’t going to make me a better friend, mother, wife, or get me more likes on my instagram page. I have to be true to what I need TODAY so I can focus on tomorrow. So, today I need to get my hair done, laundry, get my kids to swimming on time, doctors, and produce a healthy dinner for them afterwards. Or we will eat out because maybe that will just be easier.

    The goal is to have mini successes everyday. Whatever that means for you, maybe it is a quiet morning and an amazing latte, and that’s ok!

  11. Elizabeth says:

    You should read the book Margin. I’ve found that setting boundaries really has helped me with feeling overwhelmed. Small is the new big…..don’t say yes to everything. The stress is not worth it. You’ll end up overworked and in the hopsital….speaking from experience!!!!

  12. Ann says:

    If at all possible, try to fit your yoga back into your schedule. It will refresh your mind, your soul and your body. I keep this printed out and taped on my computer at work: “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” -Zen proverb. Namaste.

  13. Holly says:

    Nice post. Personally, I felt the least balanced when I had two very young children and worked full time. There was literally no me time because, even after the kids went to bed, there was laundry and other housework and husband’s legal briefs to edit (I was always a better legal writer than him). Now, I am a stay at home mom to a 10 year old and a 12 year old and still struggle a bit with the balance. I definitely have had to let go of any guilt over my ability to hit a 9:30 exercise class most days. My work day begins at 6:30 am and runs til at least 9 am with the mad breakfast/pack lunches/drive carpool/exercise dog routine and picks up again from 3 pm til at least 9 pm with the whole carpool/snack/kids activities/dinner/homework/piano practicing/bedtime routine. And in between I am invariably running household errands/coordinating household services/doing laundry/volunteering etc. Thus, when I hit that 9:30 TRX class or climb straight into bed at 9 pm with a new magazine, I now have no guilt about it because I know I work hard and deserve it. (And face it, we moms don’t get weekends or holidays off. That is where I could definitely work on the balance by taking weekends away from time to time, which I never do.)

  14. Liza Miller says:

    As a working mom of a 10-month-old, I can totally relate to this. I never feel like I’m doing enough. There’s always the feeling that I “should” be doing this or that, or whatever. I can’t wait to read more comments from your insightful readers because I know there are millions of people in this position. For now, I try to remember that spending time with my son is the most important thing. Everything else will still be there when he grows up, but this time with him is precious.

  15. Kate says:

    Last week I was in meetings literally from 6:30 AM – 4:00 PM and it all came to a screaching halt when my husband was rushed in for emergency surgery Thursday night. Literally while he was in a scan I was rattling off my to-do list in my head, kicking myself for going straight to the ER. Talk about gaining a little perspective and a heaping of guilt!

    Once I knew he’d be fine I was insanely relieved but of course I still had two pilates classes to teach on Saturday with no way of getting a sub. Did I cancel class? Nope and felt guilty the entire time that I wasn’t caring for my husband who was recovering at home and more guilt that I didn’t teach a class worth the clients $$.

    I thought long and hard about guilt on Sunday as I prepared for another whirlwind week. Is the answer for me to quit teaching altogether because of one bad week/day and just be happy as an engineer? Nope.

    The answer is to think about priorities in that moment and not be afraid to admit when you just have to cancel class. The other answer is to shut off the TV and stop reading crap that tells you to do more, eat better, meditate, buy this, wear that…of course this is all coming from an Engineer/Pilates Instructor/Grain-free/Dairy-free headcase. I’ll likely forget all of my guilt next week so take it with a grain of salt!

  16. Tricia says:

    Love this. A few thoughts…for me, having a kid has made this issue sometimes better, sometimes worse. I’ve been able to cut back work to MWF and hang with my son on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Even though sometimes the kid stuff is super stressful/draining, there are other times when it makes me slow down in a really good way. I get to spend an hour poking a stick into the mud, pretending to fish. There’s something weirdly medatative about that ;) We go for long walks. I get outside a LOT more, even in this kinda crappy Boston weather, and it does us both good. I don’t feel guilty about checking my phone now and then, because keeping an eye on work stuff,it is what lets me spend more time with him…but I also don’t want him to feel like his mom is glued to a screen, so I put it away more when I’m with him. (side note- I had to go out on my own as a consultant to do my part-time schedule…it is AWFUL how few flex work options there are and it is a disservice to everyone.)

    Also, one trick I use is based on my experience that in a given day, after I clear something hard/big off the decks, I am usually unproductive for at least 20 mins…mindless web-surfing, etc. which ends up making me feel bad for “wasting time.” So, I now just decide to something more fun/relaxing right after something productive…basically embrace that dynamic instead of feeling bad about it. I’ll send a proposal, then organize my nail polish or do the crossword puzzle for a bit…something that gives me a little me moment in my day. I just accept that I work better when I don’t try and be super productive every single minute of the day.

    Thanks for creating a space to talk about this here…so interested to read through the comments and learn from each other.

  17. Jenna says:

    I was recently discussing this same topic with my very wise mother, and I was lamenting the fact that I don’t have much “sane” time because I have a very demanding (and sometimes less than fulfilling) full time job in a society that often pressures Gen Y-ers to quit their steady jobs and start an Etsy shop if they have one bad week (not that I don’t love Etsy!), I’m a newlywed with a new house to set up and a husband who also has a very demanding job, and I’m an evening grad student year round. And you know what my mom’s response was? “So what?” When I balked, she rightly pointed out that everyone goes through busy and less busy seasons in their life, and the key is to just recognize when you’re in one of those crazy seasons and give yourself a break. It’s just a fact of life, and the sooner we realize that 1) the craziness truly doesn’t last forever but sometimes a season of it is necessary to achieve our goals; 2) embrace our limits as human beings; and 3)accept that no one has it all together all the time, the sooner we can chill out, stop being so neurotic about how much “happier” or relaxed we “should” be, and just start living the life we’ve been blessed with! Happiness is a perspective, not a circumstance.

  18. Janet says:

    I was much like this until my first child was born premature and had to remain in the hospital for 4.5 months. We were visiting him daily, and even when he was discharged he typically had 5 doctor’s appointments each week. This on top of a full time job, and I broke. I couldn’t keep up the pace and I wasn’t even cooking decent meals; almost everything we ate was fast food and I felt gross because of it. After a few nervous breakdowns, I decided to cut back to part time work. Fortunately, my husband made a good enough salary to support us.

    It is now two years later and I have transitioned my job to being part-time from home. I am fortunate to have the option; I know not all have it and it is a blessing. My life has slowed down considerably and I am enjoying it much more, although I have to say I am still hard on myself. I still feel like a failure if my home is not perfectly clean, which it almost never is. I still feel like a failure if there is not a perfectly cooked, pinterest-worthy dinner on the table, which there almost never is. I still feel like a failure if I am not dressed to the nines, which since I don’t go into an office anymore and instead stay home with a toddler, is of course never the case. But I am trying to let go of these things. My husband loves me, truly doesn’t notice the mess (he’s like, what mess?), and tells me I am beautiful every day. It doesn’t get much better than that.

  19. Maria says:

    Like everyone else, I don’t have the magic answer. I’m a full time working mother of a 16 month old boy. Life is a whirlwind. But I stopped trying to achieve “balance”. At this stage in my life, it’s an unattainable goal. Instead, I do my best to set some long term goals, minimize my daily stresses and simply do the best I can. Letting go of the imaginary, self-inflicted, guilt of not making it to the gym that day or simply making a box of Mac N Cheese for dinner once in awhile.

    Where I can, I try to maximize efficiency. I had missed reading but now do audio books while commuting and I’ve really enjoyed it. And I try to prioritize nights out with girlfriends and schedule them ahead of time. If not, they just never become a priority and I’ve realized how reenergized I feel after a good conversation with a great friend.

    In this Lean In stage, I find significant truth in “You can have anything you want. You just can’t have everything you want.” Some goals are simply incompatible — sleep or stay up after the little ones are asleep reconnecting with husband. Some days I prioritize A when I’m feeling especially worn down and some days I prioritize B and have a 4pm cup of coffee so I can stay awake and enjoy the evening. A & B are mutually exclusive, you just can’t have both. Accepting that has been half the battle.

  20. Julia says:

    I think one of the challenges is not only taking time to lean back, but first, taking time to figure out what really rejuvenates you. It’s not easy. For some people, it’s dinner and wine with friends. For others it’s yoga, or taking a bath, or having time to read a good novel, or hiking in the woods. The trick is to find out what it REALLY is, not what you want it to be or think it should be. It took me a long time to figure out that monthly acupuncture treatments are what infuse me with the energy I need to handle my busy life. Meeting friends after work fills me with joy, but also exhausts me, and I have recently given myself permission to say no to things that exhaust me.

    I think we’ll figure this all out…especially if we kick that awful GUILT out the window.

  21. CC says:

    I quit my job as a lawyer at a big firm in NYC and moved to a much smaller city with no job to have my first baby. Freedom! This was a pretty radical move for me (I was literally the head of my Lean In Circle). I can honestly say I haven’t looked back once. The keys for my journey have been to not care what other people think/to truly believe in myself and to be thrifty/good with money. I stopped doing what other people wanted and started doing what I wanted. Also, it seems so many of us work ourselves to the bone to pay for things we’ve bought that are wants not needs. I saved up and bought my freedom instead, and it has unquestionably been the right choice for me.

  22. Rachel says:

    I was nodding along throughout this whole article. You’re so right. We value exhaustion and claim it as a sign of success. The problem is we also overlook how we are missing out on the small things that make a world of difference at the end of the day.

    I was at the same point you’re at a few months ago and I literally just made an active decision to cut out the extra. Extra stress, responsibilities, activies, etc. I boiled my life down to the most simplistic form and started adding in slowly what was important to me. It really helped me realize that friendships are worth investing more time than another blog post that can easily take 3 hours. My attitude became much calmer and I’ve found that I don’t let stress hit me the way I used to.

    This is an ongoing process…eliminating the extra that adds in stress. If a friendship isn’t positively contributing to my life, I cut it off. If I over commit myself, I boldly apologize and back out. Its just that simple. At the end of the day, I feel better, I’m happier and I don’t feel the push to be that woman that does it all. The goal is to be happy with who I am and not feel the need to prove myself and this is exactly where I am. Good for you for making the choice to make changes. You will be so glad you did!

  23. jd says:

    Erin, I’ll start with, I’m retired, so you know that I’m not dealing with this anymore. One day (in a lifetime far, far, away) I was out running errands, it was mid morning and it was unusual for me to not be at the office. I opened my eyes and looked around. Do you know what I saw? Men, lots of men, more men out at that time of day than I expected. It shocked me. It rattled my cage. I thought they’d be nose to the grindstone. Ha! Not so! They were outside, driving,talking,eating…living. It taught me something new, that work isn’t everything. And as women we don’t enjoy the living moments,spaces,places that aren’t work. Believe me this is trained into us. Enjoy your life. JD

  24. Colleda says:

    I can r-e-l-a-t-e! I took a full time job this year, while trying to keep my own business going. Working 12 hour days with no weekends is the norm. You strive to get yourself to a place where yoga sessions, massages, afternoons off exists, but I haven’t discovered those yet. I feel absolutely guilty when I let my personal business slide because I want to go for a run, or read a book, or just get some laundry done. I keep telling myself and others that I’m trying to find a balance between work and life – but right now, there is no difference.
    Love reading and relating to your words, thank you.

  25. Kelly H. says:

    This is going to sound SO over-simplified, but I have just started becoming a “no thanks” person. I say no. To lots of stuff with lots of people I love.

    There is some part of my personality that HATES to miss out on anything. You girls are going to lunch? Sure, I’ll come! Do I want to run errands with you? No problem! Can I help with that committee? Well, I don’t see why not! ALL OF THESE YESES, and I am neglecting the family and home that I love most. And myself! So, against every ounce of my instinct, I say no to things that I just can’t fit in. And even some things that I could fit in. When I lunch with my friends and they talk about how BUSY they are, I just smile. I’m not, and it’s been intentional for this child-rearing phase of my life. It took a complete shift in my mind-set.

  26. Beth says:

    Go to church! Seriously…I would not even consider myself a religious person, but going to church (or temple, etc) and sitting still for an hour is great. Sometimes I don’t even pay attention, but I know that sitting there listening to some music is going to calm me. I also just recently started getting out of bed a half hour earlier than everyone in the house, and it has made WORLD of difference. I am calmer the entire day. Sometimes you need a real sign from the world to slow down…and mine was breaking my leg 5 weeks ago. I was literally forced to sit still, and it was great for me (not so great from my 1 year old though…but she adjusted too..she had to).
    Thanks for the post!

  27. Hollie says:

    This reminds me of that “pin” that was going around: “Stop the glorification of busy”. I have a two year old and seven year old and up until last month was working as a therapist. My two year old’s anxiety was becoming so terrible being taken to daycare that after a lot of prayer and reflecting, I quit my job to be at home with my kids. I’m just as busy but feel so much more peace. I get less time for myself now (not a lot of female interaction with my coworkers, which I miss, or lunch breaks to myself), but my son has done a 180 now that I’m home. I know not everyone has that choice, and it might not work for us forever, but I feel like we have to start prioritizing what really matters. My kids have more play time and less structured activities, and it seems to work for us. My break is after they go to bed and I get to watch Real housewives. I find myself constantly rattling off all the things I did today to justify my being at home, but the above mentioned pin often comes to my mind now when I catch myself doing that. Life is too short.

  28. Lacey says:

    Great read Erin! I agree–women/Americans in general need to slow down and enjoy life–I think we all are guilty of getting caught up with materialistic items and money. At the end of the day–if you have love –you have everything! Running and bootcamp are my de-stress tactics–which in turn wear me out for a better night sleep.

  29. Amy says:

    I have no one to answer to but myself (and some higher being) if that’s what you believe. I know what I need to do and what needs to be done. I feel no pressure from outside sources. I have had a VERY tragic time in my life (that’s another story)…sadly, it took (overcoming) that to make me understand that my family, health and personal happiness comes before all other things.

    Keep doing you Erin. You’re awesome. xxoo

  30. GP says:

    I have to say what concerns me most is the entire “business” that has cropped up around this “Im-so-overworked-need-to-relax” issue… Do we really need to pay $299-$999 for Ariana Huffington & her pals to tell us how to slow down and smell the roses? Really? Sounds like some are preying on our weakest insecurities for a profit… ? Maybe I’m over-analyzing…

    I’m not trying to be blasé or over-simplify the issue… but here are some of my thoughts, or things that I’ve learned in my 42 years…

    1. do what makes you happy
    2. surround yourself with people who make you happy/positive influence
    3. who cares what other people think
    4. stop comparing yourself/your house/clothes/car/salary to everyone else’s
    5. be satisfied with & appreciate what you have
    (and if you truly are not satisfied say to yourself ‘will my life really improve if I have X instead of Y? how? why?’ if you’re still not convinced well ok, go ahead and try your best to achieve X but don’t kill yourself in the process…)

    Namaste…

  31. Erin, this post couldn’t resonate more today! I hear you and feel you 150%! One thing that I have found to help a little bit is to create a reasonable to-do list each day or week. I used to create these lists that were 2 pages long and totally unrealistic to accomplish in a week, let alone a day. I’d leave the studio feeling behind and kick myself for not getting more done. I finally realized that half the battle was realizing that I can only do so much in each day, and if I write those reasonable items on a list, I feel so much better at the end of the day when nearly all of them are completed. Having more realistic expectations of what I can accomplish has helped me feel good about what got done instead of beating myself up for all of the things I wish I had fit in. Hoping this weekend has some rest in store for you! xo

  32. Kelly says:

    I think one important tool I have used in my life is to clearly and specifically identify what success is, to me. We all run ourselves ragged on this endless and often undefined rat race towards success, but it is important to know what YOU (not the other bloggers or designers you compare yourself to) identify as success. Is it to have your own furniture line? To publish three more books? To be in x-number of national publications? I often admire my father-in-law, who retired from his VERY successful job at the age of 55, because he could. He had reached his own personal definition of success, and while he could have continued for another 20 years and made lots of money and garnered more prestige, he knew that he had more than enough to be happy. (He had also reached the age at which his own father had died of a stress induced heart attack, and had started to watch some of his peers begin to have medical issues due to their lifestyle, and decided that that was not the path for him.)

    I apologize if this is too personal, but have you ever considered hiring more help at your company to alleviate some of the burden on your plate? I read an interesting article about Erika Powell the other day, and she said that one of her biggest regrets in business was not hiring additional help sooner back when she was running herself into the ground. I know you work with an assistant, but it may be something to consider as your business grows.

  33. Jenny says:

    I always liked the saying: “You can have it all, just not all at the same time.” It allows me to realize you have to prioritize at different stages in your life. And that is okay! :)

  34. Maura says:

    I completely empathize with you – I recently went through exactly what you are describing. Since the beginning of the year until the beginning of April my anxiety so bad that the front of my neck was tight with stress. It hurt to swallow, turn my head, sleep etc. The more I worried about it, the worse it got.

    You’re going to roll your eyes, but one of my friends mentioned trying to detox from sugar and I was so desperate that I tried it. I went on a juice cleanse for 7 days, rid myself of sugar, dairy and caffeine. I’ve managed to continued to eat a primarily plant-based diet after my cleanse, but have fish 3x a week. It’s working.

    I’ve been sleeping for 8 hours nightly, I think more clearly, my skin looks awesome and my stress/anxiety symptoms are gone. Can’t hurt, might help.

  35. Kathryn says:

    I’m just getting started in my life at 25 and am just beginning to relate to the questions you ask in these posts. I look up to your perspective and voice, and appreciate the thougtful responses of your other readers.

    For myself, I know already that when I don’t let myself out of the hamster wheel or find a more balanced pace, I end up with a pendulum swing of high highs of productivity, and then absolutey depleted down time that isn’t healthy either. I don’t want to be a vegetable! I still need to learn how to incorporate healthy breaks for things like pilates into my regular routine so that I stay going strong.

    Give yourself permission to do those things for yourself!

  36. Erin Gates says:

    Loving all these fab responses and ideas! And Maura I’m not rolling my eyes at all, I know doing that will help it’s just so hard (total sweet tooth over salty girl right here!)

  37. Lynda says:

    It is all in your mindset. Life is a joy – have some fun! If your priorities are the people you love and spending time with them you will make it happen. If your priority is work then your actions will reflect that.

  38. Nancy says:

    I’ve been struggling with this during the past few years myself. My husband has been in a few high profile jobs during our entire marriage, and travels quite often. I have both worked and stayed at home, served on numerous philanthropic boards, and raised my two girls (who are now young teens). I have a constant desire to Lean In and do better… but this past year has been a year of growth for me. I’m learning to Lean Back and just say “no” to doing more. It’s hard for me to do, but my church rector (who is also female) has been extremely supportive in sharing that we need to have personal boundaries in order to achieve our fullest potential. So for now, I’m ditching the guilt and embracing the “no, thank you”. I sincerely hope you find some peace as well.

  39. Lacey Saggio says:

    I could speak to this topic for days and days. My closest friends and I discuss it on the regular. It is so multifaceted and there are so many layers to work/life balance, our personal definition of success, and being truly content and happy. So, since you’re my friend in my head (hi, I’m Lacey!), I’ll talk to you that way, because, I don’t know, maybe I can help a little.

    Erin, your constant stress and anxiety is going to put you in the grave, girl. Look around at the beauty you create. Step outside of yourself and consider the thousands of lives you touch on a daily basis, even if only a quick shot of a beautiful space. I would assume it’s no mystery to you that you’re becoming your own worst enemy.

    Somewhere along the way, toward the end of my college experience, I had a pit in my stomach about ALL THE THINGS. Finals, projects, future career, where will I live, what will I do, oh and all the mistakes, and WOW WHO AM I!? Working harder, longer, over-preparing, beating myself UP. The thought hit me: I can only do in a day what I can do in a day. I can’t do anymore in a day, than I can get done. Because the time ticks down, the world keeps turning on its axis, and I can just keep on doing what I can do in a day.

    This culture sucks for women in a lot of ways. There are lots of judgey faced ass holes who just make us feel LESSER. But you know what you are NOT!? Lesser. Even if you sit on your tail for an entire week eating donuts and drinking coffee and watching mindless television. Because at your core, you are not worthless. You do realize that, right? We get to be lazy, we get to be tired and selfish and grumpy and take some time to ourselves sometimes, because? Because, LIFE. Because constantly feeling like a failure isn’t good for anyone. Think back on the things and times and people who make you truly happy? You know what makes me happy? Bathtime with my kids after a full day at the office. The simplicity in their happiness to splash water around in that confined space completely resets my compass. I look in the corners of that bathroom, at the dust, at the linoleum floor that I HATE, at the inside of the closet door that still needs a coat of paint, at the full trash can, and all of this in just ONE ROOM, and I’m like F*CK YOU DUST! I own my life, and you will WAIT. There is only so much I can do in a day, and I’m not giving up splashing and bathtime to clean the likes of YOU. And you know what, it waits, right there for me! I will do it eventually, and that is OKAY. Your work will wait on you. You get your ass to yoga. To vacation. To bed with your husband. To a park with your dog-babies. To the backyard. To your sofa. To the floor in a puddle of tears. You take your time because it is YOURS. Send it out into the universe that you stand at the top of your flow chart, not some phantom puppet master. You call the shots in a way that is such a blessing… and a curse at times. But you’re doing something right, my dear. Believe that!!

    So, that’s what I would say if we were real-life friends.

  40. Erin says:

    I used to feel the pressure to put my best self forward, almost in a competition way with other women…even just five years ago, but I think with age (and motherhood in my case) you just let it go. The only person responsible for how I act, behave, react, feel etc. is myself. I need to teach my boys by example and I want them to have a happy satisfied and CALM mother. It just isn’t worth it. I do feel that living in certain areas, perhaps higher income areas can give you this feeling of “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality. I have lived in these type of slightly upper class/yuppy areas most of my life and I totally can get into trying to make the impression I got my act together but as Elsa in Frozen says…Let It Go!!!! Can you tell I’m a mom?
    Who are you trying to impress, and do you really, truly, honestly care what they think? If you do, I think you need a reality check. Ultimately being kind and treating yourself well will make you the happiest in the end, not what your resume, or closet, or house looks like.

  41. Lacey Saggio says:

    ^ LOVE!

  42. Lauren says:

    Erin! Love your blog and your candor.

    Funny enough I am reading it on my ipad atv1:30 on a wednesday afternoon bc it is about to be nap time but I wanted to check in on my fave blog for eye candy first.

    As a woman who has run her own business for nearly 10 years, who has a life, hubs, a gestating baby and a desire to be fit, here’s what has worked for me:

    1. Slowing down to speed up. When I consciously slowed down this spring (to meditate, nap and exercise) my work life stayed good. In fact it got better! It’s something I think you must try in order to trust the results for yourself but for me it’s been a turning point. We have a fear that if we don’t try to do it all then everything will go to shit. I am living proof that it is the opposite! Slowing down just clarifies priorities and opens you nd your calendar up for the most high impact opportunities. Also, no more early am flights. Ever.

    2. I can’t do it all. I have a personal assistant and an admin asst. I have a housekeeper who will soon come twice a week. I don’t cook a ton other than my own breakfast and on weekends w my man. We eat out or healthy whole foods take out.that may have to change w a baby but I suspect we will work around it.

    3. Practicing More Than Enough. Feeling Not Good Enough is a chronic condition that leads to chronic dissatisfaction and burnout. With an awareness around the things, ideas, feelings, people and activities that fill me up and make me feel More Than Enough, I can be on the lookout for the appearance of Not Good Enough and head it off at the pass.

    Circling back to my practice of Enoughness has been crucial to my own contentment and joy regardless of what’s going on in my biz/life.

    Good luck. You are a brave woman!!!

  43. Caroline says:

    This is what I wrote today on my FB page:

    “While Sheryl Sandberg focuses on the word Bossy (which I applaud), along with author Brigid Schulte, I will be focusing on another “B” word — Busy. Instead of wearing Busy as a badge of honor, let’s turn it on it’s head. Next time you see someone who asks you how you are, make sure you can say with a smile and confidence, “Great, I’m not so busy!” Welcome to genuine and mindful work, life, and play balance, all equally deserved. Will you join me?”

    I don’t want to be a person that always has to be “doing something” or I feel badly and guilty. That is how it’s been for the past thirty years. Honestly, it’s not good enough. Brigid Schulte’s book, “Overwhelmed” is really fascinating and you might like to read it.

  44. Amy says:

    “F@%# YOU, DUST!” has just become my new mantra!

    Lacey, you are a wise woman!

  45. Kelly says:

    Erin, this is a great conversation. I think that our 30′s are the season of life where we are working the hardest at building careers, starting families, raising families, buying houses, establishing homes, in essence, moving our lives forward toward our goals. And it is hard, hard work to make all of those things happen and keep the plates spinning, but it is worth it for the next season and the season after that. In today’s society, we are constantly on and connected and it makes us all think that the minute the phone rings or the email notification pops up we have to answer and that to me is exhausting. We need to set boundaries for ourselves and once we establish those boundaries people will adjust. Maybe that looks like an auto-reply on email after 5:00 that says I will get back to you tomorrow. Maybe that looks like an answering service for your business on evenings and weekends where someone who calls in gets a live person to talk to. We use it in our business and it is very effective. Clients are happy to talk to an actual person and we can know that calls are being handled without having to worry about voicemail filling up. You can and will make it to the next season and you will be grateful for the lessons of this one! You are doing great and you are enough.

  46. Christy says:

    Great post and great discussion. I am a stay at home mom of two small children, ages 7 months and 25 months. There are virtually no breaks during my day which starts at 5 am sharp, not to mention the midnight bottle feeding. At this point in my life, all I can do is try and savor small pleasures…an uninterrupted cup of tea, a bike ride after the girls go to bed (energy permitting), a fresh copy of House Beautiful and a half hour to peruse its pages, etc. I do the same thing when it comes to my children. We may have a day full of ups and downs, but I remember to pause and really savor the joyful moments, like when both of my girls giggle as I reenact scenes from Frozen, or when my two year old tries her best to ‘play’ with her little sister. As women, we certainly have a tendency to overreach (thanks a lot Pinterest!) and produce a picture perfect lifestyle. Instead, we should be enjoying these moments in our career and our family and our lives.

  47. callie says:

    Great post! I wanted to write a quick note to say that I think you are already doing so much more than so many of us! You’re an inspiration. Don’t tire yourself doing what you love.

  48. Stephanie says:

    Unlike many others here, I absolutely cannot relate to workaholism. I just don’t understand it. To me, any time outside of the mandatory 40 hours a week (which I still think is too much!) is ME time. I’m a total clock watcher and I’m outta here every day by 5 to go to the gym. Sorry I’m not sorry ;) On the other hand, I’m stuck in a good but dead end job that I don’t enjoy, so I’ve got that going for me… But I can’t think of anything I’d like better so it’s not worth putting in extra time. I do feel overwhelmed at home sometimes – I own a home and live (mostly) alone and it’s all I can do to keep things running and somewhat clean, and myself and the dog fed. Especially this time of year when when yard work takes over the weekend. So long story short, I guess I recommend the “sorry I’m not sorry” attitude :)

  49. Andrew Gates says:

    I am sure this isn’t earth shattering news to anyone, but a lot of this is we know TOO much about what everyone else is doing. Spend any time on FaceBook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc and you see this person on vacation, that person just got promoted, these people just had twins, your neighbor is re-doing their bathroom, that kid is an honor student, this guy just invented something and became a billionaire, etc.

    And what happens is we combine all of those amazing, but singular, events into one idea of what everyone else but me is doing with their life. Everyone else is always on vacation, gets promoted every month, is building their dream house, has two perfect kids, one of whom is the next Michael Jordan and the other the next Picasso and so on. We never know the struggles, failures, fears, etc. The stuff we all go through but would never want to share publicly. It is really hard today to find a way to keep a perspective on life that doesn’t make you feel inadequate. Not to mention that being inadequate at some things is perfectly fine. The superwoman you’ve described doesn’t exist. It just feels like she does…and you are the only one without those powers.

    In my completely unbiased opinion, you are superwoman. Our biggest fights revolve around you not understanding how amazing you are and how hard it is for me for you not to see that. It takes work to find the balance of feeling good about who you are and to keep striving to improve. You’ll find it.