With so much more possibility and choice, it would seem fair to assume that women today are happier than ever before. Fascinatingly, statistics show a pronounced decrease in overall happiness among women. Why is this? Well, in addition to an already jam packed slate of obligations the average woman finds herself attempting to fulfill more roles than in previous years. This brings forth a resounding truth for South Asian Canadian women – many of whom struggle to strike the proverbial balance between successful career woman, loyal daughter, cultured wife, good mother, reliable friend, and wholesome daughter-in law. So many women find themselves walking the fine line between the ideals of South Asian familial collectivity and North American individuality. Often times, you’re overstretched and are bogged down by the varying expectations of those around you. Soon enough you’re feeling worn out and experiencing conflict in the very relationships that you seek balance. The perfect balance seems just out of reach, every time. Perhaps, in an effort to strike that balance many of us continue to sabotage our own happiness at its most basic level. Contemplate for a moment – do you really want balance? Balance would mean that you are all things, to everyone, equally, and at once. Sounds like a recipe for failure. Yet, so many of us seem to yearn for this sense of balance.
Moreover, women are astonished to learn that their pursuit of the perfect balance may be diminishing their worth – both as perceived by themselves and others. When you seek to fulfill the expectations of those around you, you set a precedent. Friends, family, and clients will often come to me in distress about their relationships. They give, give, and give to their loved ones with little acknowledgment or reciprocity. This is an all too common experience for many women. If you can relate to this, perhaps you are the catalyst in the areas where you have the most conflict. If you don’t first look within, take time to introspect, and respond to your own needs, wants, and desires then neither will anyone else. Essentially, if you don’t give yourself priority then why in the world would anyone else? When your focus is external rather than internal, you actively project the belief that you are not as worthy as others. People in your environment respond to what you are unconsciously projecting. It’s that simple. The good news is that – if you’re willing to play– this can be easily changed! It’s just a matter of setting and sticking to your boundaries. The rule is, wherever you have conflict in your life you have no boundaries.
Setting a boundary really means learning how to negotiate the terms of a commitment. This is difficult for many women who are instinctual givers. Start gradually with the people you feel the most comfortable with. Remember, a boundary involves commitment and movement, so be prepared for your boundaries to be tested as things start to shift. Soon enough, if you hold on to your boundaries you’ll create healthier patterns of relating to your loved ones, colleagues and environment.
3 Simple Steps for Creating a Boundary:
1. External Request: Once again, your parents are holding a last minute family get together this weekend. You had a long week and have been looking forward to spending the evening relaxing in your apartment with a bottle of red in front of the tube. Now you feel torn because you know they like it when you’re there.
2. Go Internal: Before responding to the request, ask yourself the following questions. Can you fulfill the request? What will be the impact of accepting the request on you, your significant other, your family, society, and the planet? Always ask yourself these questions for any request. Weigh the pros and cons and consider what is best for your well-being and happiness.
3. External Negotiation: Proceed to negotiate the terms. You could agree to make a short appearance at the family get together and leave early to spend the evening at home like you had planned. If you decide that you’re in no mood to socialize, then say no and stick to it! Let your family members know that you require advanced notice for get-togethers. This will set the stage for future requests.
Exchange your slippery grasp on “balance” for a strong grip on a healthy imbalance. From your laundry list of commitments and responsibilities, pick out what’s most important for your happiness and freedom. This will allow you to free up energy that is currently being drained in unimportant pursuits. Start by making fewer commitments to social events, take daily personal time to reflect and re-energize, spend time doing meaningful things with loved ones, or practice leaving your work at the office. To get yourself on track consider what you enjoy doing the most/least and when you are the happiest. Take daily action steps to find your healthy imbalance and reaffirm the value of your exceptional worth!