By Geordie Bull
“My life looks perfect on the outside but I feel like I’m failing!”
I hear this from clients all the time – too regularly not to mention.
Their lives are full of all the good stuff: loving partners, healthy kids, beautiful homes, work they enjoy. These women are often successful, attractive and confident on the outside but inside they feel like “losers” (their own words).
If this sounds like you, rest assured you’re not alone. I get it. I understand the unique pain that arises when you feel like you ‘have it all’ and you’re still deeply unhappy. Here are my thoughts on why you may be experiencing this constant feeling of failure, and what to do about it.
1. You are living your life according to values that are not your own
When you don’t know what your true values are, it’s easy to allow your life to be driven by the dominant values of people around you. If this is the case, you’ll find your day consumed by tasks you feel you ‘should’ be doing without questioning the deeper why behind them.
When you live life according to other people’s values, you can’t express your gifts – and this leads to a sense of not feeling good enough.
I once volunteered at my kids’ school canteen because I thought that’s what was expected of me. After a week, I noticed that I was neither good at this job nor did I want to be doing it, yet the more I forced myself to do it out of duty, the more like a failure I felt. Eventually, I realised that I wasn’t serving anyone by being there and quit – leaving it to other parents whose skills, values and inclinations aligned with the job. I replaced that time with writing, something that both lights me up and connects me with other women.
What to do about it:
Make a list of what you truly value, what is most important to you. Take inventory of how much time goes into the things you value the most. Where possible, prioritise these things and watch that sense of failure lift as you do more of what lights you up!
2. You are doing too much
This is a big one for women – especially mothers.
What I find interesting is that most of my clients don’t realise that they’re doing too much – they think they aren’t doing enough!
There are myriad reasons for this but the number one that I notice is invisible work. Invisible work is what has been called ‘women’s work’ in the past, and work that is still predominantly performed by women. It’s also what cultural critics call ‘the mental load’. Add to that the ’emotional load’ – also usually the work of women. Invisible work includes all tasks that take time but aren’t acknowledged by those around you (or yourself). I’m talking about remembering your partner’s mother’s birthday and making sure the kids do their chores. The emotional load can include things like listening to your teen talk through her day, or dealing with a toddler tantrum.
When you’re not aware that you have a mental and emotional load to carry on top of work, family, partnership and housework, it’s easy to wonder why you’re so exhausted and overwhelmed yet not achieving much.