Money management is something most of us hate talking about. Just those words alone spark anxiety, discomfort and a sense of pressure. But the fact of the matter is if we want to completely design our lives and live out our dreams and desires, we […]
Month: January 2019
Alone time can feel awkward and uncomfortable if it’s not something you are used to. I know I would freak out at the thought of going out for dinner alone! Maybe afraid of judgements from others, maybe just afraid of doing something new and different. […]
Freedom is all about doing what makes you happy and living a life that makes you feel most contented.
Unfortunately, the way society is constructed can make it difficult to choose a life you truly desire for fear of betraying the ‘norm’. Or it at least makes it hard to not feel guilty about it!
How often do we give ourselves time and space to think about our talents and passions, and construct a plan to pursue them?
How often do we stop ourselves from going on adventures we seek, or stay in bad relationships for fear of not meeting certain goals in life by a given time limit?
I know I myself was determined to get engaged 2 years after I graduated University… without actually thinking about what marriage meant to me and whether it was something I wanted or needed in my life or not.
Or when I pushed for a promotion at work, knowing I was already in too deep and worked 7 days a week with 12 hour days. Just because I thought it would make me more ‘successful’.
Not only does living up to these societal pressures cause undue stress and negatively impacts on our mental health, it actively prevents us from living out our true dreams.
The dreams we have squashed down whilst living out someone else’s dream for us.
Needless to say we will never feel free when we are not consciously living out our passions and abiding by unspoken rules that we never signed on for!
So I thought we could start by discussing some of the main ways that society pressures females (yes, also men, but I can only speak from the experience of a female), and why we should start ignoring these pressures immediately if we want to start living freely!
Here are some of the societal pressures that I believe we should forget about today:
Money defines your success
Being surrounded by insanely successful friends I have struggled with how my average paying job compared to their high earning jobs.
Although I knew I was successful in my own right as a teacher, I didn’t always feel that way because I wasn’t rewarded for it with the money I felt I deserved.
This snowballed to me wanting to accept extra responsibility I knew was too much for me at the time, just for the sole purpose of having what worked out as an extra £50 a month.
But the truth is, success is far more than the figure you receive in a pay packet. It is the amount of people you impact, the positive changes you can implement, and your personal happiness too.
Considering this, how many rich businessmen/women are actually successful?
Money is not the start or end of success, so let’s not judge it by that standard.
Expectations of marriage and kids before 30 (or ever)
I come from a family where everyone did things the ‘right’ way. They got married in their mid twenties and had their first child by 30. And they are all still happily married.
Although I am really happy for them, for a long time I felt as though that was the bench mark for what I should achieve; and even though I felt resistance, I continued to tell people that I dreamt of children and marriage just like what I had experienced growing up.
Not to mention the amount of advertisements that put women in a motherly role in their 20s, or the increasing amount of people that ask me if I’m married or having children.
These are strangers that ask.
All of these things add up to make you feel ashamed.
But the truth is I am not ashamed. I am happy.
We don’t need marriage or children to be a whole person, and the quicker we accept that these aspects of life may not be a good fit for some people, the quicker we can move on with achieving our actual goals instead of feeling guilt over not achieving a goal we never set for ourselves.
Body image affects your success
Alright, you may find it harder to be a successful super model unless you have a certain look.
But what about the 24329453795 other things we can pursue that has nothing to do with how we look?
Thankfully this is less of a problem in the US and UK, but I have been really surprised as the pressure on women here in Vietnam to wear heels, dresses and make up to work.
We should also probably admit that some of this pressure comes from ourselves. I know I used to spend an hour on make up in the morning, whereas no one would actually care if I wore make up or not to work in the UK.
Instead we could ignore the pressure to look amazing at work and spend that time actually being awesome at what we do!
Others’ needs come before ours
I think my Mum might be the worst culprit of this I know. Going hugely out of her way to help other people before getting around to doing what she needs to do for herself.
And we often see women doing more for their family and friends, and guilt leads us to wanting to do the same.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful trait to want to support the people we love. But not when it runs us down!
It’s not healthy to just keep steaming through life until we face burn out.
Do you know how we get over this circle of wanting to please others before ourselves? Stop judging and comparing ourselves to other women.
Let’s stop trying to outdo each other and encourage each other to look after ourselves instead.
If you’re finding that life does take over and you give too much of yourself to others, read about some of my favourite ways to practice self care here.
Ignore emotions to ‘save face’
At work, or in our personal lives, how often are we completely honest about wen we are not feeling our best? Or when we feel overwhelmed? Stressed? Tired?
We might have a little moan over lunch, but its usually about small annoyances. Not expressing how we actually feel.
I know when I came home from work in the UK I just wanted to be alone for a couple of hours because I felt so exhausted by the front I had to put on to look like my ‘best self’ at work.
And it made me think – who in my life gets the best version of me?
It certainly wasn’t my family and friends. Because I felt close enough to them to tell them how I actually felt.
Yet my students and colleagues always saw the happy, positive and smiley version of me because I was afraid of losing face.
That’s not good for your own mental health or for your relationships with those closest to you.
If we are all a bit more understanding and willing to share when we are facing difficulties we might take some of that pressure off of ourselves.
If you’re feeling the stress from any of these pressures, know you are not alone!
The good news is that as a community we can bring about change and begin to knock down some of the barriers involved in these societal pressures.
Less judgement and comparisons to other women, and investing energy in raising each other up will only move us forward in society <3
As always let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Love and joy
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I did everything I was supposed to.
Went to university, got a degree in a credible subject, and got a stable job with a good career path.
That’s everything we should hope for isn’t it?
So why did I feel so unhappy?
I shook it off, got on with the tasks I had to do. Wash the dishes, hoovered the floor, work outside of office hours to ensure everything was prepped for the upcoming day.
All the while pushing down that gut feeling. The feeling that was screaming at me, telling me I knew I was meant for more.
That my life was meant to BE more.
But I kept going. I thought ‘Who am I to feel like I am worth more than everyone else around me who all have the same roles and responsibilities as me. And probably a lot more on their plate too’.
But it didn’t stop getting to me.
The monotony, the so very little time I had for myself or loved ones, and the natural stress and pressures that come with being a teacher of 300 teenagers.
Until one day,I snapped.
Everything I had repressed, all the emotions I knew were so real but too afraid to acknowledge for fear of losing face; it all came flooding out.
Lots of crying and shaking.
All because I knew I had trapped myself in a life I never wanted.
Some people very close to me told me I was over-reacting. That this is life and I should suck it up and deal with it!
But enough was enough.
That was the point I knew I had to make a change. For my own mental and physical well being, but also for every other person who has felt shackled down by the expectations society has of us.
Which led me to the happy, fulfilled and contented life I lead today!
It’s not an easy path, but it is certainly a worthwhile journey and risk to put yourself back in control and feel true freedom again.
So what was it about my life before that led to the cascade of emotion and events up to today?
Below is a list of all the warning signs I saw but ignored for far too long before I switched out ‘normal’ for doing me:
Sunday night dread
No, this is not normal. You should not feel anxious, upset, daunted, or weary of what the work week holds.
This is your life! WHY on EARTH would it be normal to dread it?!
Not spending majority of your time doing something you love
Everyone has got something they feel passionate about. Something they deeply care about.
Sometimes you don’t notice this. And that might be because we spend far too much of our time overloaded with things that we DON’T care about that somewhere along the way just… forget.
Inspiring people, world changers and successful and happy people do not forget their passion. Because they live and work with it every day.
Shutting down social communication
If you don’t have the time or emotional ability to reach out, it is the biggest red flag I know.
I know because I did shut down, and without being a total doom fest, it was the quickest path to the run down of my mental health.
When you aren’t thinking rationally or clearly, you need to have the support of people who are. They will be your life line, keep you in touch with reality and keep you accountable for putting yourself first when every part of you is telling you not to.
(A huge personal thank you here to those closest to me who have kept me on the straight and narrow!)
Becoming physically ill more frequently
If this isn’t nature’s way of telling you to slow down, I don’t know what is!
When your work makes you physically unwell it is a sign of physical and mental exhaustion that does not feel natural to your body.
In the UK, since starting my full time job, I was diagnosed with 2 medical conditions, where I was perfectly healthy before. Sometimes they became really hard to manage alongside maintaining appearances and performance in my job as I would often experience very painful flare ups.
Since moving away and reducing my work week to 3-4 days a week, I have not had one flare up.
No chronic headaches or migraines. No pain that makes it hard to get up the stairs or out of bed.
Now I am NOT saying that I have been cured. But I so strongly believe that stress and pressure had a hugely significant role in the extent of my symptoms, and managing stress and anxiety has equally managed my symptoms.
Pretty neat right?
Letting self care slide
Hand in hand with physical illness, when you forget to employ aspects of self care every day you can lead yourself down a road less prosperous.
And I don’t mean drawing yourself a bubble bath (although that IS a good method for stress relief).
It includes asserting boundaries, saying no when necessary, and not judging yourself based on someone else’s insane expectations.
If you’re finding it hard to squeeze in self-care every day, you can try some of my 20 favourite self-care practices to start making it part of your routine again.
Your creativity is stifled
Perhaps the biggest shock for me has been looking back and realising how much my natural curiosity and creativity was blocked in my previous job.
And maybe you can relate – have you felt as though you can’t get excited about much? That you stopped asking questions? That you don’t go the extra mile for your partner to make them laugh or hand make a gift when you used to?
You are keeping your best gifts hidden away!
Humans have such a beautiful gift of abstract thought and creativity.
If you have ever been told you can draw awesome pictures or bake amazing cakes… that’s your gift!
And your job is stifling that? Nope. Not today!
The good news is when you free up time and remove the stresses associated with work, your creativity and curiosity begins to flow naturally again.
Imagine what steps we could take as a race if we all endeavoured to satisfy that curiosity!
On a positive note, if you’re looking at these and thinking ‘oh crap, this is me’, your life is far from over.
It might even be the perfect time for you to make a new start and quit your job, or a small change to put yourself back in the no1 spot in your life.
Obviously I would love to hear from you if you have been thinking of making these changes and taking a step towards freedom 🙂
Drop me a message or email and get in touch!
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