By Go-getter Kait Way
As women it’s easy to accept the influx of messages that are consistently targeting us: “You’re not beautiful.” “You need to lose weight.” “You’re not doing enough as a mother, employee, wife.” These discouraging messages are everywhere and unfortunately, while we’ve likely been desensitized to hearing them directly, they can easily permeate our thinking without our even knowing it. Surrounding ourselves with their anti-message, then, becomes a crucial survival skill.
We all need a support system that reminds us that we are beautiful, we don’t need to lose a single pound, and we are enough. And it needs to be a support system that’s noisy enough to drown out society’s messages of comparison and perfection as the standard—for your career, your appearance, your relationships, or even your hobbies.
My most recent struggle (I’ve dealt with many at one point or another) was fear that I wasn’t contributing enough in my career because of the pressure I felt to always be “busy.” I felt bombarded with articles about “how to get more done in an 8-hour day” or “10 ways to become more effective” and that noise started to make me feel that if I wasn’t swamped, then other people were outpacing me. In a year of my life when I should have been proud of my accomplishments—finishing my MBA, closing the largest deal of my career, and planning my wedding—I was doing the opposite. I was searching for more to keep me busy, instead of allowing myself the contentment of spending time alone and with loved ones for a change. I had so quickly transitioned from high-paced stress to boredom, that I believe I confused the absence of stress with a failure to contribute. In reality, I was still contributing, but my thinking was clouded because I had forgotten an important fact: Life is full of peaks and valleys. Whether you contribute while at a peak or in a valley, you are still contributing.
Through that struggle, I also learned that the ability to be content while navigating up those peaks and through those valleys has a lot to do with the network of people in your life. One of those people for me is my incredible husband, who somehow managed to master the art of contentment sometime in his childhood. I still have yet to scratch the surface on that art form (though some may call it a skill), so the balance he provides is crucial to maintaining my grasp on reality and what’s reasonable. An important aspect of that balance for me has been to slowly move away from social media and the constant self-doubt that it breeds, as previous posts on GGTW have shown. My husband’s stable confidence and steady demeanor ground me even in the most stressful times.
My amazing group of women friends make up the other vital part of my support network. I find that it’s crucial to surround yourself with strong women of varying backgrounds and opinions. When I look around at the women I’m closest to in life, I see strong women from all walks of life. From stay at home moms, to teachers, to chaplains, to company presidents and doctors. They’re all not only leaders in their own lives but they are powerhouses in building up other women as well. This is quite possibly the most important thing to look for in the women you surround yourself with. Do they build you up? Do they push you to constantly strive for what makes you happy? Do they truly care about your success and wellbeing?
When I recently met with my group of friends, I sat quietly in observance as we shared life wins, career struggles and fears, and personal challenges. I had to smile as I wrote this post thinking of the beautiful responses of joy, support, and true caring my friends and I shared that day. When I reflect on these friendships, I give thanks that these moments aren’t filled with petty gossip and self-serving “advice” like what I often see among the friendships of other women.
In fact, I have been shocked to observe what other women put up with in their female friendships…”friends” who constantly undermine, tear down, and instill self-doubt in others. These are not the trademarks of true, strong, female friendships, but rather an expression of low self-esteem. Being around people who behave in this manner will impact your own self-worth if you let it. So if you find yourself in one of these relationships, you can attempt to change the tides by building those women up. But if they still spread toxicity, remove yourself. You are worthy of positive support, encouragement, and care.
Remember, who you choose to invite to support you can make a huge difference in your ability to achieve your dreams. While it can be tempting at times to settle into what’s comfortable, challenge yourself and your friends to empower each other. And don’t settle for a significant other in your life who doesn’t know your worth and remind you of it regularly. Choose wisely and Go Get The World!