Finding the sweet spot that lies between self-promotion and selflessness is the focus of this second in a two-part series on practicing happiness. To read part 1, click here.
Lately, I have been hearing from my clients that they feel increasing pressure to put their best selves forward:
- While fully recognizing that their peers post select images to show off happy times, women, young mothers in particular, still find themselves feeling a little down after lurking on their peers’ social media feeds.
- Career-minded women, including solopreneurs, are told that they need to polish up their “personal brand.”
- Like teens, as this article mentions, smart women are pushed to demonstrate their take-charge qualities and may feel that their hard work spent getting things accomplished goes unrecognized.
On the one hand, women are pressured to promote themselves, while on the other, they are compelled to be selfless. It has long been known that women are more likely than men to provide elder care and child care, and spend time on housework. I have heard women say that they would do anything for their families, and I have witnessed them doing all they can for their loved ones.
These twin forces can lead women to feel as though they have lost their “selves”—their own identity. As a result, they may feel dissatisfied, lonely or unhappy.
Finding the sweet spot that lies between self-promotion and selflessness is key. And you can practice this every day to feel happier. My specific suggestions:
- Self-assessment: Rather than spending time promoting qualities that you think other people want to see in you, look for the things, big and small, that you truly enjoy and are proud of. Then, find ways to apply your talents to doing what gives you pleasure.
- Self-guidance: Find your own moral and social compass. Sometimes, such as when they are extra busy, mothers are more susceptible to being swayed by the crowd. But crowd-sourced parenting usually doesn’t work in parent-child relationships, which need to be customized for both the parent and the child. Find time to center yourself so you know what is right for you. And when you do need extra help or guidance, seeking expert advice can save you time and anguish in the long run.
- Self-care: It is not selfish to take care of yourself. I’m sure you have heard the oxygen mask analogy (in case there is a loss of cabin pressure, be sure to secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others), which suggests that we will be better caregivers if we care for ourselves first. But there are other good reasons for self-care: taking breaks and slowing the pace interrupts the escalation of stress and any feelings of dissatisfaction. Getting more sleep helps to enhance your cognitive abilities and can make you more productive.
- Self-limits: Recognize when there is nothing more that you can do. Even when you do your best, you can’t do everything. Women often feel guilty that they can’t do more than what is possible. But you can’t force people to do things they don’t want to. You can’t change the hearts and minds of people who disagree with you. And you can’t fix everything. I know that I’m guilty of swooping in when my children stumble. Thankfully, my husband often steps in to make sure they have a chance to figure out for themselves how to fix their mistakes or solve problems on their own, surprising us.
- Self-defense: Some people are not worth helping or trying to impress. You know who they are, and you are probably trying to distance yourself from them. Unfortunately, there are people whom you cannot ignore: awful bosses who are unwilling to recognize your contributions and promote you, or “taker” family members who don’t appreciate your help and take advantage of your kindness. You can’t escape them, but you can try to minimize their impact on you.
Looking in the mirror is not always easy. It helps to have a trusted person to look with you. If you’d like to do that with someone with no vested interest except to help you, please get it touch with me through this link. In the next 10 days, I will be offering five no-obligation complimentary consultations.