By Kaitlin Soule, LMFT
As a therapist, I am honored to get to take the window view when it comes to seeing brave women do the work of reshaping the narratives that keep them feeling stuck and playing small. As a mom to three, and a woman who grew up in the same world my client’s did, I also know what it feels like in my bones to try and “do it all, and be it all.”
While I make a living by doing the “work” of therapy, which I’ve come to understand as the art of guiding people home to the truth that they’re worthy and already enough, I’ve battled with so many of the same beliefs that keep me from saying “yes” to myself. Underneath our difficulty to honor and care for ourselves, and live creative lives is this damaging, age-old societal belief that being “selfless” is the gold standard for women.
When we’re giving ourselves to everyone and everything besides ourselves, we’re seen as valuable, loving, and caring, and they may even call us “supermom,” or “superwoman.” But here’s the truth; while that might feel temporarily validating (like we’ve gotten the gold star) it doesn’t provide lasting fulfillment. Instead, abandoning ourselves for the sake of altruistic and unrealistic notions of what it means to be a “good woman,” often takes us down a short path towards an identity crisis, feelings of resentment, anxiety, burnout, and even depression.
In fact, according to the CDC, 1 in 5 US women between the ages of 40-59 take antidepressants, almost triple the rate of men. Coincidentally, this is prime age for when women are generally at the peak of their careers, but also trying to juggle their other care-taking responsibilities like children, and aging parents.
Women get so many toxic messages about what we are “supposed” to do and what values we’re supposed to hold in order to get the (thankless) title of “good mom” or caretaker that we start to feel a sense of guilt, or even shame, when we dare get curious about ourselves or prioritize our own growth- and the kicker is, we wouldn’t want that for our children…would we?
In my book, A Little Less Of A Hot Mess: The Modern Mom’s Guide to Growth and Evolution, I walk women through the work of understanding how their thoughts and beliefs (also referred to as narratives) inform the things they do, and the way they feel, and then how to challenge and change them. When we start challenging and changing our narrative, we are free to live more in line with our actual core values (creativity, adventure, freedom, connection, etc) and let go of the “shoulds”.
When we let go of the “shoulds,” we honor ourselves better. When we honor ourselves better, we honor our children better, our partners better and our life’s purpose too.
Ultimately, saying “yes” to ourselves will often mean getting good at saying “no” to the people, places and things that no longer serve us - and that’s not easy work…but I also believe that it’s life changing, and maybe even life saving work.
Kaitlin Soule is a Therapist specializing in women’s mental health, motherhood, parenting, and anxiety. She wrote A Little Less of a Hot Mess to invite women to reclaim their identity and improve their mental health with a practical framework called imperfect growth and evolution™. Kaitlin is also a mom to three, writer, speaker, and media contributor. Kaitlin is on a mission to empower modern women and elevate conversations around mental health care so we can thrive at home, at work, and beyond.