They say the future is female and all around, we see incredible women doing amazing things: in politics, entertainment, activism, writing and so much more. It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of admiration. If you’re like me, you think, I’m so inspired!
Maybe I can be just like her! I should go back to school, run for office, start that business, complete a marathon, write that bestseller and homeschool the kids. And then, if you’re me, you also think, maybe I could do it all at the same time and ‘finish’ faster than anyone else in history.
Over time, I’ve come to recognize that these manic musings are just a manifestation of the life my fantasy self lives. We all have a fantasy self; an image of the person we’d be if only we had all the time and money in the world, with none of the responsibilities.
My fantasy self is a bestselling writer who lives on a tropical island. Unlike me, she enjoys gardening. She works out early in the morning. She has a tight circle of friends she sees regularly, never having to schedule plans weeks or months in advance. She never uses her phone during family time. She goes to every school and extracurricular function.
I certainly enjoy snippets of her life but in the end, it’s true that while we can often have anything we want, we can’t have everything we want. So how do you make the distinction between what you really want versus what you want for your fantasy self? And how do you keep from feeling bad about not accomplishing everything you think you ‘should’ do?
Good For Her, Not For Me
While reading Amy Poehler’s memoir Yes, Please, I was struck by a section where she writes about the idea of ‘good for her, not for me’. The way she uses the phrase, it’s in the sense of not judging other women for the choices they make. Essentially, she’s saying that unless someone else’s decision directly affects your life, let it be.
But I like to use it in a different way; referring to the idea that while some people enjoy doing things that we think we’d also enjoy, sometimes it’s not a great fit. What’s good for someone else might only be good for us in theory. So, when I find myself overcome with admiration, I stop for a moment to assess my already full, satisfying life.
Taking the time to do this is two-fold; it often keeps me from overcommitting to something in the heat of the moment and it makes me grateful for what I already have and do. I can celebrate other women for their own achievements while still feeling confident in the choices I’ve made.
Pause for Passion Perspective
It’s easy for me to tell you to take a deep breath or ‘sleep on it’ before you commit to anything new. But sometimes things move so quickly and before you know it, you’ve gotten swept up in the moment before you’ve had a chance to really assess what you want. Here’s my advice for avoiding obligation regret or worse, obligation rebellion!
- Always ask for time to think about the opportunity, even if it seems like a minor request. A simple way to do this is to tell the other person you need to review your calendar and you’ll get back to them the next day.
- Another trick is to pretend that a project or event is taking place in a few days, even if it’s not happening for a few months. Thinking about whether you’d want to attend something next week will help reveal whether you have to stamina to remain interested in the long run.
- Take time for some soul searching. Ask yourself if what you’re feeling is a true passion or if you’re caught up in the moment. And a special side note for when you’re making a child-centered decision: make sure you check in with your child to see if the commitment you’re about to make will even be appreciated! I’ve definitely joined projects and led efforts that I assumed my child would be thrilled about, only to learn he never noticed my efforts or would have preferred to spend that time with me!
Use Envy for Good
Envy often gets a bad rap but I think it can be a powerful tool in determining whether to pursue something that has inspired you. If you find yourself jealous of someone, use that feeling to explore what you feel might be lacking in your own life.
- Do you admire a politician or activist but the timing isn’t right to spearhead your own effort? Consider volunteering for a campaign or a project.
- If you’re considering going back to school full time after a long break, you might find joy in taking a couple of classes that interest you, rather than jumping headfirst into a structured program. You just might find yourself on a completely different path than you expected.
- Inspired by someone rocking out a marathon but you’re just getting back into working out? Energize yourself by tackling a Couch to 5K program.
It’s great to be inspired by others but please, be kind to yourself! You really don’t have to do it all. It’s been a rough couple of years so it’s no surprise that many of us are looking beyond our present situation for happiness and fulfillment. Never forget that you’re a human being, not a human doing.
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