The Great Debate: Can Women Really Have It All?
The question of women “having it all” first entered the lexicon more than 35 years ago as the title of a best-selling book by Helen Gurley Brown on balancing personal and professional success. Yet the term remains as relevant today as ever, as women continue to grapple with what it takes to succeed on their terms in a world that still often seems structured toward men.
Groomed and programmed to do whatever it takes to succeed from an early age, many women are surprised to find themselves continually facing the same familiar demons no matter what level of professional accomplishment they attain – the same persistent symptoms of stress, anxiety, and fatigue persist.
I have seen it in my patients – across a wide range of industries and talents. It’s almost comforting to know that so many of us aren’t alone or crazy, but responding logically to the norms and expectations of a world seemingly designed to induce stress. Worries persist even across class and income about whether pursuing a career necessarily requires sacrificing the ability to be a fully present spouse and partner.
Today I still believe that women can indeed “have it all”, however they choose to define it. But they must go about getting what they want in the right way. The surefire way to fail is to lose oneself in stress, worry, and destructive habits. The world of work should be seen as a marathon, not a lightning sprint – that requires that we commit ourselves to taking care of our needs first, even before we become martyrs in putting others before ourselves.
Having it all requires letting go of worry and learning how to properly relax.
Having it all doesn’t mean that we have everything that society tells us to aspire to – merely that we have prioritized what is most important for us.
In short, having it all requires choices. We have to choose to love ourselves and to value our well-being over maintaining an identity rooted in burnout. And we have to choose where to channel our finite time, energy, and focus.
What does having it all mean for you? And where will you spend your time to attain it?