Under pressure.



Photo by Eli DeFaria

There is no doubt we as women put way too much pressure on ourselves. We want to be the perfect mom, the perfect wife, have the perfect body, do our very best at work and cook the best food. The list is endless and we want to be the best at all of it.

Why do we put ourselves under so much pressure and feel such guilt when we’re not meeting these entirely subjective standards that we’ve set ourselves? This wonderful article by Lauren Laverne on the Pool talks about how the quest for the perfect work / life balance is a waste of time. She uses a nice example from the renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who says, “We presume that balance is a good thing, but you don’t go to the amusement park roller coaster and say, ‘I want to be balanced.’ No, you want to be as unbalanced as possible, because that’s the thrill ride.”

She follows up this point by saying, “Most of the women I know are part of the ‘sandwich generation’. Their lives are out of whack because they are a mix of conflicting obligations: work, children, money worries, parents who are getting older… The problem isn’t that we have too many passions to pursue, it’s that we have so little time for ourselves we don’t even remember what our passions are any more.”

The point she misses is the additional pressure women feel to be perfect in all things. A pressure that seems to be uniquely female. When we aren’t perfect, we feel guilty, and then seem to double down the pressure instead of asking ourselves if something has to give (something that men are more often than not, able to do).

This pressure has an emotional and physiological effect. We get stressed and put our bodies into sympathetic, fight or flight mode, which increases the amount of cortisol going through our bodies. Cortisol is the stress hormone, and too much cortisol going through the body on a long term basis can do a lot of damage. It can lead to depression, weight gain, a weak immune system and a host of other issues.

So, to paraphrase Lauren Laverne, let good enough be the new perfect.

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