It happened in my office. She unraveled right in front of my eyes.
I simply asked a question. Specifically, I inquired about the circumstances that led to her reported 40-lb weight gain, which she noted she managed to accumulate in just the past 2 years.
And with that, the emotions burst through the façade of this incredibly well put-together woman. The woman who had called just days before determined to take better care of her health. There she sat right in front of me, tears streaming, referencing the personal and professional hurdles she’d been dodging. Promotions at work. A new boss. A growing family. Incredibly long days and sleepless nights.
I let her dump it all.
And then, once she caught her breath, she smoothed out her dress, and declared to no one but herself, “but I’m fine.”
The paradox was deafening. I responded with sincere concern and compassion by telling her the truth was she was anything but.
Was she being resilient? Possibly. But there was something that happened to me in that moment that made me realize that I was not helping anyone’s cause by applauding the notion of head down, barrel through.
Which is why I’m making a concerted effort to become part of the solution. As a business owner, yes, but perhaps more importantly as a fellow female who has spent my entire life emulating women whom I believed to have everything by doing it all.
No, I will no longer call a woman a “rock star” for working a 14-hour day. Nor will I shake my head in amazement when she reports she’s running on a mere 5 hours of sleep. I will think twice of being in awe of the vacation-less, or the time-strapped, voluntary board members, or the jet setters who haven’t spent time with their family in weeks.
And I will absolutely stop putting on a pedestal those who seemingly manage to do it all while looking impeccable. Because I’ve learned that oftentimes the ones who appear entirely flawless are really the ones falling apart at the seams.
I mean, are these women to be respected? Absolutely. Are they making sacrifices in the pursuit of advancing their careers? More than they know. And this is why I can no longer sit silent and ignore the glaring imbalance between the risks being taken and the pending rewards.
Because it’s time we acknowledged the strength required to set boundaries. Or the courage it takes for someone to admit they’re actually not doing well at all. That silencing your body’s own warning signals is not a sign of toughness. That qualifying your venting with the words “but I’m fine” is really a load of bull.
Maybe I’m a dreamer. But I can’t help but think if more of us reassessed our values and stopped praising the full throttle lifestyle, that it just might lose some of its luster. Yes, busyness has become an inescapable status symbol. But is it really reflective of a life we want?