Being a woman can be messy business. Not because we’re women, but because we’re human.
And being a human doesn’t come with a manual. There are no inherent rules about how to live, how to make empowered choices, how to overcome heartbreak or setbacks, or how to take care of ourselves. It’s all made up, by us, and tested each day, by us.
And even though it’s my job to guide women in connecting to their desires, then offering strategies and tools for having more of what they desire in their lives, I am very aware that what works for one person at one time, will not work for everyone at all times. We’re in this together, but our paths are our own.
I am a fan of Sheryl Sandberg and her book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Sheryl inspires and invites us to have clear goals and step boldly into leadership by taking empowered and consistent action in our lives. Not only do women need to hear this message; our world needs this message. And I, personally, love the bold energy that comes with “leaning in”.
As I see it, the new era of women’s leadership calls us to step more fully into our role as changemakers by “being the change”, which includes nurturing ourselves and our desires. And you know what I desire sometimes? Rest.
There are times when I just need to Lean Back – when I need space to be messy, explore, be aimless, and just do nothing. At these times, I need to follow what gives me pleasure, and to truly have the space to breathe. I can’t be productive, efficient or effective all the time. Sometimes I need to just be.
Since there’s no guidebook to being human, here are the things that are currently working for me. These principles have served to create more of the space that I desire, so I can show up, lean in, and lead in an even bigger way.
How I Lean Back:
1. I trust pleasure.
I am not always going to want to do everything that needs to be done. Sometimes I can outsource, sometimes I can postpone, and sometimes I can decline it altogether, but sometimes it’s just got to be handled. If you’ve ever tried to inspire a 5-year old to help clean up their toys, you’ll know that it’s best to create a game of it. Why? Because children are designed to lean towards pleasure, and we’re no different. As often as I remember, I allow pleasure to be my guide, constantly asking myself “how might this be a little more pleasurable?” The result is that I feel more relaxed, spacious and clear.
2. I take a lot of time off.
At one time or another in our lives, we have all bought into explicit or implicit “rules” about how we should live. We’ve been taught that hard work leads to success and that being lazy is basically a sin. But what is “success”? And is it “lazy” to relax sometimes? I now know that in order to actually effect positive change in the world, I need room to breathe, so I take a lot of time off. It took many years to come to a place where I could relax without feeling guilty, and trust that I didn’t need to work all the time to be successful (how does feeling stressed now = success later, anyways?), but I trust that when I embrace my own pace, good things happen.
3. I value friendship as sacred.
On the totem pole of life priorities, I’ve noticed that a lot of people have things in roughly this order: work -> family -> pets -> coffee -> chores -> self -> friends. But when business is tough, when your relationship is struggling, when your mom drives you nuts, or you’re struggling to love your body, who do you turn to? Your friends. At the end of life, I doubt any of us will be reminiscing fondly on all those hours we spent alone behind our laptops. We’ll be thinking about the people we love. Because I see friendship as the supportive web that holds all of life together, I prioritize making time to spend with my friends. This means weekly dinners, retreats away together (even with my friends who are moms), phone dates and slumber parties. My friends and I need each other, and that’s okay.
4. My desires are divine.
I trust my heart and my love for the planet and her peoples, and as such, I know that I’m likely not at risk for making decisions that brazenly disregard what’s good for all. With that in mind, I can’t leave myself and my desires out of my consideration, either. I see desires as valuable signposts, pointing us towards more creative win-win solutions than we would have considered without them. So rather than assume “I won’t bother wanting that because I just can’t have it” or “I shouldn’t want that” or “If I have that, everyone would be upset”, what if we actually fanned the flames on our desires and allowed them to open us creatively?
5. My body is a temple.
I can do work tomorrow, I can delegate tasks, I can reschedule appointments…but I can’t live without food, water and sleep. One of the most heartbreaking things I see with many ambitious women is the willingness to neglect and abuse our bodies so we can “power through” and get the job done. Listen, there are times in life when we may be forced to get by on little sleep, like having a new baby or sick kid in the house. But living each day fueled by coffee, bagels, and 6 hours of sleep is just not sustainable, and eventually your body will breakdown. Trust rest, and let your body teach you what she needs, rather than bossing her around.
6. “Not all those who wander are lost” – Tolkien.
I am a human being, and that means that sometimes I have crises of meaning, sometimes I wake up feeling confused, and sometimes I need some space to figure things out in my own time. And you know what? That’s okay. What’s not okay is avoiding those feelings by working myself to the bone, shutting down emotionally, or isolating myself from the people I love. By embracing my pace – giving myself space to feel what’s real – I can navigate the bumpy parts of life with more grace, humor and ease, and often find myself back to joy and able to “lean in” more quickly than I would have if I’d forced my way forward.
—> In the comments below, share some of the ways you give yourself permission to lean back, and where you feel you could use some extra space for yourself.