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The Pressure Women Feel to Perform

The Pressure Women Feel to Perform

Women today are under stress. Stress is defined as when a force presses on, pulls on, pushes against, compresses, or twists something else. Many women can completely relate. It seems like life itself is pressing in on them, pulling them one way, pushing against them another, compressing them and twisting their life upside down. Frankly, they feel squished.

I believe part of this has to do with the amount of responsibilities women shoulder today. Years ago, keeping a household and raising a family were considered to be a full-time job. When I was growing up, my mother was a stay-at-home mom, one of many. Today, that full-time job of home and family is still around, but it’s been compounded by part-time or full-time work outside the home by the majority of women. This is a financial reality for many married women and a financial necessity for single women. If you add in any sort of civic, community, school, or religious commitments, time is compressed even further.

It is not my intention to wade into the Mommy Wars here, but merely to point out the pressure women today feel. The more responsibilities a woman has, the more her time must be fragmented to handle those responsibilities. Women today seem to run around with stopwatches in their heads, calculating how much they can get done is smaller and smaller increments of time.

One example is this: Trisha was absolutely thrilled, because the ride home in traffic had miraculously taken ten minutes less than usual. Ten minutes was like gold! She could pick up and sort through the mail while she finished listening to her voice mails, pop the wash from this morning into the dryer, load all of the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher, and print up the agenda for tonight’s meeting before she left the house again. Her life had somehow developed into ten-minute increments, and every second counted.

I know women who operate not in ten-minute increments, but thirty-second increments. I remember one who spoke of the stress she was under and how it affected her day. She became irritated and annoyed when her computer was “slow” to boot up at work, when it took thirty seconds to dry her hands with an air dryer in the women’s restroom instead of quickly with a paper towel. She began to resent it when other people took too much time on voice mail or spoke with too many pauses during conversation. Each “waste” of time became more and more grating. Over time, she came to realize she viewed these “barriers” in her day as adversarial. She put pressure on herself to be “productive” literally every second. Anything or anyone that took more time than she deemed acceptable became a cause of stress to her. Because she was already operating under stress, each slowdown made her more and more angry. She resented every second wasted and was frustrated with anyone who got in the way of her tightly scripted schedule.

It is not, of course, possible to be 100 percent productive. In fact, putting yourself under that kind of stress is counterproductive. I asked her why she felt compelled to resent the time it took her to dry her hands in the bathroom, and she said it was because she had “so much to do.” She complained about all the pressure at work and her workload. When I asked her if she felt her employers begrudged her the time it took to go to the bathroom, she had to reply no.

What it really came down to was not her employer’s expectation but her own. She had a deep need to perform. Her sense of self-worth and value derived more from what she was able to accomplish than who she was as a person. She equated her value with how much she was able to do. She did not want to feel valueless, so she strove to do more and more, until even trips to the bathroom were resented. This is a recipe for soul-sucking stress.

By learning to let go, you can reduce the amount of needless stress in your life. To read more about what it means to “let go,” read this post on Letting Go of the Reins.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 30 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.




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