To put it as simply as possible: I’m going to tell you why Balance is BS. We spend our lives pursuing it; we read books about it, watch movies about it, and attend conferences that dedicate themes to it. We listen to other women in high-flying professions declare the benefits of balance and preach about the different workarounds to achieving balance, yet we never have it. It seems to always allude to us. Especially if you’re juggling multiple roles and trying to quiet the guilt about wanting a career when you have kids.
This is a complex topic to discuss because there are certain things in life that people believe like a religion. Trying to impose a unique way of seeing this belief or counteracting it is often shooting yourself in the foot. However, I’m taking the plunge, and I’m dissing balance!
The Self-Help Pitfall.
These beautiful, mythical people have cracked the secret code to life. They know every myth, secret, flaw, opportunity, and guideline to your best life.
Self-help and improvement mediums are filled with secret recipes to balance. In my previous life, mentees always sought out the definition of balance and how to achieve it. The questions always arise from someone in the audience, and the answer always seems to allude to them. This is mainly because balance does not exist and is, in fact, a myth. Now, don’t get me wrong. Self-help and improvement mediums appeal to me because these great spiritual and life leaders have beautiful messages and a lovely way of communicating them. However, I have reached a point where all this information is too overwhelming. I am always highly committed to something I choose to do or pursue and tend to judge myself harshly when I fail. It’s very demotivating because you really feel like you did give it an honest try, but you must have failed because it’s not working as well as the books say it should.
This is what happens with a lot of self-help advice. These beautiful, mythical people have cracked the secret code to life. They know every myth, secret, flaw, opportunity, and guideline to your best life. They may have had experiences in the past that they built on and that caused suffering, but now they’re perfect, and if you follow their steps, you can be in perfect balance too. My question is: How can they always be in this ideal space if life always happens? I mean, does their life not happen? Are they living in this secret vacuum without stress, heartache, or joy?
Life always happens.
Here’s the thing: It may not be true for you, but my life keeps happening. My life doesn’t have a road map. Some things just come at me out of nowhere and derail me, my thoughts, and my plans. I go through stages where I feel amazing or when my core and the foundation of who I am feels good to me, and I’m leading from a strong place. But I have yet to discover the space where I live in this perpetual dream of balance and positivity, where everything works out with no hiccups. Life always happens. And proclaiming the opposite started getting me down.
If you seek harmony in balance, this pit of demotivation is not a kind place to be. Because you’re trying to improve yourself and grow as a human, businessperson, mom, wife, friend, individual, and spiritual being. At first, you’re all in and do well, but inevitably, you don’t. You make mistakes and are reminded to always be positive when missteps occur. Still, you have days when you’re not able to see the silver lining and days that you honestly just want to be negative. Everything sucks. You want to say it sucks, feel it sucks, and proclaim to the heavens that you are not in love with life.
Enter vicious circle. Once you’ve succumbed to the temper tantrum, you feel even worse because not only did you fail, you failed in the worst way. You reacted precisely as all the self-help books tell you not to. This is so exhausting. When did we stop wanting to be human? Don’t you ever just want to be human?
Why is balance BS?
To make this harsh truth more digestible, we start telling ourselves that everything will work out if we understand we can have it all, just not at the same time.
The ironic thing about balance is how much time and mental energy we invest in chasing it. In fact, we invest so much of ourselves into this search that we create immense stress for ourselves. We may think the conversation has changed, but it hasn’t; it’s only communicated differently. Case meets the point: “Of course, you can have it all, just not at the same time.” A statement also known as – balance in disguise. We’re forever chasing this. We’re chasing it to such a degree that we’ve become anxious about it. At least, that’s how it feels to me.
Balance is impossible because we will always go through different life stages. Life always happens. It’s inevitable. Nothing can stop or control that. It’s just the way it is. And as long as life’s stages and seasons keep flowing, balance will remain a myth because the wheel keeps turning.
The most prominent example of balance, especially for women, is the work/life balance myth. We’re trying to juggle the soccer game, date night, dinner, the family schedule, spending time with our kids, planning vacations, and relaxing on vacations. Yes, the last one is often also on the to-do list . We need a perfect balance; otherwise, we can’t have it all. To make this harsh truth more digestible, we start telling ourselves that everything will work out if we understand we can have it all, just not at the same time.
Here’s the thing, though. Nothing will ever be at the same time because life continues to flow. There will always be times when I have more work pressure than last week. There will always be times when I have panic disorder relapses or feel I’m in a better or worse place than I was a month ago. There will always be times when I have more or less time to spend with my daughter. Times when I feel more romantically inclined towards my husband and less. There will also be times when I have more time to spend with him or when I agree more with some of his fundamental opinions than at other times. There will always be a give and take in life.
It’s this roller coaster of giving and accepting for which we must strap in. Because if you’re trying to stop a roller coaster at its highest point, or if you’re trying to get out when you’re up in the air, it will not end well. Yet, we continue to do it because we believe we need to control the world around us. We believe convincingly that we can manage everything. No control = insanity, right? I know this first-hand because one of the gifts of an anxiety disorder is your unhealthy relationship with control. It’s the biggest lie you believe, the most convincingly, that if you’re in control of things, all your stress will be less.
The truth is that life balances itself. The journey we are on, wherever we may find ourselves at that moment, balances itself out. Think about this for a minute. Has there ever been a time in your life when it’s been persistently and incessantly horrible? Remember, as human beings, it’s natural to say “yes.” We recall with ease the time when we lost a job and had a mortgage to repay, and somebody close to us passed away; all these things happened at once. That may be true, and I don’t wish this on anyone. But are you still there? And if you look back at that. Wasn’t there even one moment, one hug from your little girl, or one supportive gesture from your better half that made you feel better? One moment between you and your family, recognizing and knowing that you’re all going through this together? One friend or even a stranger who reached out to you in your time of need by doing something menial that significantly impacted your life.
Has there ever not been an ebb and an inevitable flow to your life?
What can we do?
While we were investing all this energy in chasing balance, we could have listened to our body’s cues, or been genuinely present in important life moments.
I can recognize moments and phases in my life when I didn’t do my best to ensure I was in a healthier space. Examples are ignoring my body’s distress cues, over-committing myself at work, and overexerting my body when I should have rested. We all have times in our lives when we can recognize these missteps. These are cues we do have control over. We can try to make the rollercoaster ride more enjoyable and less scary by doing our part in the greater scheme of things. We are in control of our choices and how these affect our levels of stress and the loved ones around us. However, to a large degree, that’s where the control ends.
So, while we were investing all this energy in chasing balance, we could have listened to our body’s cues, or been genuinely present in important life moments. Chasing balance is like fighting against a brick wall. Life has already decided where it’s going to be and when. We are not in control of when this beautiful life ends. We are not in control of our futures or what may or may not happen. Many, many things are just not in our control. Yet, we still fight!
Welcome to Life.
Instead of chasing this need for balance, I choose to embrace that I will always be in a different space. Everything that comes up must come down. Every ebb has a flow, and every ying has a yang.
Well, I call a cease fire. Instead of chasing this need for balance, I choose to embrace that I will always be in a different space. This space will continuously change and always look different. So, the best thing I can do is be the best version of myself for me and my loved ones at that moment, in that ebb, in that flow. If I’m at the part where the roller coaster is at the very top, and it’s those 2 seconds before I fall into oblivion, I need to be the best I can be in that space. If I’m already at the section where I’m hurtling through the depths at 200 km/h, the best I can do is to be the best version of myself at that moment. Knowing there will inevitably be a time when the roller coaster slows down so it can pick up speed and momentum to start this entire journey again.
Everything that comes up must come down. Every ebb has a flow, and every ying has a yang. Suppose I’m going through a period at work where I’m under much more pressure than usual. In that case, I accept and have open communication and discussions with my family. This is where I’m now. It doesn’t mean we love each other less. It means I am going to be working a little bit later. It means I’m going to be putting in a little bit more. But I also make this commitment to me and to us that this is not permanent. There is a plan that I’m following. I’m going to have to work four nights to catch up. Then our version of equilibrium will return for a short while. It will be my turn to do bus pickup, the morning breakfast, the cuddles, and story time. Just as the same ebb and flow will come in my career. Sometimes I will not be as busy, and I won’t have as much work, and it will be my husband’s time to shine and create space for us. It will be his turn to revel in unique opportunities. But I then have the freedom to be more in the zone and in the moment with my little girl, to pay more attention to my mental and physical well-being, my spiritual well-being, and to rearm and re-energize myself for the next round.
During my ebb I filled my cup with love for my little one, the time I’ve spent with her, and the joy she brought me. And when the next flow phase comes, I fill my cup again at work with new relationships, innovative ideas I bring to life, a crisis that I solve, and new opportunities for my family.
Chasing balance is something that brought me a lot of pain, heartache, frustration, anger, and demotivation. Accepting that life happens and that I need to strap in and do the best I can at that moment has brought me a lot of peace. But I recognize and acknowledge that I do not do this perfectly. This is not something that comes naturally to me. I need control. I must have it. Every time the next cycle of ebb and flow happens, I must remind myself again that I am not in control. Get in the seat, strap in, and prepare for the ride.
I know so many of you feel the same way. And for me to tell you what you should and should not do, is nonsense. Nobody has the secret to life. We can only share and be honest enough to say its hard, it doesn’t always work, and sometimes we will fail. But we will fall and stumble together, We will pick each other up and head toward the next cycle with love and encouragement. Knowing that when (not if) we fail, its human and its okay.
So, do you want to join me in living a more ebb-and-flow life? Embracing the highs when they’re high and loving your way through the lows when they’re low? Can we just try our best every time the wheel turns? I try to do my best to not pressure myself to be what society tells me to be, to chase this idea of balance, and to just be where I am – but I struggle. I also need a wing woman, a team shouting support through the good and bad. We all need it. Let’s be that for each other!
Love and light
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“There is no such thing as work-life balance. It is all life. The balance has to be within you.”
“7 years” by Lukas Graham.
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