Don’t be the hero
Don’t be the hero
When I was little, I wanted to be a superhero, specifically the 1970s Lynda Carter version of Wonder Woman. I wore Wonder Woman Underoos (shout out to those of you old enough to remember Underoos), I had a rope that transformed into a truth lasso, tin foil that made bullet proof wrist cuffs, and a headband that became a boomerang. I was obsessed with Wonder Woman.
As I grew up, I still wanted to be a wonder woman. Instead of stopping a train with my bare hands, I thought a real wonder woman was one who could flawlessly balance work, life, friendships, family, and everything in between. In my quest to rise to the unrealistic expectations I set for myself, I was constantly met with self-doubt, disappointment, and even shame.
Maybe it’s because I’m older, maybe my daily mindfulness practice is truly changing me, or maybe it’s some combination of the two, but I’ve come to realize a few things:
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE THE HERO. Period.
We have created an impossible, unrealistic standard of what we think we are supposed to do to be successful. This has resulted in a public health crisis. Forty-five percent of women will be on an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication in their lifetime (the numbers for men aren’t much better). Our unrealistic expectations result in self-doubt, anxiety, depression, and exhaustion. The recent suicide of Cheslie Kryst, former Miss USA, Extra T.V. host, and successful attorney is a heartbreaking example of a person who seemed like she had it all together, yet silently suffered on the inside.
The version of people we see on television and social media only serve to reinforce the myth that we can keep up with the insane demands required to navigate our current reality. We can start to shift this by modeling a more realistic expectation for our kids, coworkers, and families.
If you or someone you know is struggling, there is NO shame in asking for help. NAMI Central Texas (National Alliance on Mental Illness) has been invaluable to our family. There are NAMI organizations in almost every state. They offer support, resources, free classes, and much more. The NAMI Helpline is 800-950-NAMI. If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255, call 911, or go to a hospital emergency room.
Shift your expectations.
In a recent survey of 7,000 U.S. mothers, 75% felt guilty about the inability to maintain work/life balance, 72% felt drained, exhausted, and anxious at the end of the day, and 42% said that they sometimes suffer from “Pinterest stress” – the worry that they’re not crafty or creative enough. Who’s been there? Staying up until 3 a.m. clicking through photos of hand-made birthday party favors (even though you’ll end up buying yours at the dollar store) or sobbing quietly into a burnt mess of what was supposed to be cookies for the school bake sale.
The number of moms on my street going door to door with their daughters selling Girl Scout cookies is mind boggling, so if your Pinterest cookies don’t work out, I got you. Stop holding yourself to unrealistic expectations. The real superheroes set clear boundaries, practice self-care, and show up vulnerably. They strive for progress, not perfection.
Put your oxygen mask on first.
It is so easy to neglect the things that bring us joy and get caught up in being busy. But remember, busy doesn’t equal productive; busy equals exhausted. People told me for years to take care of myself, take time off, and slow down. It turns out when you don’t take time to practice self-care and take care of your most valuable resource (YOU), life has a way of doing it for you. Being busy also wears down your resilience, like your car running on fumes when you run the tank down too low. You hit a bump in the road and next thing you know, you’re out of gas. Give yourself permission to be a mere mortal. You can empathize without internalizing. It’s okay to forget things, have a bad day, and or feel cranky.
My wonder woman litmus test has changed a bit (I still wear Wonder Woman Underoos of course, and I’m not retiring my tin foil cuffs and truth lasso anytime soon), but I now know that true courage means you are afraid, and you show up anyway. Our real secret weapons are kindness, gratitude, and finding peace and joy where we are. You don’t have to bake the perfect cookie or flawlessly balance the competing demands on your time and attention. Just be the best YOU you can be.
While I still love a good superhero movie, I think it’s time we give ourselves permission to not have to be one.
Stay brave and resilient,
Anne Grady is a Speaker, Author, and #TruthBomb Dropper.
Anne shares practical strategies that can be applied both personally and professionally to improve relationships, navigate change, and triumph over adversity. And she’ll make you laugh while she does it. Anne is a two time TEDx speaker, and her work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fast Company and Inc. magazines, CNN, ESPN, and FOX Business. She is the best selling author of 52 Strategies for Life, Love & Work and Strong Enough: Choosing Courage, Resilience and Triumph.