The Relentless Politics of Good Girl Syndrome

The Relentless Politics of Good Girl Syndrome

If you feel like you are constantly striving and doing everything right but always feeling as if you are getting things wrong, you may be experiencing Good Girl Syndrome.

On my Instagram account last week, I posted a cozy dose of inspiration that I thought up during my own softer moment.

“You can be weak. You are not coffee.”

The post was very popular — easily one of my most liked and commented on.

And the comments were RELIEF and GRATITUDE.

Among the comments were two women who were sidelined because of health issues that forced them to stop, rest and rely on others to do all the things.

If it weren’t for a hip surgery or both wrists being broken or sprained these women would not have stopped giving all of themselves to others.

This is why this series — The Politics of Languishing — is vital.

The truth of the matter is this: Striving for perfectionism is literally killing us.

We have to wake up and see what is happening to women — including and especially marginalized women of color. We have to see what we are doing to each other. And we have to be a part of the movement that values rest, ease and being healthy in mind, body and spirit.

shawn fink

The overworking and overdoing that is exhausting us needs to change.

The perfectionism that we expect of ourselves and each other needs to change.

And, now today, I’m breaking down another big cause of our languishing … Good Girl Syndrome.

Listen to this article as a podcast episode here:

What is Good Girl Syndrome and How Do You Know if You Suffer From It?

There is no doubt that from the time we are born, being a Good Girl is instilled in us. It’s in every conversation and every parenting guideline.

We move through the world teaching girls to be good. (Boys as well, but under a different set of oppressive Good Child expectations.)

This is a fine line in parenting but as you grow up and become an adult it’s easy to feel the Good Child conflict within and it may be showing up for you more and more as you get older and start to see how being The Good Girl is exhausting and driving your perfectionism stress.

Here’s some characteristics that I’ve seen showing up in myself, my friends and clients when we are trapped by Good Girl Syndrome:

  • You are overly responsible.
  • You are overly positive and cheerful in order to keep everyone else happy and uplifted.
  • You are always saying yes to things you do not really want to do.
  • You give too much time, energy and money to others.
  • Your own needs are constantly not being met.
  • You try to look perfect and your best at all times.
  • You stay quiet so you don’t rock the boat.
  • You go with what others want all the time.
  • You go above and beyond even when it’s not necessary.
  • You strive to prove your worth to the point of exhaustion.
  • You rarely challenge the status quo.
  • You care more about pleasing other than yourself.
  • You worry too much about what others think of you.
  • You try to stick to a hardcore routine and disciplined life and if you don’t you feel guilt or shame.

But, Good Girl Syndrome follows us everywhere in our day through everyone of our choices and decisions and it can show up in the strangest of moments in our lives. 

  • What your wear and how your wear it.
  • What you do with your food waste and where you will send donations.
  • How you spend your money — and on what. 
  • What you do for a living — or not. 
  • How you mother and parent with high expectations for your children.
  • How you show up as a partner or friends. 
  • How what you do and don’t do for others or to serve others lives in your mind.
  • Just how good of a person you are if you do or do not support a cause or attend an event.
  • Taking care of the earth and being stewards of the environment.

Being a good human being is noble. We love givers when we benefit from them. But if you are sacrificing your own wellness, health or dreams it may be time to run your choices through the Human Giver Syndrome filter.

Is Being a Good Girl a Part of Human Giver Syndrome?

Good Girls do Good.

Good girls give generously.

Good girls serve others without complaint.

Good Girls sacrifice their dreams for their children or their partners’ dreams.

In the book, “Down Girl: the Logic of Misogyny by moral philosopher Kate Manne” defines a world where there are two types of humans — those who have a moral obligation to be their full humanity where they are free to be as competitive, entitled, and motivated as they wish to be in order to be their best selves — and then there are the human givers, which are those who have a moral obligation to GIVE their full humanity, meaning they feel they must give away all of their time, their attention, their energy, their love, their needs, their hopes and their dreams to others for the good of others.

The Nagoski sisters — who I mentioned in my last piece in this series for their book Burnout, gave this a name: Human Giver Syndrome.

After reading about Human Giver Syndrome, I realized it’s very much connected to Good Girl Syndrome.

In their podcast, Feminist Survival Project 2020, The Nagoskis talked about these women who are extreme givers.

Amelia Nogoski said specifically that “it’s not just women who are the category of giver. It’s all people of color, people with disabilities, immigrants, people who don’t speak English as their first language,  (in the ) United States), trans people, poor people, gay and queer people, anyone with disadvantaged or marginalized identities expected to behave themselves to perform to conform with a roll of service to the people with advantage to make sure nobody ever feels uncomfortable and nobody has that person’s needs imposed on them. Because it’s a moral duty. If a human Giver falls short of their obligation or if they dare to ask to have a need met, they deserve to be punished. Which is where human giver syndrome starts to get really dark.”

Ouch.

They’ll be punished by human beings and givers who do not conform to the expectation to be givers will be punished by other givers, because how dare they how, dare they when all the other givers have to do this,” Amelia said. If one giver says, “Nope” and goes ahead and has a need of her own, she’ll be punished by other givers and if there is no one else around to punish her she’ll go ahead and punish herself if she’s internalized this moral obligation.

And, as with Good Girl Syndrome, human givers are expected to deny their own needs so that you are giving more than you can rest, more than you can complete your own stress cycle, and giving so much that there is absolutely never any time for ou to pursue your own passions or purpose in life.

“Just give, give, give,” Emily Nagoski said on the show.

“If we had set out to design a system to burn out half the population with emotional exhaustion, We could not have invented anything more efficient. One, the system where at least half of people are expected to behave themselves and submit their lives to the service of others without imposing their needs on anyone.”

Emily Nagoski

So if we know we should put on our own mask first but encounter guilt over doing so, that is absolutely the Good Girl Syndrome taking over — and that means FEAR is taking over as well.

The Fear Factor behind Good Girl Syndrome

Every day, we put on masks.

Good Girl masks.

The mask hides everything that is inside of us that is messy, chaotic, imperfect and exhausted.

The mask hides the fears.

  • Fear of losing friends and upsetting others. 
  • Fear of being not good enough. 
  • Fear of pushing people away.
  • Fear of missing out.
  • Fear of judgement.
  • Fear of rejection.
  • Fear of being a fraud.
  • Fear of being labeled.
  • Fear of disappointing others.

In my work as a Brave Yes Living & Leadership Coach, I work with women creatives, entrepreneurs and changemakers who are ready to play with being more courageous.

And that means that sometimes the Brave Yes choice is to the opposite of what your inner Good Girl is saying.

And that means embracing all the parts of you — including your chaos and inner messy parts. In fact, celebrating all of you is how you reach a feeling of wholeness.

In my coaching work, I work with my clients on identifying and transforming the fears that are holding you back from living your Brave Yes Life — a life where you feel free to create, lead, speak and stand out with more boldness, more courage.

On Being Whole-Heartedly You — Even and Especially when It Seems Selfish

“One of the most painfully inauthentic ways we show up in our lives sometimes is saying “yes” when we mean “no,” and saying “no” when we mean “hell yes.” I’m the oldest of four, a people-pleaser – that’s the good girl straitjacket that I wear sometimes. I spent a lot of my life saying yes all the time and then being pissed off and resentful.”

— Brené Brown

When we good all of the time and give all of ourselves — our time, our energy, our resources, our love, our gifts — and leave nothing left for ourselves to chase our own dreams and tend to our own inner longings, a few things happen.

First stress and burnout take over. Giving endlessly and always being the good girl is not a sustainable way to live.

Next, you enter the Land of Bitter and Sour.

And then the fallout really begins.

This is when you feel a sense of languishing, of emptiness, of feeling lost and scattered.

When our your needs or inner longings are ignored or pushed aside for others, and you lose your sense of Self.

And yet doing what feels good for you is a part of being resilient and strong in mind, body and spirit.

Your wholeness can only happen if you are listening and acting on your own inner longings. And to make time for what matters requires space and time.

Sometimes when we speak up, use our voice, ask for our needs to be met we will encounter resistance and friction from others.

We may even be disliked.

And that’s OK.

That’s how change happens.

How to Liberate Yourself from Good Girl Syndrome — And should you?

“I love saying ‘yes’ and I love saying ‘please.’ Saying ‘yes’ doesn’t mean I don’t know how to say no, and saying ‘please’ doesn’t mean I am waiting for permission. ‘Yes please’ sounds powerful and concise. It’s a response and a request. It is not about being a good girl; it is about being a real woman.”

Amy Poehler

I would call myself a very good girl who is just done with being good for the sake of being good.

There comes a time in our lives when we give and conform to the point of exhaustion and resentment and we finally just emotionally burst and explode and all of our fragile parts scatter and the process of picking up the pieces is just too hard. So we start giving less.

Most of us will never shed our Good Girl Image entirely.

But we can work to lessen it, we can do small Brave Yes actions to design a more sustainable, joyful life and career for ourselves.

When I work with women who are ready to say YES to their dreams and living into their full potential, the first thing we almost always have to break down is finding the time to do the work.

If you are giving all of yourself to others it’s hard to give yourself the time and space to find out what you love and what brings you alive and healing all at once.

And so here are some questions to ask yourself if you think you might be caught up in Good Girl Syndrome:

  • How can I make this more playful and fun for me?
  • What will I sacrifice by saying yes — and is it worth it?
  • What boundary do I need to set here?
  • What do I need?
  • What do I want?
  • What am I trying to avoid?
  • Is this worth losing someone or something over?
  • What would really happen if I drop this ball?
  • How can I be kinder to myself?

In my Brave Yes Living Tips, I offer a few more radical ways to live for yourself and chase after your dreams for this one lifetime you are experiencing.

There is no time like right now to start living for yourself.

And those who stick with you as you disrupt and challenge the status quo will be your people.

Offering a Liberating Future for Our Girls — and Boys — and Ourselves.

“Teach her to reject likeability. Her job is not to make herself likeable, her job is to be her full self, a self that is honest and aware of the equal humanity of other people.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

As a mother of teenage daughters, I have struggled with the Good Girl Syndrome very much. 

Just like every parent, we have taught them to be nice. But I find myself telling them often not to be too nice.

I want them to be compassionate and kind to ALL people AND I want them to have boundaries AND to not be assholes to others and I find this to be tricky, tricky ground to walk on. 

Because I also know that when you have too many boundaries in place, you can inadvertently put up too many barriers between you and others, creating a sense of loneliness and isolation. Sometimes we have to let our boundaries drop to let others in.

We can begin to form a more liberating future for our girls — and boys — by not shaming them into being good by our own standards but rather helping them decide what Being a Good Human is for themselves.

A good girl is not to sit quiet and look pretty — unless SHE decides that’s what it is for herself.

A good boy is not one that is tough and manly — unless he decides that is what he wants for himself.

When we stop defining perfect as good we will be liberated.

When we start to see our mistakes and imperfections as good enough, we will be liberated.

When we start playing with feeling alive and chasing our dreams and not feeling guilty for it, we will be liberated.

When we start accepting and embracing everyone’s imperfect humanity, we will be liberated.

The Power and Destruction of Perfectionism

The Power and Destruction of Perfectionism

What stops you from writing or creating with wild abandon? 

What holds you back from going for it as a brave leader?

What prevents you from going after your most wild inner longings?

Likely, your answer is fear. 

Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of making a mistake. 

And I would clarify that behind that fear is something else: Perfectionism. 

Every single one of my private coaching clients who are trying to uplevel in their life, business or career has struggled with some form of perfectionism.

And this is one obstacle I know that prevents so many creatives, entrepreneurs and changemakers from living and leading more boldly so that we can show up more visibly and confidently in this world and make a difference. 

Perfectionism stops us from doing what brings us most alive, what brings us meaning and purpose and what can offer us the most joy. And it does so by keeping us small and quiet in a world that rewards the most boisterous and visible.

Shawn fink

I would absolutely call myself, at this point, a healing perfectionist. I am not yet in full recovery as I still struggle to lay down my perfectionistic tendencies in some parts of my life. But I am absolutely on track to care less about just about everything very soon. And, I’m learning to live a Brave Yes Life despite of my own perfectionism.

But, first, let’s talk about what perfectionism is — and isn’t.

Listen to this episode now or keep reading below.

The Power and Destruction of Perfectionism

The politics of perfectionism?

Last week, I talked about the politics of overworking and overdoing as part of my series called The Politics of Languishing, a multi-article look into the reason women have been languishing between survival mode and thriving for years.

Now, I want to talk about overworking’s very close cousin — perfectionism.

Nearly every woman I talk to says, proudly, she’s a perfectionist.

That’s not surprising. Calling ourselves perfectionists has become a bit of a self-indulgent way to describe one’s self.

However, being a perfectionist can be dangerous and unhealthy.

But first, let’s dive into how we became so obsessed with perfectionism.

My own love-hate with the Internet and social media began in 2016 because of the pressure of perfectionism.

Prior to 2016, I loved social media and the beautiful connections it brought into my life. I used Facebook and Instagram avidly. 

Until I no longer felt like I could keep up with the image of it all — or just refused to keep up with it all.

To this day, I adore my computer friends — coaches, business owners, writers, creatives, makers, changemakers around the world who I connect with and feel on the same page with even if we’ll never — or rarely — ever meet in person. 

But at some point over the last decade, though, real life got snatched up by perfect idealism and what we see online now is a level of perfectionism that is nearly impossible to attain, and yet attractive enough to keep women striving for it all. 

And this leaves you feeling as if you are not enough. 

When algorithms began rewarding beautiful lifestyle influencer culture and that took over and began to flood the airwaves, one thing was clear: I would not be able to keep up with the gorgeous-at-all-times aesthetic and elegant behind-the-scenes of the online world.

I just wasn’t into that sort of thing. And so I haven’t put much energy into social media as a result — until recently when I re-joined Instagram with a whole new intention.

I’m an interior designer for human beings, not rooms. 

shawn fink

I care about people — especially empowering women and girls. I don’t care what your rooms look like. I care what your inner landscape FEELS like.

And I can tell you that from my own understanding of human beings, from my own research and awareness, I can, without a doubt, declare that most women feel exhausted from all the striving they are doing to keep up.

And so today’s installment of The Politics of Languishing is diving into the power and influence that perfectionism has over us and how it’s truly exhausting us, possibly more than all that hard work we’ve been doing to keep up. 

Not only are women working longer and longer hours — either in the home, at work or in their business — to keep up, but they are also striving endlessly to live a life of perfection.

If it’s true that women have been languishing for years, and overworking and overdoing is contributing to that feeling of emptiness, then it’s also important that we recognize and become fully aware of the pressure that perfectionism is adding into our everyday lives. 

The Power and Destruction of Perfectionism

What is Perfectionism and Why Does it Haunt Us So?

We can argue that striving for perfection is not a new struggle for women. Just think back to June Cleaver in Leave it to Beaver. Women wanted to be June, the archetypical suburban white mom that was held up as the ideal woman. 

And so the idea of perfectionism isn’t new but it has evolved and even gotten more and more out of hand. 

Paul Hewitt, author of Perfectionism: A Relational Approach to Conceptualization, Assessment and Treatment, said in a recent interview on perfectionism as a mental health issue  that “Perfectionism is a broad personality style characterized by a hypercritical relationship with one’s self. 

“Setting high standards and aiming for excellence can be positive traits, but perfectionism is dysfunctional because it’s underscored by a person’s sense of themselves as permanently flawed or defective.”  PAUL HEWITT

“One way they try to correct that is by being perfect,” Hewitt said. 

Tanya Geisler, a coach and expert in the Imposter Complex, says that perfectionism is a common behavior for imposter complex.

“We are constantly bombarded with images of what perfect looks like — even if it is mostly completely unattainable — and we internalize it from a young age,” she wrote in her post on overcoming imposter complex.

The Power and Destruction of Perfectionism

Perfectionism and the Patriarchy: The Root Cause of Perfectionism in Our Society

Perfectionism is deeply rooted in both the patriarchal — a system that favors men — and white supremacy culture — the system that favors white people.

Sociologist and gender (in)equality researcher Sylvia Walby defines patriarchy as “a system of social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress, and exploit women”

And so how does perfectionism and patriarchal systems connect?

Women are constantly trying to strive to keep up. We do this through all behaviors that result in being perfect … showing up on time, how we dress and look, going above and beyond to stand out and make an impression, people pleasing and being extra kind so we’re taken more seriously. 

All this efforting we’re doing day in and day out in order to be perfect is actualy intended to keep us feeling safe and comfortable. We don’t want to be rejected. We don’t want to be outcasts. We don’t want to miss out. We don’t want to look like imposters.

And so we strive all day and all night to keep up the appearance that have our act together and nothing is wrong. 

And all that striving to look good and look joyful and look smart and look like our homes are ideal and our families are happy is absolutely exhausting.

Ah, but that’s not all. 

There’s another power system at play in our perfectionistic standards as well — one that I believe is a huge problem we must address — and that’s how perfectionism and racism are tied together.

According to Showing Up for Racial Justice, white supremacy culture is upheld through perfectionism characteristics such as the following:

  • little appreciation expressed among people for the work that others are doing; appreciation that is expressed usually directed to those who get most of the credit anyway
  • more common is to point out either how the person or work is inadequate
  • or even more common, to talk to others about the inadequacies of a person or their work without ever talking directly to them
  • mistakes are seen as personal, i.e. they reflect badly on the person making them as opposed to being seen for what they are — mistakes
  • making a mistake is confused with being a mistake, doing wrong with being wrong
  • little time, energy, or money put into reflection or identifying lessons learned that can improve practice, in other words little or no learning from mistakes
  • tendency to identify what ís wrong; little ability to identify, name, and appreciate what ís right
The Power and Destruction of Perfectionism

The Destruction of Perfectionism and the Negative Impact its Doing to Your Mind, Body and Spirit

First, let me say that this article and this perspective is written by me and from my own research and experience as a white woman. It is rooted in my white privilege. It is rooted in my experience as a woman who grew up in a rural community and worked hard to live a very stereotypical life. 

And, it’s also rooted in the work I do as a coach for creatives, entrepreneurs and changemakers who struggle with shedding perfectionism so they can live a more purpose-driven, impactful life of ease and joy.

We know that perfectionism is causing extreme exhaustion and a feeling of not enough. All we have to do is ask any working parents we see how they are doing right now.

It’s also possible that perfectionism is creating an enormous amount of stress and displeasure in our lives because we can’t possibly ever actually achieve the level of perfect we are striving for but we keep trying anyway.

And it could possibly be killing us, as well. 

“The rise in perfectionism is especially troubling because it has been linked to an array of mental health issues — a meta-analysis of 284 studies found that high levels of perfectionism were correlated with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, deliberate self-harm and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The constant stress of striving to be perfect can also leave people fatigued, stressed and suffering from headaches and insomnia,” according to a well-researched article on Vox connecting mental health and perfectionism.

And, sadly, perfectionism is on the rise.

In that same article, the authors talked about a study on the prevalence of perfectionism that found an increase in the number of people struggling with perfectionism. In 1989, about nine percent of respondents posted high scores in socially prescribed perfectionism, but by the end of the study, that had doubled to about 18 percent.

“On average, young people are more perfectionistic than they used to be,” Andrew Hill of the University of Bath said in the Vox article, and “the belief that other people expect you to be perfect has increased the most.” 

All of that destruction that perfectionism is doing is a concern because it’s been found that high levels of perfectionism can be linked to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, deliberate self-harm and obsessive, compulsive disorder. 

It can also contribute to exhaustion, stress, headaches and insomnia. 

The Power and Destruction of Perfectionism

Proving Ourselves in a Growing List of Perfect Life Domains 

When June Cleaver was all that we aspired to be, we simply needed to have a nice home, nice clothing and a perfect family. 

If June was still our role model, she would also also be volunteering as the PTO president, working a second or possibly a third job and putting up aesthetic pictures of her life on Instagram to prove her worth and her joy and trying to construct the perfect photo gallery wall of her perfect family life.

The truth is that there is much more rubble of perfectionism to climb out of as modern women.

Our domains to strive in and be perfect in have expanded immensely. It’s no longer about just how we look and our family life.

“Perfectionism has seeped into every single part of our modern lives as women and it is beginning to take all of our joy and ease. It’s beginning to steal all of our free time and mental energy, leaving little time for real pleasure.”

Shawn fink

Here are just some of the perfect life domains I see my friends and colleagues struggling with as well as new clients of mine when they first come to work with me:

  • The Perfect Body
  • The Perfect Home
  • The Perfect Self-Care
  • The Perfect Family
  • The Perfect Career
  • The Perfect Vacation
  • The Perfect Workspace
  • The Perfect Image
  • The Perfect Activist
  • The Perfect Cook
  • The Perfect Social Media Account
  • The Perfect Reading Stack
  • The Perfect Planner Pages
  • The Perfect Bullet Journal Page
  • The Perfect Meal
  • The Perfect Plant Wall
  • The Perfect Child

What happens when we see only visual images of perfection day in and day out, we don’t realize how those images seep into our brain and replace whatever enough was for us. And it begins a vicious cycle of not enough. In fact, all of this constant striving for perfectionism is so exhausting that even influencers are burning out. 

And then there is the perfectionism of White Supremacy that is exhausting Black women who are tired of feeling like they need to be “Twice as Good” as white women and are realizing they need to unlearn perfect as a way of life.

I am concerned that the mental health issues we are seeing today are just as much about perfectionism as they are about our generation’s inability to unplug, slow down and rest. We are so caught up in the patriarchal system of overworking and overdoing of the past that we’re exhausting ourselves and being more ineffective as a result. 

All this proving ourselves is causing more harm than good. The women who come to me for coaching tell me they are burned out, they are exhausted, they want to make a difference but the truth is they can barely find the energy to shower and do their work. 

And I wonder if all that proving themselves is what’s more of their issue than they know. 

Until we get under the hood of what is driving your perfectionism, it’s hard to tell. 

A client of mine who has trouble relaxing recently told me about a quote she read that resonated with her and encouraged her to stop trying to hard to do everything so perfectly.

“If you have something to prove, you are still a prisoner,” by Edith Eger Edith who survived imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp. Her parents were murdered her first day there. 

The Power and Destruction of Perfectionism

What’s Healthy Perfectionism and What’s Unhealthy?

Not all perfectionism is destructive.

But when it is we need to pay attention.

Just this week, I let myself off the hook to publish this piece on a Tuesday rather than a Monday, since Monday was a holiday here in the United States.

My brain was yelling at me and telling me that I am supposed to publish on a Monday. I must publish on a Monday. To do so, though, would have required taking time away from family and working on the weekend.

The voices in my head kept shouting: You can’t fail. They will reject you. You can’t let people down. You can’t possibly do something that isn’t what you said.

Well, I published on Tuesday, not Monday. And everyone survived. 

And, quite frankly, no one cared, either.

Part of my identity is wrapped up in doing — and doing exceedingly well. In fact, one of my top strengths is having an appreciation of beauty and excellence.

I always strive for excellence but sometimes that can mean I stumble through and get stopped by perfectionism. 

And so, as part of my own healing from this awful pressure that we put ourselves through, I’m learning to strive for excellence without expecting perfect, which means I focus on giving perfect effort not perfect results.

It means I am finishing things even if they aren’t how I envisioned them finished. 

It means I’m choosing Radical Rest even when I know I could be perfecting something a little bit more — like this blog post.

When we strive for excellence, we are striving to do OUR best, which may not be perfect, but we can let go of what others are going to think of us in the process.

However, there’s another form of perfectionism that takes it to a whole new level and that happens when we worry too much about what others are going to think of us or our work. That is called Toxic Perfectionism. 

shawn fink

Like Toxic Productivity, which I discussed in the first piece in this series, toxic perfectionism shows up when we lean too far into the extremes and operate in an all-or-nothing mindset. Toxic perfectionism operates under the mindset that if it can’t be done perfectly it should not get done. Toxic perfectionism can also result in a diminished sense of self-worth if you tie perfectionistic outcomes to your inner worth.

The truth is that my own perfectionism runs toxic in only one area of my life — and that’s my creative output and my work. 

My house is far from perfect. Same for my fashion sense. Even my hair, I’d argue, is never perfect. I am OK with imperfect children, though they would argue otherwise, and I’m OK with imperfect social media accounts.

But my creative work and coaching … that’s another situation entirely.  In the past, if I didn’t think a project would turn out perfect, I would quit. Or, I’d easily let a mistake ruin my day or cause a dip into my own enoughness.  And when something doesn’t turn out well, I beat myself up about it relentlessly.

This is my growth area.

Healthy perfectionism — which I prefer to say striving toward excellence rather than perfection — can be a very good thing for our lives.

Healthy perfectionism shows up in characteristics such as:

  • Setting meaningful, powerful goals and sticking to them
  • Trying new things and being OK if you fail
  • Using curiosity to solve problems
  • Being OK with trial and error
  • Feeling satisfied with your efforts
  • Finishing things even if they aren’t how you envisioned them
The Power and Destruction of Perfectionism

A Simple Yet Powerful Way to Start to Heal Your Perfectionism

My clients are high achievers. As creatives, entrepreneurs and changemakers they want to do big things. Epic things. Everyday #BraveYes things that make an impact and a difference in their families and communities. 

And they want ease and to enjoy this one life.

And, almost always, they hire me to help them because they are afraid.

Afraid of failing, of not getting it right, of messing up and much more. They are afraid of change. Afraid of doing it all alone. Afraid of not following through.

At the root of all of our fears is a very high level of perfectionism seeping through like a rainwater on a tent wall. It’s invisible. And yet it damages everything in its wake.  

shawn fink

This is why I work with my clients on unearthing their best selves from the rubble of perfectionism, overworking and many other invisible obstacles so they can carve out new stories around what it means to have unshakeable resilience — so that when you do big, scary, life-changing things you don’t quit too early or give u entirely. 

Part of that work we do is on creating a new story around making mistakes. 

In their book, Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Code, Emily and Amelia Nagoski wrote about the Mad Woman in the Attic, a reference to the book Jane Eyre.

I resonated with this metaphor very much as a Jane Eyre fan. In the book Jane Eyre, there is a wife in the attic who is not mentally well. 

The authors of Burnout use this metaphor to talk about the inner critic that is hiding within all of us and they ask us to name it and visualize it so it’s not just some vague powerful bully hanging over us.

This is a similar exercise I use with my clients who are trapped under the rubble of extreme perfectionism. We work to identify your inner taskmaster that is influencing you to overwork, overdo and over-perfect everything so you can actually finish things, rest and take it easy on yourself. The goal is to make an impact with your art, work or leadership and stop getting in your own way.

And, honestly, it’s helpful for all of us because we all have an inner critic that is controlling us and it’s vital to know who she  — or he — is so that we can address her fears and worries to bring a sense of comfort. 

Sometimes we have multiple inner critics and it takes time to unearth them all. It’s important to keep getting to know this part of you to experience wholeness.

The Freedom to Be Whole AND Imperfectly Perfect

In my coaching work, I am focused on helping my clients feel and experience wholeness — where all your many parts can come together and align.

For me, when I feel whole, I feel free.

Wholeness requires that we let go of perfectionism. Wholeness demands access to all of our messiest, insecure parts. After all, it’s all of our many parts that make us, us. 

Without my chaos and my overwhelmed brain and my empath ways, I am not me.

Just like without my intense spiritual gifts and strategic visioning skills, I am not me. 

“When we can finally bring all of ourselves — mistakes and imperfections, included — to the forefront, we feel liberated.” 

shawn fink

At dinner the other night, my husband and I were talking about the most free people we can think of in this lifetime.

I told him I think Jim Carrey is a free man. He can say what he wants. Do what he wants. He has no worries about what others think of him.

I idolize people like Jim Carrey, Pink, Madonna, and others who have no filter, that are willing to take life and career risks that pull no punches.

But not all of us are going to be the loud, dancing when everyone is looking kind of person.

Some of us are about quiet power.

Some of us are doing brave things without notice.

As an introvert, I believe in everyday Brave Yeses that aren’t going to make a big splash but will make a big impact.

And I continue to strive to be fully free like that though I have a long way to go.

So for this interest on this article, I researched it, and sure enough Jim Carrey is actually a perfectionist — as most of us are. 

But that’s the thing. He’s risen above his perfectionism not for himself — but for others. 

“My father used to brag that I wasn’t a ham — I was the whole pig. And he treated my talent as if it was his second chance. When I was about 28, after a decade as a professional comedian, I realized one night in LA that the purpose of my life had always been to free people from concern, like my dad. When I realized this, I dubbed my new devotion, “The Church of Freedom From Concern” — “The Church of FFC”— and I dedicated myself to that ministry,” he said in his commencement speech at Maharishi University of Management, May 24th, 2014.

In order to get to that place where we are all totally free we must work together to allow mistakes, to be OK with weird, to accept and embrace people living, working and leading in full color.

Shawn fink

We must trust each other to try and fail at things. 

We must be willing to admit that we attempted the new or the impossible and it didn’t go as we had hoped and that’s OK. 

We must be willing to let imperfect be perfectly OK.

We must be OK with yards with dandelions in the grass. Those weeds turn into seeds that spread wishes and dreams.

Only then can we ALL be free.

This article is the second in a multi-part series called The Politics of Languishing. Read the first installment here. Learn about languishing here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shawn Fink is the host and founder of The Brave Yes Show. She is a coach that helps women dig out from the rubble of fear, shoulds and expectations in order to create, lead, live and love more courageously. Join her email list below.

The Exhausting Politics of Overworking and Overdoing

The Exhausting Politics of Overworking and Overdoing

Women are exhausted by overworking and overdoing. And, if what I believe is true — that women have been languishing for years — it’s worth it to dive into the political — small p political — traps that have led to the feeling that women cannot seem to do anything to get ahead. This series will go under the hood of the everyday political structures that my clients — and myself — have experienced that keep women feeling trapped and stuck in exhaustion and in being unable to make as much progress as they wish they could. The goal is to highlight some of these power structures and start to lean in to change them for yourself and for others. This post and podcast is the first in a series called The Politics of Languishing and I’m sharing these ideas from my own perspective and experiences as a white woman and mother who lives in a rural area of the United States. Your experiences may be very different.


KEY SUMMARY POINTS

  • Work in this article is defined by me as anything that is not pleasure or joy.
  • Breaking down the many layered baggage of work ethic is often a part of the coaching work I do with my high achiever clients who lean toward perfectionism and people pleasing.
  • The tethered relationship we have with technology has played a role in our overwork that leads to extreme exhaustion.
  • Capitalism is another part of the power structure to which we feel tied to this constant state of work.
  • Overworking is actually causing deaths. Surprising new studies show that people who work more than 54 hours a week are at serious risk of dying from overwork.
  • Are you trapped in Toxic Productivity mode? This is a constant state of needing to improve yourself or your life and not ever feeling satiated by those attempts.
  • 3 ways to fight back against overworking and toxic productivity.
  • A fun yet powerful action to take TODAY to help bring ease to all.

When I was a teenager, I would get home from a long day at school, grab a snack, watch some bad television and often fall asleep.

After a nice break, I would clean up, do my homework and my chores.

But on some rare occasions, before I could emerge from my downtime, my step-father — who was a hard-working truck driver — would arrive home early.

Beep. Beep. Beep … this was the alarm clock dinging me awake from my dreams as his 18-wheeler backed into our longish driveway.

As the beep-beep-beep sound rang in my ears, I would jump up off the couch frantically, hurry and clean up and pretend like I hadn’t been sleeping or resting or watching television because I didn’t want to face his judgement that I was lazy.

My heart still pounds thinking about the ridiculousness of those moments.

The truth is that rest, leisure, play and pleasure were not at the heart of my nuclear family. In fact, the only thing that was valued was hard work and saving your money.

SHAWN FINK

It didn’t take long in my adulthood to realize that kind of living is not for me, that I value being fulfilled through the art of being and the vastness of what pleasure and mindfulness can bring to a life and a family.

And, it’s something I still have to catch myself getting caught up in if I am not careful. I’ll easily choose over-functioning over under-performing and I have to make sure that I am thriving in mind, body and spirit as I work to make an impact in this world.

Breaking down that longtime work ethic is almost always at the heart of the private coaching work I do with highly ambitious creatives and changemakers who value a more meaningful, fulfilled life but have no idea how to achieve it AND their dreams and inner longings. 

At the heart of all the hard work that has women feeling exhausted and trapped is what I call soul exhaustion.

And the root of soul exhaustion is an insatiable desire to keep forcing and striving — often without a real vision of what you’re aiming for and you are just overdoing everything in pursuit of a better tomorrow, a better you, a better life.

All of this is why I believe strongly that many women — especially mothers trying to take her work and her family seriously — have been languishing for years and the pandemic actually gave them a glimpse into slowing down and enjoying another way of life

I know because when I was a working mom out of the house I was constantly trying to avoid falling into exhaustion and despair while simultaneously striving to get to the next level. 

Until I realized that life is not for me.

In 2013, I designed a more aligned life for myself so that I can serve and empower women to design a beautiful life of impact and ease, earn and income and be home with my daughters as needed. 

I’ve been running my own soulful yet strategic coaching business for eight years where I have freedom, simplicity, pleasure and joy — as well as struggles and hardship because no job is perfect. 

The Challenge of Designing a more Aligned life for Ourselves

Designing a life along with a business or career that infuses our authenticity with our values and creates a feeling of wholeness requires that we change how we’ve been doing life and set down some of the old patterns we’ve picked up along the way.

For me, I had no problem shedding the politics of overworking when I started working and living a much slower pace.

But, for many, that kind of a big change feels nearly impossible because the politics of overworking is so ingrained in us that a thriving life filled with meaning and impact seems unattainable. We simply must keep striving for more and overdoing to keep up with everyone else.

“I believe in empowering women to unearth your higher purpose and design your life around living it and moving toward it at all times.” 

shawn fink

But for many women creating a more aligned life where you are making a bigger impact AND living with more ease and joy doesn’t seem possible — and, quite frankly, for some it’s not necessary. We can make changes and live more in alignment without burning down our careers and lives.

But, first, you have to understand:

  • Work is essential even if a person isn’t. 
  • Money is necessary even when it’s not enough.
  • Being trapped in a bad situation is better than being out of a job.
  • Hustling is rewarded more than settling for less.

Being caught up in a system that keeps you busy leads you further away from your zone of genius and higher purpose, but it’s safe and comfortable so you stick with it.

Today, as capitalism soars, we are all paying the price of the unintended consequences of the overworking ethic of past generations mixed with an inundation of constantly evolving technology that has us tethered to our own personal work ethic more than ever.

For the sake of this article, I want to first define work and overwork in my way, a very unofficial definition, in fact.

I see work as being anything that isn’t pleasure, rest and joy. 

Work can be the dishes. It can be a deadline or project. It can be answering emails, checking emails, texting with committee members or bosses. It can be social media. Paying bills. Mowing the lawn. It can be working long hours for your boss just to prove your worth. It can be homeschooling. 

If it feels like work, it’s work, in my book. 

And, as for technology, anytime we pick up a device for something other than pleasure, it’s also work. 

Thus, our endless connection … to work, over-functioning and neverending productivity.

How Technology is Leading the Way to Our Languishing

Sometimes when I am in a space of overwhelm and overwork, I think about the old days and how simple it must have been. I like to teleport myself into the Anne with an E series — that sadly ended too soon — and imagine lighting candles for light and doing everything by hand manually. 

Those days are long gone and I wonder sometimes if we’re trying to be more like robots than human beings and if this great desire to keep up with technology is making us work harder because, honestly, we’re just not that smart or evolved yet as a species.

But we are trying to be smarter than our computers.

The end result is that we’re exhausted by the overworking we are doing simply because of our ability to grab a phone and start working (learning, absorbing, communicating, consuming.) The pandemic life drove these bad habits home for so many, literally. 

The fact of the matter is that we are easily influenced by the overworking and overdoing culture simply through our convenient devices:

  • We can wake up and check email.
  • We can eat lunch and work on our social media accounts.
  • We can be at our kids’ soccer game and take the client call.
  • We can respond to our boss’s text messages in the middle of family dinner.
  • We can wake up and go into our home office and stay there all day and all night, if we wish.
  • We can rock our baby to sleep and take a professional development eCourse.
  • We can hop on an important zoom call during our vacation.

“If anything, the idea of pleasure, leisure and rest has gotten so lost in the past decade than ever before that we have forgotten what it can feel like to value being bored, to value the art of doing nothing, to create space for bursting creativity and joy and awe and to understand the value of just being rather than doing.

SHAWN FINK

But, there is a larger issue at play here — something much bigger and harder to tackle.

And that elephant in the room is capitalism — which is driving our overworking culture.

The Pressure to Overworking and Overdoing is Leading to our Languishing

Once you start going under the hood of the economy, poverty and the politics of who is thriving and who is not, it’s hard to not see the truth of the matter.

It’s hard to not see how white elitists are worrying about their boats and their elaborate vacations and yet your friends in a different zip code are worried about how their child is going to get internet access and safe drinking water.

We have a huge well-being gap caused by capitalism and income disparity. 

According to the Theory of Capitalism at Columbia University, “Capitalism is a system of largely private ownership that is open to new ideas, new firms and new owners—in short, to new capital. Capitalism’s rationale to proponents and critics alike has long been recognized to be its dynamism, that is, its innovations and, more subtly, its selectiveness in the innovations it tries out. At the same time, capitalism is also known for its tendency to generate instability, often associated with the existence of financial crises, job insecurity and failures to include the disadvantaged. “

This means that anyone can bring an idea forth at any time — which is a beautiful gift of freedom for anyone who wants to be a business owner. But it also means that competition is fierce and sales pitches are everywhere and the marginalized and disadvantaged are being left behind.

“Capitalism takes the position that “greed is good,” which its supporters say is a positive thing — greed drives profits and profits drive innovation and product development, which means there are more choices available for those who can afford them. Its opponents say that capitalism is, by nature, exploitative, and leads to a brutally divided society that tramples the working classes in favor of fattening the rich’s wallets.”

Kim Kelly in Teen Vogue,

I found this article to be a great read on how millennials are struggling with this power system:  “While the millennial generation has been called lazy, entitled, and impatient, data suggest that 30-somethings are actually working more and for less than the generations preceding them. Significant attention has been directed to this phenomenon in recent months. In a viral article published on Buzzfeed, Anne Helen Petersen described Millennials as the ‘burnout generation’ where leading a stressed and emotionally straining lifestyle has become the norm for many young adults.”

The evidence is clear: overworking and overdoing isn’t creating a system for well-being for all. If anything, it’s causing extreme disparities in all areas of life, including financial.

As a business owner, I talk to women entrepreneurs all day and they, too, are exhausted by the hustle to do to keep up with the current economy as well as the current challenges of modern day marketing, which is a lot like shouting into a crowded street and hoping someone will respond.

Fierce competition and saturation of the market have some women-owned small businesses feeling stressed about clearing a profit and exhausted by the constant demand to do more and be more.

How Overworking and Overdoing Morphs into Toxic Productivity and Over-Functioning

Of course, we all want to work hard and be good workers. That’s always the mission. 

So when does hard work lean toward something unhealthy and unfulfilling?

That is going to be up to you as it is a subjective definition for each person. But it’s pretty clear that when working hard becomes a 24/7 nightmare with no breaks, little life fulfillment, and resentment, you have begun to morph into toxic productivity.

Toxic Productivity is an insatiable desire to keep chasing more, more, more and still feeling like you have not done enough or are enough.

shawn fink

Toxic productivity should be our No. 1 enemy as a society.  It’s what eats at you when you just can’t stop and rest. It’s what keeps us from connecting with ourselves and each other. It’s what steals family time. It’s what steals pleasure and joy. 

“It can be defined as an obsession with radical self improvement above all else. Ultimately, it’s an unachievable goal; no matter how productive you are, the result you are left with is a feeling of guilt for not having done ‘more’,” shares expert nurse Emma Selby, clinical lead at health & fitness brand Results Wellness Lifestyle.

You could be trapped in toxic productivity if you get frustrated by other people who take breaks to have fun and you think they should be working more or harder for their money or if your kids are scheduled every night of the week with activities and you find any amount of down time to be a waste of time.

shawn fink

Getting things done and being a part of things is awesome and a great way to bring life fulfillment, but toxic productivity takes over when you do all of those things and you still don’t feel like you’ve done enough. 

It’s not enough. You are not enough. Your partner or kids are not enough. 

You know something needs to shift when you are stuck in the overworking and overdoing cycle.

One attribute that can really pop out in this space is over-functioning. 

Brené Brown describes overfunctioners as having the tendency “to move quickly to give advice, rescue, takeover, micromanage, get in other people’s business rather than looking inward.”

I am a chronic overfunctioner myself — as is Brené — and I know the signs when my over-functioning side takes over and I have found that giving myself compassion for wanting to be a hard worker goes right back to those younger years of my life when the beep-beep-beep of that truck jostled me into a panic.

What is all this overworking and overdoing doing to us?

The same people trapped in the cycle of overworking are the same people who are stressed, burned out, overwhelmed, anxious and angry. 

This is exactly what I see with my clients who want to make a bigger impact in their life and their work or business but also don’t want to feel burned out and exhausted by taking on too much.

In fact, all this overworking and overdoing is actually killing us.

According to a new study published earlier this month by the World Health Organization, “Alarming new research shows that people working more than 54 hours a week are at major risk of dying from overwork. It’s killing three-quarters of a million people each year.”

And the funny thing is that the only real conversation around overwork and work ethic is that it’s really hard to find good workers (ie: hard workers).

While there is evidence that the work ethic that most of us grew up with has only become more and more toxic and demanding, there is the other side of the story that believes we’re still not good enough or working hard enough or doing a good enough job, according to this article in Aeon:

“The work ethic is a tent-pole of national identity politics. Reading between the lines, across the media, or even just skimming the headlines, gives one the impression that we are a nation under attack. One national poll in 2015 found that 72 per cent of respondents said the United States ‘isn’t as great as it once was’. The principal culprit was the country’s declining belief in the value of hard work. More people thought ‘our own lagging work ethic’ was a larger threat to American greatness than the Islamic State, economic inequality, and competition with China.”

And yet …

That same article says this: “Widespread anxiety about a diminished work ethic is confounding when considered against the actual data on how much time Americans spend working. The hours of all wage and salary workers rose 13 per cent from 1975 to 2016, a total of about five extra weeks per year. And there’s evidence that those of us still working through the pandemic are putting in longer hours than we were before. In addition to long hours, workers suffer from irregular schedules, volatile by design, that change at their employers’ whims. And there’s also the mass of the so-called involuntarily unemployed, constantly seeking, but not finding, enough work hours to survive. These three features – overwork, unstable schedules, and a lack of adequate hours – define the paradoxical time signature of the work life today, especially for low-wage workers.”

We can do better for our neighbors and our community.

We can do better for our families.

And we must do better.

The Staggering Connection Between Hard Work and Languishing

And so when all you do is work and work and work and when rest is seen as lazy and unproductive, you end up feeling exhausted and empty. 

If your identity and self-worth are tied up in your productivity and work ethic, you will feel bad when you are doing nothing, resting, or experiencing pleasure rather than productivity.

Hard work without rest, without space, without nourishing self-care time leads to languishing and burnout. Gone are the days of our mental health days where we could slow down and recover. Now one set of work activities bleed into the next and, these days, from one room to the next.

Not too long ago, a reader responded to one of my emails about rest with this quote and her thoughts …

“But in a society reflexively suspicious of rest, getting a restorative break tends to require a formal mental-health diagnosis. Otherwise, you risk getting called a slacker. That’s what happened to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a couple of years ago when she announced she was taking a few days off for “self-care” after a grueling election. “ Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t yet started her new job,” Fox News blared, “but she’s already taking a break.”

My reader said this: “This got me thinking that maybe we need to bring back the nervous breakdown, to protect the nation’s collective reserve of nerve force at a time when it’s stretched so thin. What would the modern version of a culturally accepted, nervous-breakdown-precipitated time-out look like?”

Once you know better, you know better — but what do you do about it?

Living in alignment has never been more valued and never been easier. When I started my own business in 2013, I approached it as a freelance writer. 

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. 

Starting a business where you can be free isn’t always ideal for you or your life circumstances. Finding gainful employment AND feeling like you are in your values can be a challenge. And we can’t just walk away.

And yet one of the greatest outcomes of the pandemic is that more and more companies now value remote work as being a viable option.

That doesn’t make it any easier, though.

Anne Helen Peterson wrote in her newsletter that while we have the support of technology, our self-worth is still pulled from being productive.

“At some point the brain and body says no. Nowhere is it more apparent than in the endless Wednesday of the eleventh month of attempting to work from home against the backdrop of a horrific pandemic. Every day we wake up and complete our tasks and grasp at peak productivity and fail and go to bed and wake up and grasp all over again. The exhaustion of continual failure compounds the exhaustion of the work itself.”

She goes on to write: “We’ve reached the point of diminishing returns. I think we know this. You can see it explicitly manifest in anti-hustle culture, in the renewed embrace of unions and the labor movement, in the popularity of books like How to Do Nothing and movements like The Nap Ministry. Some people have known it for a long time, some are just gradually coming to terms with it. A lot of it, I’ve found, depends on just how inculcated you were by productivity culture. Were you surrounded with examples of productivity as success? Or were the “productive” people in your life the most exhausted and pissed off?”

It’s not About How Much You Accomplish. It’s about the Impact You Make.

In my podcast, The Brave Yes, which focuses on wholeness and life alignment as a way of living and leading and interviews women who have made Brave Yes Leaps in their lives in order to experience greater well-being and wholeness, there is a theme:

If you want to be authentically happy with how you spend your days and your time, you’re going to need to live your values and seek out life fulfillment.

Your self-worth impacts your ability to flourish and thrive.

In my last piece, I wrote that women have been languishing for years.

Adam Grant wrote in his article for the New York Times that “Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.”

The only way out of languishing is finding meaning and purpose in your life — not necessarily less work time but more aliveness.

We need to feel like we have purpose and meaning in our lives. And we can’t do that when we wrap up our worth and identities in how much we accomplish each day. Long list of to-dos crossed off may feel good but by the end of the day we still feel empty.

That’s why my coaching helps you focus only on the highest impact and long-term gains in your life and why we spend a lot of time asking questions like:

  • What can I do to make the bigger difference this week? 
  • Who am I when I put away my to-do list?
  • How can I stay true to myself and my values?

I want all of my clients to enjoy being more courageous and motivated not for the sake of overworking or overdoing but because they are in their zone of genius and using their superpowers AND because they have the energy to do so thanks to amazing well-being practices.

“When we live in a state of hurried and harried, it’s hard to make time for a flow state or to listen for our higher purpose.”

shawn fink

When we feel trapped in an overworking cycle where we can’t find contentment or worthiness without over doing everything, we feel a sense of emptiness and stagnation. 

If all you live for is your to-do list, you’re likely feeling as if you have been muddling through your days. 

“If you want to feel more alive, overworking is not going to get you there — at least not with any long-term gains.”

SHAWN FINK

For me, it’s about balance but I am also a privileged white woman who works at home with a small client base from around the world. I built my coaching business eight years around my own values of simplicity, family, pleasure, joy and freedom.

My coaching work helps you flourish by finding your ideal flow states, balancing your energy and your expectations. And I do have a toolbox to help you with any challenge you encounter.

Rather than keep settling for a life of languishing emptiness, we need to take control and focus on bring ourselves back alive day after day, week after week. 

When we find flow and whole-hearted focus in our days again, we experience bliss. 

And then, it’s all flourishing from there.

3 Ways to Fight Back Against Overworking and Toxic Productivity

I work with women on finding their authentic life path.

I work with women on choosing their upleveling their capacity as a business owner so they have the time and energy to make a bigger impact.

I work with women on choosing a new career path or starting a business.

But what I do not work with women on is doing more for the sake of doing more. Every decision needs to come from a place of ease, joy and inner wisdom.

And so if you feel trapped under the rubble of overworking and overdoing, I want you to slow down right now and breathe and trust that change is coming to you. It’s on the way right now.

“Taking your life and time back begins with you choosing to do things differently and that you don’t need permission from anyone else to start making choices that impact your health and your well-being.”

shawn fink

And you can begin right now.

Here are 3 Ways to Fight Back Against Overworking and Toxic Productivity

FOCUS ON IMPACT AND FLOW

We see the evidence of how busy work can really zap our children’s time when they are in school. It’s a waste of time and energy when play and creativity would be a much better source of learning. I’m not a fan of busy work and I don’t think it’s great for adults either.

The next time you think you should be doing something, notice how you fill your time and ask yourself if that is busy work or impact work? And ask yourself if you could fill your time with something even  better — pleasure. If you are not sure what brings you pleasure, that is exactly what we’ll figure out in my private coaching. 

TAKE YOUR REST SERIOUSLY

As a creative soul and writer and coach, I take energy management and rest very seriously. I have to. It’s the only way I can sustain my momentum and positive energy. It’s the only way I can show up for my family and clients with joy. 

Rest comes in many forms — not just laying down and napping. Sometimes rest is asking for help on a big problem or struggle so you don’t have to keep worrying about it and ruminating over it. Sometimes you just need someone to tell you what to do and help you create a solid plan. 

FINDING YOUR GOOD ENOUGH QUOTA 

For years, I have worked with women on feeling enough. And I have said it over and over that enoughness is an inside job. The only person who can ever help you feel validated and enough is you. 

And that means you have to find your good enough quota. We can easily work all day long and keep going with all the things and that is what we will do if we don’t have a good enough quota in our minds. Knowing what is good enough for YOU is essential to being able to stop, relax and let go knowing you did … enough. 

Building a Vision of Thriving for All

My coaching work focuses on helping you move into your next Brave Yes. It helps you create and design a Brave Yes Life by infusing authenticity and courage into your life, work or creativity.

In my social justice work, I am constantly talking to women about equity. Equity isn’t just in money — though more money for all is absolutely the fastest way to thriving in mind, body and spirit.

But it’s also important to remember that we all deserve to feel alive and like we matter.

It’s important to remember that living on $300 a month is not a sustainable family budget and yet many are doing just that.

And so the vision you create for yourself must include how to help others thrive as well.

Because as long as some of us are languishing we’re all going to have work to do.

You don’t have to overwork or overdo to find your worth.

But you do have the ability to choose the Brave Yes to use your voice and be in the right places at the right time to be a part of the solutions.

And while we will not destroy the patriarchy or the capitalist system this week or this year, there is one thing we can all do starting right now, today.

We can all help each other immensely in ONE big Brave Yes way.

We can choose to relax.

Relax your expectations of yourself.

Relax your expectations of others.

Stop letting overworking and overdoing drive the worth you give to yourself and to others.

Ask yourself if you are letting toxic productivity lead or if you are letting your heart lead?

The Truth is that Women have been Languishing for Years

The Truth is that Women have been Languishing for Years

Are you languishing or flourishing?’

In a New York Times article by writer Adam Grant that went viral in April, we all nodded our heads at the fact that, yes, indeed we are languishing right now in the messy middle of this long, drawn out global pandemic.

Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton and author of books such as Originals and Give and Take as well as host of the TedX podcast WorkLife, wrote in this article that we are all languishing, which he defines as the following:

“Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity. Languishing dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus, and triples the odds that you’ll cut back on work. It appears to be more common than major depression — and in some ways it may be a bigger risk factor for mental illness.”

Like most, I felt a big YES when I read this … that is how I am feeling. I am not used to languishing. In fact, 2020 was my best year ever for many personal and professional reasons.

But 2021 has been less than thrilling for many reasons. At times it has felt exhausting and depressing.

Grant wrote in his article: “Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.”

So I resonated with his belief that we are languishing.

Until I got to thinking more about my own research for an upcoming project and sat with the idea … and then it occured to me.

Women have been Languishing for Years

Most women — and those who identify as women — have been languishing for years — decades even.

How do I know?

Because I have been working with women for a decade and every email, every webinar, every coaching discovery call proves my point.

Grant explains in his article that the word languishing was coined by sociologist Corey Keyes, “who was struck that many people who weren’t depressed also weren’t thriving.”

Such has been the case for many women juggling a family and a career or business — with no room for self-care — for years.

Don’t let the influencers influence you into thinking it’s just you who’s not thriving. Their product is likely not the solution you need to finally feel happy, content or hopeful.

What we need is for all of us to pitch in and try to change the entire system for ourselves — and for all families.

In my experience as a working mother over the past 15 years, I have had to fight very hard to flourish and that doesn’t even consider my privilege as a white woman. I have worked hard AND it’s been a struggle, a hustle and a constant uphill battle to keep my mediocre life afloat.

Sometimes it feels like all we’re doing is trying to climb to the top of the pile or keep ourselves from falling into despair.

This doesn’t even begin to explain the hardship of Black and Brown women who have been trying to thrive while coping with struggles such as high unemployment rates, police brutality, trauma of all kinds and racism at work and in their communities.

So what has been the cause of women’s languishing long before the pandemic?

First and foremost, the causes of our languishing is a systemic culture and power system that has consistently added more pressure and more responsibilities to womens’ plates while simultaneously preventing women from rising in the ranks at work or in society compared to men.

The truth is that none of us have been flourishing as much as we could be or should be given the economics of this country and world. Our lives are not easy. They are filled with hardship not because we don’t work our butts off but because of the power systems we are forced to live within are stacked against us.

And that is the case especially for Black and Latino Women as well who, according to the 2019 State of Women in the Workplace, “Black women and women with disabilities face more barriers to advancement and get less support than other groups of women.”

And that’s not all, that same report in 2019 — just a year before the pandemic began — also reported the following:

  • Women are less likely to be hired and promoted to manager: For every 100 men promoted and hired to manager, only 72 women are promoted and hired.”
  • 1 in 4 women think their gender has played a role in missing out on a raise, promotion or chance to get ahead.”
  • Lesbian women, bisexual women, and women with disabilities are far more likely than other women to hear demeaning remarks about themselves or others like them.”
  • 73% of women report experiencing microaggressions—or everyday discrimination—which is rooted in bias.”

And, according to the US Federal Reserve System, “New data from the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) show that long-standing and substantial wealth disparities between families in different racial and ethnic groups were little changed since the last survey in 2016; the typical White family has eight times the wealth of the typical Black family and five times the wealth of the typical Hispanic family.”

As long as some of us are floundering, we’re all going to keep languishing.

Grant’s viral article pointed out what women have known for a long time — that we are stuck. Women are trapped in a life that culturally and systemically believes that women and families need to do it all and at the same time are held down and back by a broken system that prevents them from getting ahead.

In fact, this messy middle that we are in is only pointing out our flawed our system for helping all people thrive is failing.

Feeling good shouldn’t be this hard.

The so-called antidote to languishing is flourishing.

Flourishing is the ability “to find fulfillment in our lives, accomplishing meaningful and worthwhile tasks, and connecting with others at a deeper level—in essence, living the “good life,” according to Martin Seligman, the founding father of positive psychology and author of Flourish.

I happen to be trained and certified in helping my clients flourish and thrive and we use the flourishing model to do that. That’s a big part of the work I do with my high achieving clients who are also caretakers. And it’s also why I know that women have been languishing for far longer than this year.

There are six parts to the flourishing model that need to be accessed and tended to in order to flourish:

  • Positive emotions
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Accomplishments
  • Vitality

Before the pandemic, the average results of Harvard’s Human Flourishing Program Flourishing Quiz was 70. Now it’s 65. Of course this is based on who has had the time and been targeted in taking the Harvard quiz but let’s just say the average isn’t flourishing at 70.

One commenter on the quiz article wrote this:

“As a Black woman living in Minneapolis – it is hard to be “flourishing” – when any day someone you love may be murdered by the police for being Black. When you are protesting for the right to be alive. Looking at India and Brazil – how can anyone not be sad? Over a million people will die from Covid19 in India. Pregnant women and babies dying in Brazil. The grief. This Humanist is not flourishing – but I am happy to be alive, vaccinated, housed, and have everything I need, including love.”

The fact that so many of my clients actually enjoyed the Great Slow Down the pandemic caused proves my point. The hustle-culture that our lives had been turned into before Covid-19 struck was a dead-end street for women and families.

The Great Pause that we had to be together, to slow down, to bake and read books was a welcome sigh of relief for many. And the idea of returning to that hustle and grind is not appealing for so many.

Yes, we want connection. Yes we want to feel free. Yes we want to do fun things again.

But we don’t want the pressure, the non-stop go-go-go or the demoralization that many felt in the workplace or in their communities.

Recognizing you are languishing — and have been — is the first step in doing something about it.

The Art of Flourishing isn’t a one-time fix but rather a long journey of life changes that boost your positive energy and your meaning and purpose for being on this planet. This is the work I do with my clients. Earlier this year, I shared my method overview in my free Rise Stronger Challenge.

But self-care alone isn’t going to help you flourish.

If you are trapped in a demoralizing job that isn’t paying you enough or if you are caught up in a business that isn’t providing for you in mind, body and spirit, it will be hard to experience true flourishing.

If you have to take three buses to get to your first job and another 2 buses to get to your second, no amount of self-care is going to help you flourish. You might be grateful. You might be fine. You might even be happy enough.

But to flourish … that’s a different ball game.

Changing your life to have more meaning, more purpose, more impact so that you can grow forward is the Brave Yes Life I’m trying to spread and get to catch on for women.

I am one of the lucky ones. While my income isn’t always flourishing as we need as a family, my meaning and purpose for my life is the primary guide for my everyday life.

This is a big reason why I scored an 85 on the Flourishing Quiz. The only reason it wasn’t higher was because I still haven’t been able to connect with people the way I need to thanks to the pandemic. But I expect that to change soon.

Over the next several weeks, I am going to dive deeper into these power systems and the politics of what is keeping women — and those who identify as women — stagnant rather than flourishing — and I’ll share what resources we can use to help shift this paradigm. I’ll be releasing a new series of blog posts/podcasts breaking down what’s really happening to keep so many women feeling trapped and stuck and unable to flourish.

In other words, I’m going to be talking about the politics of languishing.

LIsten to this Brave Yes Show Episode Now

How to Journey Toward Wholeness

How to Journey Toward Wholeness

When I launched my podcast The Brave Yes Show, I knew that at its heart and soul, the show would be about women finding wholeness, alignment and living our values and in our integrity.

I knew because it’s what I am ready for in my own life — and it’s what I am here to help women do in their lives.

One of the first episodes — and one of the most popular to date — has been Permission to Journey Toward Wholeness.

How and what WHOLENESS leads to for a tentative, hesitant woman who has felt trapped in her life and hiding herself for years is truly wide open.

  • It may show up in finally doing what you’ve always wanted to do and letting go of a past identity.
  • It may show up in going for a promotion and finally owning who you are in your industry and being ready to demonstrate and perform at your peak.
  • It may show up in starting a side hustle or business that engages your creativity and passions that bring you more alive.
  • It may show up in pivoting your business or upleveling your business to bring more ease or more power because you know you deserve it.
  • It may show up in finally choosing yourself and investing in who you are and who you want to be to make a bigger impact in your family or community.
  • It may show up in choosing a new way of living and leading in your life that brings all your too muchness and sensitivities into the light so you can take up more space in your life.

But the end goal is always, always your wholeness — where all the many parts of you are flowing smoothly and on display to everyone around you.

Your wholeness isn’t tied up in what society dictates or pressures you to be.

Your wholeness isn’t doing what others think is best for you.

Your wholeness isn’t about keeping up with the elite crowd or the neighbors down the street.

Your wholeness can only be reached through your own personal journey — a journey that I call your Brave Yes Journey.

SHAWN FINK

As a coach, my role in a coaching relationship is to keep a focus on your wholistic life — and our work together is about bringing all of your many fragmented parts into alignment. We weave wholeness into everything including your own self-worth through my coaching tool called Activating Your Audacious Authenticity. Once you know yourself so well that you can see how you have been showing up in the world out of alignment, it’s so much easier to lead and create more boldly.

The key to being the change we want to see in the world beings within. It begins with no longer self-sabotaging. It begins with no longer letting energy leaks take over. It begins with trusting yourself.

On this week’s Brave Yes show, I am breaking down what you must be willing to do to journey toward your own wholeness.

I had so much fun with this episode by bringing in the Brave Yes Voices interviews I’ve done this year so far. Using my guests’ stories, I am offering you some powerful wisdom to use as you begin, continue or uplevel your own path toward wholeness. Please share with a friend who you know needs to know she’s valuable and worthy.

Listen Now to this episode now as I share more about the following:

  • You must be willing to stand up for yourself.
  • You must be willing to claim or reclaim some lost part of yourself.
  • You must be willing to take a risk.
  • You must be willing to be different.
  • You must be willing to advocate for yourself and your needs.

HELLO!

Hello. I’m Shawn. I am a creative soul and Gen Xer who is creeping up on 50. I’m an instigator and changemaker that started out as a free spirit in my early years as a latchkey kid. I’m a starter and a doer.

If you want to find your energy and your motivation we’ll start by unearthing your inner worth and your inner fire for life. The results and goals you set will be all yours and unique to you and your inner longings. Work with me here.