I’m a sucker for an 80s or 90s film, especially ones where women are no longer just the subservient wife who stays at home and bakes all day. To me when I was growing up, power women in their slick suits marching around New York in fierce stilettos and taking on the world looked like they were living the life.
I wanted to be one. Think Diane Keaton, power outfits and in control… that’s where I was aiming.
As I’ve grown up, I’ve heard phrases like ‘she has it all’ and ‘how does she do it?!’ accompanying descriptions of many women. Those words are often dripping with envy and hint that if you’re ludicrously busy, your life is desirable, that a long list of things to juggle is the dream. Running from meeting to meeting, grabbing lunch on the go, talking fast because every second counts… that’s the aim. To have it all, to possess a to do list longer than the hours in the day, that’s what a little girl should dream of, right?
I’m sorry, child Jess, but you were wrong.
First of all, in my opinion, idealising the idea of having it all is part of the reason why so many of us experience burn out nowadays, but that’s a post for another day. The idea I want to focus on is the envy we feel for women who ‘have it all’ and the shame we feel when we don’t quite ‘measure up’.
We are meant to see a designer bag and be jealous. Pay packets with lots of zeros on the end are meant to make our mouth salivate. Two perfectly behaved, clever children are supposed to tug at our ovaries. A handsome husband who does the dishes is meant to be the dream.
But ask yourself – is this really your dream?
The problem, or the good thing depending on how you look at it, is that people’s version of ‘having it all’ looks different. Some people see career driven people with amazing holidays and a home to die for as the definition of having it all, whereas others see those with solid friendships and relationships as the epitome of happiness.
It’s taken me a long time to realise what my vision of ‘having it all’ looks like, and I am sure in the future as I grow older and my priorities and life grows in different ways that it will change.
I’ve learnt that I don’t put money first. I like to save and see the work I put in reflected in the salary I take home, but I don’t value a wage over the satisfaction I get from a job.
I used to think that ‘having it all’ when it came to friendships meant having a huge number of friends, but now I see how a select group of really good friends means so much more.
I used to think that a mark of success meant always being tired, always running around, never having time for yourself. It wasn’t a life I wanted, but I thought that being successful meant that you had to live like that. Now I have pursued my personal goals with my writing, I see how that is what success it – going for the things I want to do and feeling proud of myself for doing them.
However you look at it, ‘having it all’ isn’t a one size fits all thing, but that’s the beauty of it. You don’t have to envy someone else’s figure or feel guilty because you don’t have the biggest house on the street – you just need to figure out what ‘having it all’ means to you and work on getting your life to that point that suits you. No one else, just you.
What does ‘having it all’ look like to you?