What good is "having it all" if along the way you lose yourself?
If I only had ____, I'd finally be happy. This is what we tell ourselves. If I only had: a husband ... a baby ... a six-figure job?
It's a myth, my friends. Having it all does not lead to happiness. So, what then does?
When I was a little girl, my cousin Stacy and I played with Barbies. We each had a Ken doll and a Dream House and several babies stuffed in the back of our pink plastic Corvette. I knew that one day, I'd "have it all" just like Barbie, and by 24, I did. My husband was a 6'2" dark-haired, green-eyed attorney. We lived in a charming brick colonial with a sprawling green yard, and a pure-bred golden retriever. Life looked as I'd always pictured it would — perfect.
And yet, I cried almost every day. My heart ached for more. Deep inside, I yearned for meaning, not just money. My free spirit ached to travel extensively, to experience city life, to make a positive impact in the world, and to live with purpose. I knew I was meant for greater things, but I felt small. On the surface, I had it all But along the way to acquiring it, I'd lost myself. For all that I'd accomplished and all that I knew, I still needed to learn how to be happy.
As modern women, we've been told that if we can just land the man, the baby, the career, all while sporting perfectly manicured fingernails, then we will be happy. But the fact is that women today are less happy than our counterparts were 30 years ago. In particular, women over 40 are at the highest risk of depression because we have no time for ourselves and are under the pressure of endlessly mounting responsibilities. (Plus, with turning 50 just around the corner, we feel like we're rapildly running out of time.)
Equally painful about "trying" to have it all is that the pursuit makes you feel like nothing. There is always more to do, more to be, someone "better" you are supposed to measure up with. How many people do you know who spend hours on match.com only to feel like rejected losers? How many of your friends spend hours each day at their corporate jobs wishing they could escape it and be set free? One of my clients has never traveled abroad because she's waiting for a dream man to go with her. Enough!
The answer isn't "having" it all, but rather in "being" your all. Who are you really? What do you deeply desire? What long lost dream have you put on the back burner? One of my clients ached to become an artist, but became a doctor instead because that meant status in her family. Then, when she married, she became a stay-at-home mom because that was what her husband expected of her. By the time she came to me, she was depressed, anxious and depleted. The answer for her now was clear: it was time to be the artist she was born to be. So, she became one and now she's genuinely happy.
So what secret dream tugs at your heart yearning to come alive? Do you deeply desire to travel, to paint, to work with children or to write poetry? Are you secretly attracted to women, desiring some kinky BDSM, or wishing you could leave your job and join the Peace Corps? Do it! Those are parts of you that MUST be set free. It is only in "being" all of who you are that you can truly have it all.
For me, being my full self meant being free, spiritual and purposeful. I divorced my husband at 26 and set out on my journey to happiness. After traveling the globe alone, leaving corporate America at 35, getting my masters degree in the science of happiness, and pursuing my lifelong dream as a writer and speaker, I remarried last week to a man who wrote in his vows — "I see all of you and I love what I see; I hold your dreams as high as my own."
I'm not happy because I have him; I have him because I'm happy.
You must prioritize your own happiness first. No one else is going to do it for you. You are not a cookie cutter; you are an individual with a unique spirit, a delicious soul, and a distinct purpose waiting to be realized. It is only in honoring your uniqueness that you can define what "it all" looks like for you and have all that you desire.