Do you ever feel that, no matter what you do, it isn’t enough?
Your career isn’t where you want it to be. Your weight isn’t where you want it to be. You’re no Martha Stewart in the kitchen. You could be a better wife, mother, daughter, friend.
But let me guess: People admire you.
Maybe they don’t come out and say it, but they come to you when they need help. They know they can rely on you. You’re the one person who does what she says she’s going to do.
Chances are, you’re what’s known as a high-performing woman.
High-performing women don’t always look like boss babes in heels or social media stars.
Often, they look just like you or me.
They wear yoga pants. They gulp down coffee. They hide their unwashed hair in a bun.
But what makes these women different is that they’re very, very good at performing.
They do what needs doing.
If the boss needs that report by a certain day, he’s going to get it. If the kids want to do extracurricular activities, they’re going to be there on time with uniform on. If the husband wants a weekend with the guys, he knows without asking that his partner will hold down the fort.
The high-performing woman keeps the world spinning round.
She makes her boss look good. Her kids are a pleasure to be around. Her house is always presentable when guests drop by. Everyone murmurs: “We don’t know how she does it!”
She doesn’t know, either. She just does it.
She doesn’t know any other way to be.
But there’s a cost to being the woman who holds up the world:
All that pressure is a major headache.
Everyone relies on you. You don’t know what would happen if you got sick, or had to take time off, or had a mental breakdown. The world would collapse, probably.
There’s a dark side to performance:
No one asks you about your limits.
They want you to do more, and more, and more.
And you say yes.
Surely you can make the time. It’s a good cause. It’s nice to know you’re needed. It’s flattering when everyone wants a piece of you. You feel appreciated.
Until there’s nothing left to give.
Only then do you see the truth about your relationships.
Whether they’re based on honoring you as a good, kind, loving woman…
Or based on taking advantage of all the goodness, kindness and love you have to offer.
When there’s nothing left to give, you see the truth about yourself, too.
You see whether your self-esteem relies on how well you perform—how good a wife you are, how good a mother you are, how good an employee or boss you are…
Or whether you still love yourself even when you let people down.
Imagine what would happen if you got sick.
What if, for some reason, you had to drop out for a while and let other people take care of you?
If you’re a high-performing woman, the very thought is despicable. You’ve got to earn your keep. You can’t sit back and sip champagne while everyone else is doing your work for you. That would make you a user. Someone who takes without giving back. The kind of person you’ve always looked down on.
It’s not just you who thinks that way.
We live in a culture that rewards us for performance.
We get patted on the back for acing tests, getting good grades, and shining on that performance review. Even a medical checkup becomes a test you have to ace, by getting the right numbers on your blood pressure or BMI.
We look down on people who don’t play the game. You wouldn’t want to play in a soccer tournament with someone who just wants to kick the ball around instead of win. A kid who takes his SATs without caring about the results won’t get into the college of his dreams.
You have to care.
You have to play to win.
Otherwise, what’s the point?
That used to be how I thought.
I was one of those kids. Straight As in school, involved in everything.
Then, when I was 25, my life as a star performer ended.
I developed an autoimmune condition. Suddenly, I had no energy. I was in pain all the time. I couldn’t concentrate. I just couldn’t do those things I used to do.
My self-esteem evaporated.
How could I feel good about myself when I was such a mess?
Five years later, a doctor finally told me the truth. I was going to be this way forever. There was no cure.
So I had to adjust to life as a low-performer.
Someone who had a LOT of limits. Someone who had to turn down most things. Someone who struggled to do the bare minimum.
I didn’t adjust well.
Everything my culture had raised me to believe told me I was a loser. I wasn’t a reliable friend anymore. I made mistakes at work. I couldn’t cope with the demands of an impressive career track.
People stopped turning to me first. I felt the loss. I was no longer exceptional, or even very good.
How could I love myself, when I couldn’t win approval with my performance anymore?
Hopefully you’ll never have to ask yourself that question. But it’s worth turning over in your mind.
If you were a failure, would you still deserve love?
If yes, why? If no, why?
Let us know in the comments.