When did the world start expecting women to be successful at everything, and why don’t we say stop?

Billie Piper speaks for a generation of women in today’s Stylist magazine.

The 34-year-old talks about the pressure that hits us in our 30s, where we’re “supposed to be successful and business-savvy and coquettish and making cash and a slag in the bedroom and well-read”.

Anyone else nodding along with this?

“I just feel f***** by this amount of pressure,” she says.

It certainly struck a chord with me.

Right now, as I write this, I’m sacrificing doing the other 29 things on my to-do list. Things that I really need to do today, so I can go on holiday at the end of the week. It’s an impossible list.

I choose to work full-time hours over a four-day working week so I can attempt to be a half-decent mother to my children, and still have a career that I love.

Being there for my friends as we navigate our way through marriage, divorce, death, kids, redundancy and every other element of life is really important to me too, as is being in love, making time for romance and having a partner that I’ll be with for the rest of my life.

Apparently, I want it all.

illustration of a woman screaming

(Thinkstock/PA)

When I negotiated my flexible-working pattern after having my first child some people actually suggested I should choose what’s most important to me – being a mother, or having a career. Appalled, I set about a vision where I could make time for both of these things and I think I’ve achieved it. Sort of.

But I’m tired. Each time a holiday rolls around and my body gets a chance to rest, I’m ill. I feel constant guilt that I’m not there to scoop up my kids at the end of the day, cook them good food and put them to bed, but I also know the pressure that would face me on the flip-side of this coin.

I am one of life’s perfectionists, and I’m not alone.

There’s pretty much a generation of women trying to do every little thing brilliantly. And it’s either making us ill, alcoholic or anxious.

 

An Ode To Honesty Some people they may look at me, All that’s sitting in my lap. And I see why my grumbles taunt them, If in their arms, there’s still a gap. Others like to hear a tale, With a rosy tinted hue. But where’s the story going, If the words we speak aren’t true? Perhaps some find it simpler, Embrace the change without a hitch, But you can’t dip your toe in parenthood, You can’t stay a selfish bitch. If I say I shout, I lose the plot, That some days feel like a chore. If I say I’ve wondered what would be, If I couldn’t do this any more. Would you judge me harshly, Would you like me to feel small? Can’t you see that I’m the one, I judge, the worst of all. For the truths the struggle, is the love, It’s oh so huge to place. It shows in the consuming guilt, That’s written on my face. Have you ever wished your life away, Is that something people hide? Would you prefer we kept things bottled up, Should we bury them inside? You see If I’m being honest, When at times things seem quite bleak, I’m sure it’s best to share, to laugh, I’m sure it’s best to speak. Not everyone will get it, But please don’t go questioning my love. There’s nothing more than these sweet faces, That I, am prouder of. So I’ll gladly let you read my words, And I’ll listen If you moan, For the danger lies within, Those thinking they’re alone.

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“There’s a quiet epidemic occurring amongst high-achieving women and it’s not a pretty outcome,” says Georgia Foster, author, speaker and life coach. “What looks good and well-managed on the outside is not necessarily what is going on inside.”

She notes that when someone is driven just a little bit too much – and too often – the brain demands some sort of respite to stop the madness of meeting deadlines, money issues and trying to fit in exercise whilst juggling childcare.

“For many, the respite comes in the form of food, alcohol, cigarettes, sex or exercise, as a way to calm the central nervous system down. In good doses this is fine, but being perfect causes vulnerabilities, such as unnecessary anxiety, low self-esteem, and too much self-judgement and comparing with others.”

Ultimately, she says, we need to stop worrying about what looks good and concentrate on what feels right instead.

It makes total sense, of course. But saying and doing are two very different things.

Baby steps is the way to go, I think. Check in with yourself. Make sure you’re OK – and if you’re not, make a plan to start putting things right.

But if you’re fundamentally happy, perfectionists need to start caring less. Take an extra half hour lazing in bed and forget looking pristine for the school run (honestly, no one you want as a friend truly cares). If you leave work a bit earlier to check in with the kids at bedtime, the chances are tomorrow’s to-do list won’t be any worse than today’s. If you’ve missed a date night/birthday/school concert, plan another date to look forward to and let yourself off the hook.

And let’s talk about it. We need to stop whispering, ‘I don’t know how she does it,’ and instead shout about how amazingly brilliant we all are. Let’s also start realising that actually, none of us care how fabulous a boss/mother/slut in the bedroom anyone else is – it only makes us feel more inadequate.

It’s time to take the pressure off and live life without killing ourselves.

 

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