Sarah Elkins is an editor of We Are Kathy. She lives with her husband, dog and two cats in Flint, MI. Sarah is a writer, runner, wine drinker and self-proclaimed over thinker.
Full disclosure, it took me months to write this post. I would start writing when I felt motivated and empowered and then stop because, honestly, I wasn’t feeling like it was worth sharing.
Well, that’s kind of the point here. Does what I say or feel matter? Do I say what I feel too often, too loudly, too passionately? I have a feeling I’m not alone in this thinking.
I often feel like I’m too much and not enough, all at the same time. As a woman in a professional setting, I feel like my choices, words, outfit choice and skills must be everything to everyone in order to prove that I’m worthy and should be taken seriously … but not too seriously.
As women we are often critically analyzed. You’re too loud. You’re too soft spoken. You’re not confident enough. You’re too bossy. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You are too assertive. You’re trying too hard. Maybe you should try a little harder to stand out above the crowd.
And let’s talk about clothing. Am I the only one that changes multiple times in the morning? I ask myself if it’s professional enough, stylish enough and flattering enough without being too low cut, too tight, too casual or too bold? Will I be taken seriously in this outfit, while also being true to my style? Will my clothing make me look a little older, since I still look like I’m in college. Will they look at me and see a young woman that has no place here even though I’ve been in my profession for almost a decade?
Being too much or not enough is always in the back of my mind. Did I show that I’m an expert in my field? Did I over step and talk over someone?
I know I talk over people sometimes. Sometimes I’m loud. Maybe I’m excited to make a point or I’m just excited in general. Or maybe sometimes I feel like it’s the only way to get in the conversation and get my voice heard. But I think about it for far too long. How will that person view me?
It’s time to stop the madness. I will never be what everyone thinks I should be. I will never be perfect. It’s not possible.
I will be too much or not enough for some people. I will not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s OK. Really, it's OK to not please everyone.
But what I can be is the best version of myself. What has helped me work toward that is surrounding myself with women (and men) who believe that what I already am is enough. They welcome me for me. I can relax when I’m in their presence and not be worried about if what I’m doing or saying is too much or not enough for them.
Women, it’s not worth it. Be you. That’s what we need. I know, easier said than done. I will not get there overnight. I will continue to worry about things that don’t matter, but it’s because I know who I am and I want others to see it too. I want those around me to be happy and I want to help make that possible.
Sometimes I look to find calm and relaxation in my life, then worry and overthink the clutter and the chaos. Something clearly isn't working.
But what can I do? What will allow me to be OK being me?
I can’t continue to surround myself with people who want to mold me into the person they think I should be. I must surround myself with people who know who I am and believe in everything I can do and achieve based on the gifts and skills I was given.
I want to surround myself with people who dream with me, plan with me and encourage me to focus and grow my strengths and recognize my weaknesses.
As a woman I am constantly trying to strike a balance between being a leader but not being too bossy, showing that I am an expert in my field without coming off as cocky, speaking up for myself when I know what I can bring to the table without seeming like a know-it-all. I try to listen well but also interject when I know it’s important. I can’t be the only one. We are expected to be everything a man is in the workplace but also nothing like them.
We can’t be too emotional, too talkative, too loud, too “sassy.” It's mentally exhausting at times.
I run a non-profit community cookout, work full time, am on the board of a local non-profit, have a house and pets to take care of, am a wife, and have many friendships that are very important to me. I try to stay fit and train for races. And sometimes I feel like I’m not doing enough. I feel like I need to work on improving my photography skills. Can I even call myself a photographer? (Comparison is a real soul-sucker, ladies.) I feel like maybe there is more I can be doing around the house or there’s a friend that I really need to catch up with. But I’m also really tired some days.
Sounds crazy, right?
So to say the expectations I put on myself are unrealistic is an understatement. I tell myself I have to be everything to be respected, loved or be successful. But none of that is true.
I hope, instead, I strive to be patient, kind, hardworking, loving, understanding and, above everything else, confident in who I am and what I offer the world.
Can we help each other do that? I hope we can all give each other a little more grace, while also giving ourselves more grace. Our lives today are so fast-paced. Let’s not forget to breathe and take in the moment. Let’s not forget to be proud of how far we have come. Let’s not forget to embrace who we are and not just be what we think others want us to be.
Let’s do it together.