Intro: This year we're doing things differently. The last few years have been really tough and we've all been struggling to create a new normal moving forward. The impact has been much greater and longer lasting than any of us expected and we think it's important to acknowledge that. This year we're choosing a theme. We're choosing hope and grit. That might sound trite but it's what we need to push us where we want to go this year. To do that, we're going to have to work really hard and lean into a balance that works for us. The wellness industry constantly impresses upon us the pursuit of perfect balance but we think that's unrealistic. Below is an article we wrote about redefining and rethinking balance in the new year. We hope you like it. Thank you for being here with us!
One of the great contributors to stress is thinking that we can do it all, on our own, all the time and with perfect balance and grace...or at least that we should be able to do so. The space between what we think we should do and what we can do can create a deep sense of failure or falling short. In 2021 we were asked to speak on a panel for a Entrepreneurial Festival in our hometown of Nashville. The topic they gave us was work / life balance which made us exceedingly happy because we love being a little contrarian and delivering an unexpected message. We have never been big believers in perfect balance. As a rather outspoken and brash child Elizabeth developed a reputation for being “a lot.” And the world drove that message home at every opportunity so that when she was a young woman she worked incredibly hard to be more well-rounded and to find perfect balance. It was during a particularly brutal episode of self-flagellation that was the result of falling short yet again that her sister sent her a message that said, “if you round out your edges you lose your edge.” It occurred to her in that moment that by focusing on her weaknesses she was perhaps getting a little bit, a very little bit, more well rounded but she was losing her sharp corners and her authenticity.
When we were building out the panel for our talk at the festival we asked a friend, Kia Jarmon, who happens to also be a brilliant speaker and educator to be on the stage with us. She agreed but added the caveat, “I need to tell you though that I don’t believe in balance––I believe in boundaries.” We couldn’t agree more. We are all trying to juggle a million things all the time and the idea that we can do all of them simultaneously is not only false, it’s harmful. It adds guilt and shame to an already overflowing cup. To understand the impact of shame we turn to researcher and author Brene Brown who has written extensively on the subject. In her book, “I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t)” she writes that shame actually triggers our fight or flight response and “in this mode, the neocortex is bypassed and our access to advanced, rational, calm, thinking and processing of emotion all but disappears. The primitive part of the brain springs into action and that’s when we find ourselves becoming aggressive, wanting to run and hide or feeling paralyzed.” The shame we experience around failure brought on by chasing balance quite literally activates our stress response.
Balance, we propose, is something altogether different than what we’ve been taught. Our new definition is some combination of boundaries and imperfect balance and is meant to change and flux overtime and in the shape that best fits your life. In a perfect world where we have access to everything we need and all the time we need to do it we would have time to cook meals at home three times a day, get in 30-60 min a day of exercise, do the laundry, take care of the kids, write a badass proposal for work, spend time with loved ones, grab a happy hour drink with a friend...the list goes on. But there will be times when we have to flex more into work and other times where we can deeply lean into rest. If we can adopt the idea of imperfect balance and set stronger boundaries we can do what needs to be done without the shame brought by the expectation of perfection. Imperfect balance allows you the space to build a life you love rather than trying to be everything to everyone.