September 12 – Reaching Our Limits 

We all have our limits. Reaching them is simply a part of being human. For women who do too much, however, we take our limitations to be a personal failure. Our inability to carry on no matter what circumstances befall us is simply unacceptable in our eyes. We expect things of ourselves that no sane, rational person would ever ask of another. This is due in large part to our lack of self-esteem. Who are we to have needs? We should be able to push on regardless, because others’ needs matter more to us than our own. We are weak, and that weakness is inconvenient and inadequate. We must be able to carry on!

There is something beautiful about letting go and giving in though. In doing so, we accept our own humanity. In resigning ourselves to the fact that we will never be perfect, we give ourselves the freedom to be a little kinder to ourselves. To cut ourselves some slack, and not push so hard. We are free to make mistakes. To stop for rest, and to say no.”I have had enough” are some of the most beautiful words in the English language, because they signal that a change is on the horizon.

snow capped on mountain slopes

On this, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:

“What beautiful words and how rarely are they spoken by women who do too much. Part of our craziness is not recognizing that we have limits and not knowing when we reach them. In fact, many of us may see having limits as an indicator of inadequacy. We cannot forgive ourselves for not being able to carry on when we are exhausted or for not being able to keep going regardless of the circumstances.

Recognizing that we are approaching our limits and accepting those limits may be the beginning of recovery.” 

In the deepest throes of my addiction, I could not see that the reason I was so constantly miserable was myself. I regularly pushed myself past my breaking point, because I simply could not accept or even see that I had one! I was tired, burnt out, and grumpy, but most of all, I was upset at myself for not being able to persist.

The paradox of women who do too much is that we view ourselves as being stronger than other people, capable of carrying on when no one else can. We can do it all! We must, or we are not worthy of existing in our minds. Yet despite this stronger-than-thou image we have in our heads of ourselves as superwomen, the moment we bump up against our own limitations we are suddenly incapable, incompetent, and otherwise fallible human beings with needs. We forget that it’s perfectly ok to be human, to need things. Especially help! Who here hasn’t asked for help before? There is no shame in reaching our limits. The shameful part comes when we neglect ourselves because we think we are above our own limits.

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