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There is a belief that is leaving so many women I know exhausted, depleted and stressed out. It is a toxic concept that I call “Soldiering On.”
Soldiering on is the idea that life is full of pain and suffering. If you are experiencing any pain and suffering, you should suck it up and keep moving. Some common phrases that are used in the belief system of Soldiering On include:
- “never let them see you sweat.”
- “be grateful it could be worse.”
- ‘think positive;, it’s not that bad.”
- “suck it up.”
- “be strong, don’t burden other people with your problems.”
Soldiering on is a necessary concept when used in short periods of great stress. There are times in our life when we do have to ‘suck it up’ and ‘keep moving forward’ but when Soldiering On becomes a way of life, which I see happening all the time. It is a problem.
Let’s hear the story of Mindy she is awesome at Soldiering On:
Mindy is a member of the sandwich generation. While she is caring for her two kids, she is also caring for her mother who was recently diagnosed with cancer. Mindy frequently feels overwhelmed with responsibility and stress. She is trying to do it ALL, and it often leaves her exhausted and tired at the end of the day. Mindy often tells herself,
“Ugh, this is so hard. But I should be positive; I have so many blessing.”
“I could call Mary and vent but has it so much worse she is caregiving for both her parents…I don’t want to burden her.”
“My head is killing me, and I am exhausted, but I need just to suck it up, life is hard, and there is no sense whining about it.”
“I have so much to do today it is overwhelming, but it could be worse.”
The idea of “Soldiering on” keeps Mindy stuck in overwhelm, pain and exhaustion. It is not serving her instead it is leaving her living in an isolated world of martyrdom and pain.
Now let’s hear the story of Maureen:
Maureen is also a member of the sandwich generation and shares the same feelings of overwhelm and exhaustion.
Here is what Maureen tells herself:
“Ugh, this is so hard. I am exhausted today. Understandably I am exhausted. My plate runneth over. I am going to go easy on myself today and just give myself lots of extra love” (COMPASSION, COMPASSION, COMPASSION. Maureen is honest with herself here, no soldiering on, no suck it up, no fixing it, just raw honesty that this situation is HARD and she needs some extra support through it)
“Mary is dealing with this too with her parents; I love talking with her because she can understand what is happening. It is nice we have each other to lean on.” (SHARE HER STORY Maureen is willing to reach out to her friends, share her story and get support. She understands that problems aren’t graded. We all have problems, we all need support. Being vulnerable and reaching out isn’t a weakness, it is a strength)
“My head is killing me, and I am exhausted. My body is telling me I need to rest. I am going to make it a priority tonight to go to bed early so I can read, relax and get a good night sleep.” (LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Maureen is listening to her body; it is telling her she is too stressed. She knows that is a warning sign and that she needs to take action.)
“I have so much to do today it is overwhelming. I am going to ask my husband to cook dinner tonight. We need to come up with a new plan for meal prep because it is just too much with my schedule. I am grateful for all he does and I know we can figure out a way to work this out differently.” (ASK FOR HELP. Maureen recognizes she can’t do it alone and realizes she needs to ask for help from her husband and other people too.)
Maureen and Mindy BOTH were caregiving and they were BOTH accomplishing a lot. Maureen was just putting herself as a priority and giving herself lots of compassion. Leaving her more energized, less exhausted and more connected to the world around her.
The toxic belief is that Soldering On will gain us more productivity, more love, more respect. Soldiering On convinces us we have to do it alone, and we can’t show any weakness. It leaves us absolutely no wiggle room.
Here are some tips if Soldiering on is one of your go to’s:
Compassion. Compassion Compassion. When you learn to soldier on, you tend to ignore your feelings. You might not even notice you are sad or scared. And if you do you will blame yourself for being weak rather than honoring the fact that these feelings are normal and understandable. You don’t have to act on your feelings, but noticing and lovingly owning them helps.
Listen to your body. If you are tired, admit that to yourself. It doesn’t mean you have to take a 2-hour nap. The fact is you are tired. It is understandable you are tired. Beating yourself up for being tired isn’t going to make you feel less tired. In fact, it will probably make you feel more stressed and exhausted. So be honest with yourself. Honor what you are feeling give yourself some compassion around it and ask for help if you need it.
Share your Story. Find safe people and talk to them about what you are struggling. Soldiering on convinces us that sharing=weakness. When you share your story you become stronger because you gain perspective, you learn you are not alone, and you can find resources to help.
Ask for Help. This is a hard one because if you were raised to Soldier On you were raised to handle all the burden yourself. Challenge yourself to get help in a small area of your life and slowly expand it. Remember, people LOVE to help and love knowing specifically how to help. Remind yourself that strength comes from admitting when it is too much and reaching out to others.
Soldiering On is something that has been passed down through the generations and has become hard-wired into our lifestyles and our relationships. I am not going to lie, learning to unhook it takes daily intention and a choice to not settle for our default patterns. But gradually over time as you choose Compassion over Soldiering life becomes happier.