Give Yourself Permission to Not "Have It All"

Until a few years ago, it rarely occurred to me to spend time thinking about what my values were, what I truly wanted out of life, and how to work towards those values every day. Instead, I raced through life like a freight train, trying to be “efficient” while actually just wasting time on my smart phone and worrying too much about other people’s opinions. At the time, the main goal of my life was to move up in my career and personal life. Instead of stopping to say “How do I want to move up?” or even “What is my ‘up’? What does ‘moving up’ mean to me?,” I just ran, hoping whichever way I was going was that up. I went in every direction that looked decent in order to “have it all.” In the end, though, I just felt lost.

I’ve come to a point where I no longer believe I must have it all or be it all. So many women feel this pressure today. We’re told it’s possible to have it all if we do ‘these 5 things’ or buy this product or that one...

I’m here to tell you what I try to remind myself every day: you don’t and can’t have to have it all. No matter how hard you try, there’s no way to fit “all” (whatever that means) into your one life. And that’s ok. Let go of that expectation for yourself. It’s weighing you down. Give yourself permission to let go of “all” and let who you are be enough.

Try sitting down to think about the few things in life that really matter to you. Imagine the end of your life: Who do you want by your side? What do you want them to remember you for? What things would you want to say to them?

This exercise quickly cuts out a lot of the crap for me. I won’t be thinking about how put-together my Facebook profile looked or having perfect Instagram photos. I don’t need to be remembered for how much money I made or if I was well-known in my field. At that point, I’m pretty sure the most important things for me will be that I loved well and was well loved. I will want the people I love to remember times of laughter and exploring nature together, of vulnerable conversations and sharing our deepest sorrows to find healing in togetherness.

When I look at life in this way, a lot of my day-to-day stress begins fall away. Sure, I still have to pay my bills and I want to be competent in my field. But that begins to look very different when I view it in the light of a lifetime of love. It becomes a bit easier to prioritize my day-to-day when I keep my overarching goal in mind.

Living this way is a practice. If anyone tells you they’ve figured it out, they’re just like the “gotta have it all” people. Just like yoga or meditation, you have to keep re-centering yourself in a nonjudgmental way every day (heck, maybe every hour). That’s okay, and it’s perfectly normal. The heart of it is what matters, and isn’t that the point?

I invite you to give yourself permission to just be today, to press pause (or even stop!) on the have-it-all race. Sit outside and enjoy the breeze on your face and the very fact that you’re breathing. Think about what it is that really matters to you. Don’t feel like you have to do something about it right now. Just breathe and let what you have and who you are be enough for today.


Joy Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) in Atlanta, GA who specializes in helping young women discover more balance and purpose in their lives.