“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” ― Lao Tzu
As a communications director, throughout my twenties and most of my thirties, I pushed myself hard.
After securing media coverage for a client on NOVA, I barely stopped to breathe before I was pitching their story to National Geographic. When it came to generating results, I was convinced if I just “forced” the outcome, it was bound to happen!
Sometimes this worked, but often it didn’t. Invariably, this overly aggressive mode of operating left me feeling exhausted, overextended and depleted (not to mention hugely deficient in the fun and joy department!).
Over time—as a result of a lot of personal growth work and inquiry—I came to realize these stressful feelings were a sign my energy was out of balance and too heavily weighted in the masculine realm. I had not yet learned how to tap into my feminine strengths, such as asking for and receiving help, pausing, and reflecting before leaping into action.
Regardless of our gender, we all possess both “yin” or feminine and “yang” or masculine energies and strengths. Yet, in our Western just do it culture where results and outcome are so highly valued, most of us—both men and women—are out of balance. We have come to over-rely on our yang strengths. (And, there are others of us who experience the opposite and are too reliant on our yin strengths.)
The danger of this imbalance is physical and emotional exhaustion; it’s simply non sustainable. Envision pushing a wheelbarrow full of rocks up a mountain and the long-term effect this has on your body?! You risk wearing yourself out and more importantly, you miss out on the many gifts that come from accessing your highly intuitive yin talents and gifts such as collaborating with others, expanding creatively and creating space to just be.
Both masculine and feminine energies are important. I could not have birthed my first book without tapping my yin strengths such as accessing my intuition and waiting until I was fully inspired to begin writing. Nor could it have been possible without my yang strengths—calling on the fire in my belly to execute the timeline and get the book to the publisher by the required deadlines! But real power comes when we learn how—and when—to call forth both of these strengths.
BALANCING YIN/YANG HOMEWORK: Reflect on the short list below of a few yin and yang strengths.
Yin/feminine characteristics: Intuitive. Receptive. Allowing. Collaborative. Relational. Being.
Yang/masculine characteristics: Directive. Goal-oriented. Assertive. Draws boundaries. Determined. Doing.
1) Observe how you feel in your body as you read first the yin list and then the yang list above, in which camp do you spend more time?
2) Make a list of some of your yin and yang strengths that have supported your personal and professional success thus far.
3) Jot down a few specific ways you could begin to allow more of your yin or yang qualities to surface (ex: carving out time to take a personal retreat or “sitting” with an idea or strategy for a week before taking action on it).
I challenge you to begin cultivating an awareness for which energy could best serve in a given situation. Whether it’s at work, in the midst of parenting or while launching a new creative endeavor, envision yourself becoming comfortable learning to weave your yin and yang attributes together—as you feel guided moment to moment.
Some of the ways I balance my yin/yang energies are through conscious movement such as Nia dance, yoga, qi gong, creative writing, taking retreats and journaling. This is a vast, deep topic and an important one. My friend, relationship expert Linda Bloom, says most marriages that are on the rocks are due to men and women being out of balance around their yin/yang energy.
As a Type A overachiever, if someone would have suggested this facet of balance to me when I was in the middle of leading a press conference 15 years ago—I would have thought they were crazy. Take your time and invite in curiosity and compassion as you explore this new way of being. Let me know how I can support you.
Want support for learning to balance your yin and yang energies?
- Schedule me to speak to your organization, company or team on work-life balance, resiliency or self-care. Learn more.
- Explore the idea of facilitating or joining our Personal Renewal Groups for women (in 10 countries worldwide); becoming a RTA-Certified Facilitator can be a great way to make a career change, empower women locally and learn the art/science of self-care. Our online training is $100 off through Nov. 30 and includes private coaching with Renee.
- Sign up for New Way of Being: Learning to Go with the Flow or another of my $99 self-renewal audio courses and learn at your own pace OR pick up one of my award-winning books .
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by work-life balance coach/speaker/author Renée Peterson Trudeau. Passionate about helping men and women find their center through the art/science of self-care, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Spirituality & Health and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining Personal Renewal Groups based on her award-winning self-care curriculum. She is the author of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 15 year-old son. More on her background here.