As a communications director, throughout my twenties and 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!).
“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
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 spending time in nature, conscious movement such as Nia dance, or yoga, creative writing, taking retreats and journaling. This is a vast, deep topic and an important one. (Much more on this in my last book.)
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 20 years ago—I would have thought they were crazy. Take your time and invite in curiosity and compassion as you explore this idea; you may just discover a whole new way of being.
HOW CAN I SUPPORT YOU? HERE ARE TWO OPPORTUNITIES:
- I’m booking 2021-2022 workshops and presentations now: Consider hiring me to create an online balanced living experience to help your team, organization or employees feel less stressed and more resilient, creative and focused. For 20+ years I’ve been working with companies/organizations like Merrill Lynch, the Center for Women in Law, the Hewlett Foundation and more. Whether it’s a workshop, keynote or custom retreat via Zoom, I’d love to discuss how I can support your team or organization. Learn more here.
- From stillness comes discernment. Sad you missed STILLNESS: A Winter Solstice Women’s Retreat? It’s not too late! The month of January is an ideal time to enjoy this retreat. You can purchase the download for only $59 (includes a bedtime Deep Relaxation session) A great gift to give or receive. Purchase it here.
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by transformational coach/author/speaker and self-care evangelist Renée Peterson Trudeau. Passionate about helping men and women find balance through the art/science of self-care, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, US News & World Report, AARP, Spirituality & Health and more. She and her team have certified more than 400 facilitators in 10 countries around the globe to lead self-renewal groups for women based on her pioneering work. She’s the author of two books on life balance including the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life. She lives in Western North Carolina and occasionally Austin, Texas; she and her husband are enjoying a new empty nest. More on Renee here.