Soul Food with Pia Richardson: It’s time to turn off the unrealistic expectations

Pia RichardsonGeraldton Guardian
Women need to stop being so hard on themselves and perpetuating an ideal of perfection.
Camera IconWomen need to stop being so hard on themselves and perpetuating an ideal of perfection. Credit: Darrin Klimek/Getty Images

I remember one day I was telling a close friend that I was thinking about doing a life coaching course — and there was this pause ... before she said to me “shouldn’t you take care of your own laundry before you start telling others how to do theirs?”

Now I’m the first to admit I am not the greatest housewife. I have always desperately wanted to be.

I thought of myself as a kind of alternative-reality Martha Stewart where I’m this great cook and crafter and can have these beautifully organised cupboards when I choose to, but I have a house that looks like squatters live there even after I've cleaned!

And then there is the laundry. No matter what laundry system I have tried I just seem to be constantly drowning under the endless pile of clothes. As the kids got older and I started to work more, this problem grew to epidemic proportions and I started to feel as though there was no possible way out. So I devised this plan — one which involves, shock horror ... asking for help.


But not in the traditional way. I proposed a trade. I put it out there onto Facebook land that I was looking for a trade. If there were any mums out there that desperately hate cooking but found folding therapeutic, I was your girl. You come to mine, and we can have a catch up and I’ll cook a few weeks of meals for you while you fold for me (because let’s face it, by this stage it was a few weeks of clothes).

A win-win as not everyone can be good at everything.

The great thing is that I actually got a few takers.

Life coach and hynotherapist Pia Richardson.
Camera IconLife coach and hynotherapist Pia Richardson. Credit: Supplied

When my friend, who had been quietly judging me, said those words to me, I felt this clarity. I realised instantly it was not that she meant to hurt me — which she did — but that as women we have been so conditioned to think we have to be good at everything. That we have to go it alone. That there is shame in letting others see our weakness, and most importantly that if we aren’t perfect, then we should definitely not be offering advice to others.

But here’s the thing. All of these beliefs only serve to keep us small, to keep us focused on small inconsequential things instead of getting out there and making a difference.

So many of my clients come to me and say they put all their energy into taking care of everyone else, they have nothing left for themselves.

They have this sense of guilt and shame for even needing help in the first place. We live in a society that glorifies being able to do it all, and while I certainly don't advocate using it as an excuse to not do anything I do believe that we need to reconnect with our history.

The old saying goes that it takes a village to raise a child, and in modern society, the village has been reduced to a Facebook group — which, don't get me wrong, certainly has its place but also serves to add to the crippling load we are under. Pinterest-worthy lunchboxes, perfectly ordered linen closets and pantries, and an endless stream of conflicting opinions and Joneses to keep up with.

People who we wouldn’t even know if we passed them in the street somehow have the power to keep us up at night.

As women in the modern world, we seem to have this self-imposed sense of isolation, which I honestly believe is killing us. We chat and post and like and share and do coffee, but we can’t look one another in the eyes. We go home to our carefully cultured lives and we work tirelessly to maintain them.

We never allow ourselves to be vulnerable with each other in a way that truly counts.

Depression and anxiety are at an all-time high.

Something has to change and I propose this — take the time to love and accept yourself. To be vulnerable. To find enough courage to really connect into your community and how to take action while believing in yourself and trusting that every step you take in the right direction will be a good one.

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