When I hear the word balance, I picture someone walking on a tight rope or a skilled server carrying five plates of hot food. And I think society’s image of balance is pretty similar – perhaps doable, but stressful and unsustainable for long periods of time. We are constantly juggling duties and obligations, and instead of taking a pause or a rest now and then, we seem to constantly take on more. We are more stressed, more isolated, more exhausted, and more unhappy than ever before. Something has to give.

And we’re good at it. We’ve become pretty skilled at sustaining the unsustainable. We are walking through life carrying more than we were ever meant to pick up. Why? Because we’ve been fed the lie that living a “balanced” life means, doing a lit bit of everything each day. And we have to unlearn it.

We’re told that in order to be “balanced” we need to do the laundry, keep the house clean, be social, spend time with the kids, exercise, cook, be in nature, read, take time for a hobby, practice self-care, do some form of meaningful work, rest, tackle the to-do list, and 53 other things EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

“Balance is NOT doing a little bit of everything each day. It’s doing what works for you each day.”

Bekki Lindner

Our lives are out of balance because our mental, spiritual, and emotional health is out of whack. We need to reprioritize our sanity and emotional needs. We need to care more about our mental health and overall well-being than we do about the image we feel we’re projecting.

Let me give you a personal example…

Years ago, I shared in a post called Letting Go: Giving up Perfection to Find Balance, that I used to be so obsessed with having a “perfect” home that I folded UNDERWEAR. I vacuumed 3 times a day. And my house was really clean – and I was really unhappy. The price for choosing to spin all of the cleaning plates was giving up time with my kids. Instead of being out in the backyard playing tag, I was in the laundry room. I was sacrificing PLAY. I was giving up joy. (And for what? To look good for people who were never thinking much about me anyway!)

When I stopped to evaluate WHY having a super-clean house was important to me, I realized it was all about image and my own sense of worth. I thought “they” (whoever the heck “they” are) would see my shiny house and know how “good” I was. But, I know now that my worth isn’t tied to what I do. (You matter no matter how much of the to-do list you tackle every day!) In order to reclaim some balance in our lives, we have to figure out what matters the most for today?

Back then, I wasn’t happy – and I was missing out on doing life with my kids. I was giving up any moments of spare time to re-stack pajamas in dresser drawers or clean under my kids’ beds in place of doing things that brought me relaxation or joy. It was too high a price. And then I let it go.

There are some plates we have to spin. But for each of us, there are probably some plates we can spin less often – and some we can put down. Everything we do – every choice we make – comes with a cost. In order to take on more responsibilities or live up to more expectations (real or imagined), we pay a price – and when we’re sacrificing our mental health, our relationships, and our emotional and spiritual well-being – the price is too high.

What really matters to you? What can you put down? (And why are you carrying the things you’re choosing to carry?)

If you’re like most people, you’ve either become incredibly skilled at doing 673 different things each and every day, running yourself ragged because that’s what you’re “supposed to do.” OR, you’ve become so overwhelmed by our culture’s skewed expectations that you’ve just given up – walking around with empty hands. And neither of those pictures is healthy. And neither of those pictures is balance.

Embrace what works for you each day – knowing that your responsibilities, capacity, attention, and energy are not static. What worked yesterday might not work today – and that’s okay. Balance isn’t doing all the things – it’s choosing the things that work for you. The things that matter to you. And knowing that YOU matter, no matter what is on your plate, or how many plates you’re spinning.