I sat in my counselor’s office with silent tears sliding down my face, feeling flattened by the pressures of life. The expectations placed on me by myself and others were more than I could bear. My counselor handed me a blank sheet of paper and a cup full of markers.
“Draw it,” she said.
I’m no artist, but I tried my best. I drew a stick figure lying at the bottom of the page, with harsh arrows pointing down at the distraught figure. (That is, the stick figure who would have looked distraught if I had known how to draw that.)
The arrows represented the pressure I felt to be:
- an attentive mom who gets all the mom stuff right;
- a loving wife who gets all the wife stuff right;
- a wise and compassionate friend who makes everyone happy;
- a perfect homemaker who serves nutritious, savory meals from her spotless kitchen;
- a healthy, thin woman who looks effortlessly put-together, but not in a snobbish or intimidating way;
- all while juggling a million responsibilities with ease.
The impossible standards of those arrows were a heavy weight on my shoulders, reminding me of my daily shortcomings. I felt trapped, laid out on the floor, just like the defeated, joyless stick figure in my drawing.
Then my counselor asked me to draw how it could feel better.
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