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The Perfect Woman
by Cate Russell-Cole
11/02/2015 / Marriage
"Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is above rubies She seeks wool and flax, and willingly works with her hands She also rises while it is yet night, and provides food for her household She considers a field and buys it; from her profits she plants a vineyard She perceives that her merchandise is good, and her lamp does not go out by night She extends her hands to the poorFor all her household is clothed with scarlet. She makes tapestry for herselfShe opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness. She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also and he praises her." Proverbs 31
Anyone who has read this proverb, or heard it preached may have felt intimidated! Either you feel exhausted just reading about her, or you can rationalise how inadequate she makes us feel by firmly declaring that this is way out of date. No one commonly buys fields and then plants vineyards anymore Do they? Whichever way you look at it she is still a pretty awesome woman. Organised, prepared, not lazy, independent, money smart and with perfect compassionate and loving character. She works hard, has a happy family, a nice home, some financial security in assets behind her. She is lovingly adored and respected, not a down-trodden, harassed, brow beaten housewife. She doesn't sound at all like us either! To be like her would be to achieve perfection, and that is the kind of perfect I wouldn't mind being, (though some more sleep would be appreciated in the schedule.) But living up to her standard is impossible, and even though we know that realistically, don't we still try and achieve the same impossibility in our own terms?
We may not have the same job description, but we still place a lot of pressure on ourselves to perform as perfect wives, mothers, workers, interior decorators, housekeepers, cooks, daughters, sisters etc. etc. etc These days we are still busy women, working early morning to late at night to be perfect and do everything. We're locked into an unrealistic trap of being too busy, above and beyond what the Proverbs 31 women represents. Everything is rushed. There is no time for ourselves and even less time for others. We are too stressed and burdened even to take time for the little everyday essentials like kindness, patience, compassion for others and courtesy. Road rage is a good example of the problem, and it is said that more women commit acts of road rage than men.
High flying entrepreneurs are often said to be workaholics. Maybe, looking at our regular lifestyles, we need to rethink the profile of who we apply the label of a workaholic to. Many everyday people, wives, mothers and singles too, are overcommitted and/or fit the profile of a classic workaholic. They can't stop being busy and super organised, and are still at it, even on a holiday. Sleep is reduced to a minimum, they don't relax or "play," and if they do, they work hard at getting it right! They are always problem solving, tired, irritable and easily become socially isolated. Then on top are the physical symptoms of a body under too much stress: headache, stomach complaints, insomnia, muscle tension and their heart is racing. They are driven to achieve, and they don't know how to get off the merry-go-round. Believe me; they are not enjoying this lifestyle, not a single minute of it! It really is a rat race.
You can be a hard worker rather than a workaholic. The difference is, do you know how to stop, and can you actually do it? Do you eat right? Do you get enough sleep? Do you rest and take breaks? If you do these things, you are probably alright. Workaholics believe all the responsibility rests on their shoulders. They can't delegate. They would rather do it all themselves rather than have it not done properly, and then have to redo it again to their standard later. That kind of thinking is obsessive. It illustrates a strong element of needing to be in control of every aspect of their lives to feel safe, as well as their unrelenting drive to achieve perfection every time.
Linda Naiman, a life coach says, "Being addicted to busyness is a product of low self esteem." We can be too busy as we are trying to make up for what we see within ourselves as failures, or fatal shortcomings. We are trying to prove our worth as human beings constantly. Busyness can also be a means to suppress the pain, frustration, guilt and fear we have locked away inside of us. It is an addiction, and like every other addiction, is a way to push down these feelings and cope with life, trying to function free of them. Like alcohol, drugs or eating, it doesn't work. We only become more harmed in the process, and often we damage the relationships we are striving so hard to keep. No addiction or its causes can be pushed under the carpet. If you can see from reading this that you have a problem, please seek help in solving it, and if frustrated, keep seeking help until you get what you need.
If you feel you are bordering on workaholism, or are just too busy and overcommitted and want that to change, here are some simple suggestions for regaining control of your situation.
- Work at being patient with yourself and other people. Be realistic in your assessment of what can and can't be done and how quickly, and try not to expect instant miracles.
- Find the source of your anxiety or feelings of inferiority that are pushing you towards trying to be too perfect, and seek help and healing. Once the root of the problem is eliminated, the drive will disappear too.
- Work on building better relationships with others which have a balance of give and take. Make time to talk, be together and enjoy activities which you have in common. People want connection and communication more than they want a perfect person who does everything for them.
- Try and build a support network of others that will help you, eg. getting kids to activities. Be prepared to reciprocate within reason.
- Determine what tasks you can and can't reasonably do and say no to the overload. Set known, clear boundaries so you aren't bombarded by other's expectations. Saying no when you are overloaded does NOT make you a bad person.
- Negotiate household tasks with other members of the family. Don't do everything, and if it isn't done perfectly, learn the grace to cheerfully appreciate the other's contribution. Don't undermine their efforts by "fixing" it; they won't help again if you do this.
- Take care of your body with adequate nutrition, sleep, health care and exercise. Don't forget to let your mind rest and learn something new every so often to stay fresh mentally.
- Write down your stresses and hurts in a journal and get them out of your system. Don't hold it in!
- Consider writing down the good things that happen, and what you are grateful for as well.
- Take some time out for yourself, even if it is only 15 minutes a day that you can manage.
- Make time as a family to "play" and have fun together.
- Keep your day balanced rather than overloading it with one activity and then feeling like you're "behind."
- Don't ever give up on your dreams and goals. You may feel like they take forever, but it's worth the wait!
It is not easy to be balanced and get everything done that does need doing, but we can resist the temptation to be constantly rushing and unhappy. We all struggle with our sense of worth, but God will help us as we need Him, and our value to Him is unlimited - no matter how perfect or imperfect we think we are. As the lyrics of one of my favourite worship songs express, "Nothing I can say will take Your love away. No place I can go where Your love won't be there. Nothing I can do will make You love me more. Your love comes as a gift, and I only have to open it"
This article by Cate Russell-Cole is under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Written in Australian English.
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