The World Wants Women to Think They Aren’t Enough So We Are All Burning Out: Here’s How To Stop Doing More Than Your Share

At a fundraising dinner this week I sat at a table full of powerful women. They’re leading organizations, running departments at big banks, managing large teams and going after their dreams. We were there to raise money for the Finish Line Foundation and listen to two-time Olympian Carli Lloyd talk about, well, being an Olympian. She gave zero f*cks as they say. When they asked her “how she faces adversity” she answered dryly, “I am in competition with myself every single day. Every single day I wake up and ask myself how I can beat myself. I don’t ask myself if I can, I just figure out how”.

One of the women at the table shared that last week she became so overwhelmed with requests for her time that she went into her office, cried, put on her headphones and didn’t talk to anyone for hours…just so she could get her actual work done.

Another woman said she finally looked at her boss and said, “Thank you for thinking of me for that committee but I am already leading this committee, and this committee and this one—and I have a fifteen month old baby at home. Why don’t you ask Bill or Sam? They aren’t on any.”

At a women’s conference last year I sat in a breakout room where we were supposed to learn how to diversify our portfolios and find our way to more leadership. “Do more for free” she preached. “When they ask you to volunteer and show up, show up”. I raised my hand and asked, “How many more boards can I serve on, how many more committees can I show up to and give my time? I’m out of hours. I have a financial future to consider and a lot of women here have families to consider. What steps come after being the woman who always says yes?”

I will tell you what comes after being the woman who always says yes; mother f*ing burnout. So it really got me thinking about this effort to be all things to all people. This effort to make sure people know we are strong, capable, smart, worthy. And I have named it the adequacy gap. I work with women every day to build visions to combat this feeling of inadequacy and move into purposeful living.

How do you know when you are a victim of the adequacy gap?

  • You say things like, “I don’t really have the time but I should just say yes and it will pan out.”

  • You find every excuse in the world to give yourself away, “ well they really need me and say they don’t have anyone so I will just cancel all of my plans and make it happen.”

  • You look at you bank account and you wonder where all of your money has gone, or if you ever had any at all.

  • You are annoyed with most people around you and wish you could move to an island.

  • You feel like someone sucked the life right out of you—perhaps you are also crying in your office with the door shut.

  • You are really irritated with innocent things like your pets or your 90 year-old grandma who just wants to give you a piece of cake.

  • You blame everyone but your own inability to say no for your dyer circumstances.

  • You leave an obligation and all you can think about is how it was a complete waste of your time.

  • As soon as you get an email you say yes to whatever they ask without even considering yourself.

  • You think if you volunteer more, show up more and are the “go to woman” that you might get that raise or you might get noticed for that promotion.

  • If you’re in business for yourself you often say, “ I will do it for this rate to get my foot in the door and then eventually they will pay me at my real value”.

  • You see actual problems you want to solve or things you want to contribute to and you have no time.

How do you fight the adequacy gap?

  1. Pay attention to how much is going on in your life right now—write down the things you signed up for so you would seem “capable” and “willing” to others. Get mad.

  2. Look at your commitments and obligations and ask your self these three questions:

    • Am I committed because I am so passionate about the cause I just couldn’t stand to say no?

    • Am I committed because I have an elite skillset that will move this forward?

    • Am I at all committed because I was worried (so and so) would think I wasn’t a team player or that I didn’t “care enough” to participate?

  3. Divide your salary by hours—or your contracts in your business by hour. Determine your hourly rate. Now look at all the things you do for free and ways that you show up without question and add up the value that all of it has. How do you feel? Disgusted? Great.

  4. Take a look at all that money you could have made and think about all of the organizations you care about that didn’t get a contribution from you this year because you were so worried about being adequate.

  5. Ask yourself, am I doing anything well? Do I feel good day to day? Or do I feel like everything in my life is chaos?

    1. If you feel chaos, a lot of frustration or burnout, commit to giving up one thing this week.

  6. Ask yourself, am I constantly the first one to volunteer? Do I ever give other people an opportunity to jump in before saying yes?

  7. Ask yourself, does anyone on my team, in my group or do I know other women who actually do want more opportunities that I could recommend in my place?

You are perfectly adequate, ok? You don’t need to serve on another board, volunteer on another committee, take another call you cannot afford to actually take to prove that you are worthy. You don’t have to give your talents away for free all of the freaking time, you just don’t.

You can be giving and use discretion on where you spend your time.

You can be a great person who helps others and charge for what you do and make good money.

You can be a contributor to your workplace, take care of your team, meet your goals and say no to that additional commitment.

You can get that raise and promotion by being the best version of you as an employee and not a burnout ball of anger and resentment.

The adequacy gap is costing you. It is costing you money, it is costing you time, it is costing you your health. Take it from Carli, you have nothing to prove to anyone but yourself. If that committee isn’t for you and your values, quit it. If that obligation that is hanging on your schedule weekly and causing you to want to crawl into a hole is not because you want to be doing it—let it go.

If you find yourself with a list of tasks, commitments and obligations that are not tied to your bottom line, your goals at work, your performance review, and the vision for your life— get really serious about getting rid of them.

Am I telling you to go become a heartless person who doesn’t ever help anyone or volunteer for her community? Hell no. Have you ever really met a woman who is like that? Rarely.

What I am saying is—stop doing 100 things at 10% all for other people and start doing what you want and what moves you toward yourself at 100%.

Do you know that you are a good person? Do you believe that deeply? Then your choices will align with your integrity.

Take it from someone who has done this—it will actually open you up for more acts of service. It will open you up for more contribution. It will make you wildly excited to roll up your sleeves and help out because you will actually have the energy and financial stability to do so.

You are not inadequate and the more you do things because you are worried that you are—the more inadequate you will feel.

It’s time to level up.


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  1. Kathleen Burton says:

    I will take it from Carly and take it from you Teresa, I am adequate. Just as I am, flaws and all. Thank you for the affirmation.

    • Teresa Sabatine says:

      Kathy—I am so glad this resonated with you. Carli was quite the inspiration just being herself up there and honestly reflecting how much it was up to her to get where she wanted to go. Thank you for always reading and connecting 🙂

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