If you've been reading or listening to my blog posts lately, you'll know that I've been thinking a lot about how we as women in particular feel like we are never doing enough, or doing it well enough.

We beat ourselves up, and we try to do more until we run ourselves ragged with no end in sight.

We are holding ourselves up to impossible standards of perfection. 

And we are not doing ourselves, our families, our jobs or our communities any favors.

It's hard to get off the treadmill, I know. 

But when you stop trying to juggle everything, you can instead slow down, feel less stressed, and have more fun with your kids.

And who doesn't want that?!

Over the next few weeks, I'll be talking about some different ways you can do this.

This week I want to talk about speaking up for yourself.

Speaking up for yourself is one of those things that sounds really simple but is in fact quite hard, especially if you are an empathetic, generous and giving kind of person. I know this from experience. And those who know me might be surprised at this because I have always been outspoken, but I've come to realize only just recently that it is very easy for me to speak up on behalf of others, whether it's a community I belong to, a company that I am working for, my clients or my kids.

Speaking up just for myself?

Not so easy.

This passage in Brene Brown's book Rising Strong blew me away, though.

"Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They're compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment."

How many times have you said yes to something when really you just wanted to say no? 

Maybe it's volunteering to be class parent, or taking on an extra assignment at work when you're already overloaded, or agreeing to take your child to the park when you're exhausted and you really just want to go home, to give a few everyday examples, but this can apply to larger life decisions too, like marrying the wrong person, or choosing the wrong career.

How many times have you not said something when you wanted to?

Maybe you've been wanting to ask for a raise, or negotiate a more flexible schedule. Maybe you want a different role at work. Maybe you don't want to be the one to take care of all the school paperwork every year. Maybe you don't want to be the one who knows that the kids need new socks. Again, these are everyday examples but this happens on a bigger scale too, such as staying married to the wrong person or staying in a job or situation where you are unhappy.

All of this takes a toll on your well-being, your sense of self, your energy, and your ability to do your best work and be the best version of yourself.

As Brene Brown says, setting boundaries is about communicating what is and isn't ok for you, and boundaries are what will keep you out of resentment so you can be more compassionate with yourself as well as with others.

It isn’t simple. It isn’t easy. It can be life long work.

To speak up for yourself, it's important to give yourself space to hear your own voice. 

One of the ways I've been doing that most recently has been through meditation. I know, I am so totally not the kind of person who meditates, but I've been using Headspace, an app that provides simple, down to earth, ten minute daily meditations, and I figured if I can't even find ten minutes a day for myself, I'm dead in the water so to speak.

Another recent experiment (as in two days old) is that I'm trying to stay off my Facebook newsfeed until the evening. I've been struggling with my Facebook usage for several months now. I get so much out of my interactions there, and frankly, I've learned so much, yet it can also feel really bad to have so many voices filling head, especially at the start of the day, especially right now. I might still post or check my notifications, but so far it feels so much better to give my own voice space for a bit first.

Photo by Liam 

Photo by Liam 

And of course, one huge way that I find and use my voice is through my photos.

You can do this too. You probably already are, but when you approach it with a little bit of intention, you can really amplify the benefits.

Because what I hear from parents like you is that you want to have the photos in order to remember the moments, but you don't really want to take the photos.

So I invite you to think about the process of taking photos as one of validation and self-care, of finding your voice and speaking up to tell your story.

Don’t think about how your photos look because that focuses on worrying about the outcome, and opening yourself up to your own judgment and criticism. Instead, focus on how it feels, and when you look back over your photos, look at what they’re telling you about your life, what you want to remember, and everything that you are doing. 

One last note. As some of you who follow me on Facebook or Instagram may know, I made a last minute decision to go the Women's March on Washington this past weekend.

I'd had mixed feelings about attending, but in the end, I decided that I wanted to stand up and be counted for all of the things outlined in the Women's March Unity Principles.

My sign read "hear our voice" and for me, it was an incredible experience of speaking up for myself.

You can read more about my experience at the March and some of the things it, and ongoing events, have brought up for me over on Medium - and you can see some of my photos too.

Follow me there, where I will be speaking up more about my personal experiences with an aligned but different goal to my focus here at Photosanity.

And I encourage you, whether through photos, words, or both, to speak up, use your voice, set boundaries and tell your story as a means to claiming some space for yourself.

You deserve it.

And the world needs it.