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If Leaning In Hurts, You May Be Doing It Wrong


It’s been almost a year (in fact it’s just a few days short of the one-year anniversary) since Sheryl Sandberg and Lean In inspired women to consider taking control of our careers and our lives. Unfortunately, some of us are leaning in so hard, we’re missing out on life. And we’re not happy because of it.

Sheryl Sandberg

(Photo Credit: By World Economic Forum/Wikimedia Commons)

Although Lean In served as a helpful nudge to many women to take risks and to place other, less satisfying activities on the back burner in order to achieve professional goals, it also focused on personal fulfillment. Which means that not everyone’s plan is going to be identical and in order for it to work, you have to actually be personally fulfilled.

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Georgetown Law Professor, Rosa Brooks, recently described her version of leaning in as room-parenting, class potluck-having, and organic, homemade lunch-making, in addition to putting in extra hours at work. In anyone’s life, putting in more time at work means having less time for all the other stuff, unless you have somehow figured out how to add more hours to your day. Of course it’s difficult to do all of that by yourself — especially if you aren’t happy at work — and anyone who thinks they can, may have completely missed the point of the whole lean-in discussion.

Granted, some women (and men), find that type of schedule extremely fulfilling. Those are the folks who genuinely seem to need less sleep than the rest of us, or are the rare exceptions to the rule than doing many things at once means doing none of them well.

If, however, you’re killing yourself trying to lean in. and you aren’t happy, then it’s time to reevaluate. Work-life balance means exactly that, finding some way to meet your career goals, while enjoying life. By all means, focus on your career if that’s your source of fulfillment; if not, then it’s okay to lean out or recline, as Brooks says.

Leaning in was never intended to mean killing yourself over a career you hate and missing out on the things you find fulfilling. Remember, Sandberg urged us to get over the idea of having it all; she didn’t suggest doing it all.

Tell Us What You Think

Are you leaning in or leaning out? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Christina Majaski
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