For a long time, I have beaten myself up for not being consistent.
Business coaches the world over tell me that it is not until I am meticulously consistent that I will be successful.
The key to parenting my daughter, I understand, is just to be more consistent. To be consistently emotionally available. To be consistently calm.
My health, I believe, will suffer if I cannot maintain my consistent yoga practice, my daily green smoothies and my regular meditation practice.
In relationships too, I perceive, it is important to be consistent. To be consistently accountable and present and conscious.
And yet all this striving to be consistent has started to make me feel uneasy.
Firstly because I’ve learned that the constant cultivation of consistency gives rise not to success, health, consciousness or love – but merely to a barrage of self criticism, judgement and shame.
When the intention is born from a perceived lack of any quality – the outcome will always be self hatred, and therefore, counter-productive.
Second, through my work with women recovering from burnout, I’ve come to see the glorification of consistency as part of a larger, more insidious pattern.
Has consistency become just another way that we are projecting impossible standards of perfection onto women? Has consistency become another word for conformity – another way that women are shamed for expressing, for dreaming and for trying to shape the world a little differently?
I’ve started thinking… maybe being consistent isn’t the aim at all. Here’s why.
1. As women, we operate on a 28 day cycle. On any given day of this cycle, we will have different levels of hormones impacting our thoughts, emotions and physiology and therefore our behaviours.
Striving for consistency is great until it’s the week before our period and we’re hungry, teary and just a little bit overwhelmed by all the projects we started the week before.
It’s high time, I believe, that we started celebrating, rather than squashing our cyclical nature.
Every different phase of our cycle gifts us phenomenal superpowers and it’s worth remembering that what one labels inconsistent, another labels dynamic.
The more we learn to embrace our cycles – whether they be seasonal, lunar, menstrual or otherwise – the more able we are to quit the self criticism and lean into the natural rhythmic dance that is life.
2. Humans act inconsistently.
We are great almagamations of inconsistencies, paradoxes and hypocrises – with the ability to justify any action to ourselves along the way.
I often behave in ways that baffle me, despite the fact that I’ve done a lot of work on myself and, in theory, know my conditioning, values and priorities pretty well.
Instead of denying them, I dream about a world where we own these unique quirks. A world where we laugh about the fact that we are passionate about saving the environment but that we also love jetting around the world on carbon-producing aeroplanes.
3. Humans crave change.
I’ve been assured by my non-Gemini friends that this is also true of them.
Yes, we need stability – but we equally need change, growth and evolution.
The desire for consistency can inadvertently keep us stuck in jobs, behaviours, patterns and relationships that don’t serve us.
Working with this knowledge, rather than railing against it, while knowing our unique appetites for change versus stability, can help us change the goal from being consistent, to being consistently responsive to our ever-changing needs.
Some days I need yoga and green smoothies. Other days I need hugs and reality TV.
Some days I can write 10,000 words. Other days I am in a creative desert and the best I can muster is a text message to my mum.
If we all learned not to suppress, but to really honour those innermost needs in whatever way felt good on that day, I believe the world would be a little kinder to live in.
4. Being emotional is actually a really good thing.
In terms of emotional wellbeing – consistency is the last thing we should aim for. To be consistent means that we have, somewhere along the way, traded in our humanity for stability.
Because I get angry, I know when I’ve given too much and my boundaries have been trodden on. Because I get sad, I process hurt and allow myself to move through it. Because I get scared, I proceed with caution. My emotional landscape is multi-faceted, just like me. And each emotion that presents itself in my experience offers an important message to heed.
If I felt one thing all the time – now that would be quite a dull life indeed!
My ambition now is to be consistently me – to honour what I need day in, day out and understand that it changes. My goal is to be deeply human.
My experience has been that when I let go of the desire to be consistent, I am magically more consistent. It allows me not to aim to create a version of success that is presented to me from outside, but to cultivate a version of success that feels good for me, no matter how inconsistent it looks from the outside.
And that? That’s true freedom.