Juggling three kids, a high-profile media career and a spotlit marriage to Geelong’s two-time AFL premiership captain Tom Harley, Felicity Harley found keeping up a veneer of perfection hard work.
Until she decided she didn’t want to do it anymore.
Conversations with mums at the school gate, friends, high-profile women, colleagues and her barista led Felicity to wonder about the overwhelm epidemic many women seemed to experience, and what was behind it.
"I was hearing that they were trying to be women that a) we never will be, and b) it’s our undoing," says Felicity. "I thought, 'If we don’t start talking about it and calling ourselves out and calling each other out' … That’s the whole premise of it, we’re all overwhelmed, our wellbeing is suffering."
Inspired, she cranked out her first book (speaking of overwhelm, we're talking three months cover to cover!), Balance and Other BS: How to hold it together when you’re having (doing) it all. Working from 8pm to midnight when her kids were in bed, the founding editor of Women’s Health interviewed celebrities, politicians and athletes including Megan Gale, Tanya Plibersek and Kelly Cartwright about how they navigate a jam-packed modern life.
"It comes back to perfectionism," Felicity told me on new to #Perspectives podcast ‘Done is better than perfect’, named for her favourite line learned during her research and writing.
I loved our conversation, which included the pandemic's effect on women's lives, five-layer Frozen birthday cakes and a 1950s housewife orgasm observation by Felicity, who got a new handle on wrangling life via small techniques (a daily gratitude) and mindset shifts.
“Now I’m a lot about getting things done or saying no," said the Sydneysider, who in 2012 was named one of Australia's 100 Women of Influence by Westpac for her push to promote women's sport. During her nine-year tenure at Women's Health it became the country’s number one women’s lifestyle magazine brand.
"At times we can say we have boundaries but we can be really flaky with them," says Felicity.
"I think we fear if we push back and say no that we perhaps are being a bitch, 'she won’t like me anymore', but I really think if you’re clear and say no you might hurt them when you initially say no, but later I feel you gain more respect.”
"I always used to strive personally, I have to do the best work on this story, build the best Lego house, run the fastest. Now it’s 80 per cent. As long as I get my ass to that gym—it doesn’t have the to be the best workout session ever, but I got there.”
She says ‘done is better than perfect’ can be applied to the minutiae of daily life: “If Tom puts the washing out it might not be how I like it but you know what, it’s done. Onto bigger things.”
I agree with Felicity. Self care isn’t having the bath. It’s giving yourself a break. It’s not being measured by that standard of perfectionism. It’s a much better way to live than I have to be everybody’s hero and it’s all on me.
Her suggestions about ways to help yourself beat overwhelm are relatable and pretty simple. "That can be boundaries, setting values, reconnecting with friends, taking time out. As Yumi Stynes said, it used to