Six months ago, this blog didn’t exist.
I don’t just mean it didn’t exist in the literal sense, I mean it wasn’t even a twinkle-of-a-light-of-an-idea in my head.
I’ve always been interest in health, especially from a holistic perspective but I’d never had an intention of blogging about my ups and downs of becoming healthier until recently.
Publishing the book. The Elephant in the Mirror was a project that had been more than a twinkle for several years.
I confess to feeling a sense of pride once it was complete and I could hold a tangible, paper-and-ink copy in my hands.
As part of the book launch process, I wanted to better understand the type of woman who was drawn to the concepts the book talks about (living consciously, authentically and with self-acceptance are core themes) and so I created a survey.
75 women took part and the responses were fascinating.
What was the survey about?
The survey was conducted in relation to the book – I wanted to find out what problems, challenges and issues were holding women back in their daily lives.
All answers were anonymous but were provided by women living in the UK and aged between 35-55.
In all there were 10 questions but in this post I’m going to share the 5 key questions people were asked:
- Do you have an elephant (something holding you back in life) in your mirror?
- Which of the following best reflects the area of life your elephant represents?
- If you could choose just one elephant to make friends with, which would it be?
- Which word or phrase best sums up the one thing would you like more of in your life?
- Which word or phrase best sums up the one thing would you like less of in your life?
What were the results?
Pretty darn interesting, is the short answer! But that’s probably not what you meant.
I’m not known for my number crunching and trend analysis abilities so you won’t find any in-depth commentary in this post but I thought it would be interesting to share some high-level numbers and my initial thoughts about what they could mean.
I’ve no idea whether my conclusions are right or wrong, only that they led to the creation of the challenge, the website and this post!
On to the results then…
Q1: Do you have an elephant (something holding you back in life) in your mirror?
The actuals: 56 women answered yes whilst 19 women answered no.
Put another way, around three quarters (74.67%) of respondents felt that there is something holding them back in life although, encouragingly, a quarter (25.33%) did not.
Obviously, this is hardly a representative study with only 75 participants but it is an indicator that there are lots of women feeling there is something in their way and stopping them progressing in life somehow.
Q2: Which of the following best reflects the area of life your elephant represents?
- Relationships: 13 (17.33%)
- Work: 16 (21.33%)
- Money: 16 (21.33%)
- Health (Diet and Exercise): 28 (37.33%)
- Health (Mental and Stress-Related): 26 (34.67%)
- Confidence and Self-Esteem: 26 (34.67%)
- None – I don’t have an elephant in my mirror: 17 (22.67%)
As respondents weren’t limited to just one answer, each option received several ‘ticks’.
Although the results are close, I find it really interesting that health and confidence-related issues were cited as causing feelings of being held back more than the traditional areas of work, money and relationships.
If a third of us are feeling like our health – physical or mental – is holding us back in life then that’s a pretty strong indicator that we need to do something to address this.
The good news is that, most of the time, these are areas we have some control over and can make some positive changes to.
Q3: If you could choose just one elephant to make friends with, which would it be?
- The actuals:
- Relationships: 1 (1.33%)
- Work: 4 (5.33%)
- Money: 9 (12%)
- Health (Diet and Exercise): 15 (20%)
- Health (Mental and Stress-Related): 16 (21.33%)
- Confidence and Self-Esteem: 14 (18.67%)
- None – I don’t have an elephant in my mirror: 16 (21.33%)
Although the numbers change a little when asked to choose just one option, these results support those in the previous question.
Physical health, mental health and confidence are the areas respondents would look to address in order to bring a positive change into their lives.
Again, it’s interesting that around the same number of participants don’t feel that they need to make any changes and are happy as they are, which is really good news.
But what worries me is that if we choose to combine the mental/stress-related responses with the confidence/self-esteem ones (which I’m allowed to do since this isn’t science and it’s my survey :P), that means 30 out of 75 women (40%) have something holding them back in a way that can’t be touched or seen.
The thing holding them back is inside of them and therefore individual to them. That’s a pretty large number of us getting in the way of ourselves.
The survey didn’t cover this but I’m curious to know whether this 40% (and I’d count myself in this group) ever express these feelings or do we just bottle them and carry on regardless?
Because if so, isn’t that a self-perpetuating circle…? Just a thought.
Q4: Which word or phrase best sums up the one thing would you like more of in your life?
Participants were able to give a free text answer to this question and could write whatever they liked which resulted in 75 individual responses. Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you the whole list here!
Instead, I’ve collated the responses that used the same key word and by doing so, it turns out there were five main areas people are looking to have ‘more’ of in the following order:
‘Time’ and ‘Money’ were overwhelmingly the words cited in response to this question and together accounted for a third of the responses.
What really interests me here is the thinking underpinning these results.
The first few questions all seemed to point to something internal when looking to introduce a positive life change but when asked what they’d like more of, participants responded with two things commonly associated with being external to us.
Of course, it could just be that I asked poor questions or that my interpretation of the results sucks – both are entirely possible. But the fifth question may help to bring these two seemingly disparate things together…
Q5: Which word or phrase best sums up the one thing would you like less of in your life?
And here we have it. Can you guess the word that was used far more than any other?
Yup, you got it. Stress.
In fact, 20 of the 75 respondents cited it as the one thing they’d like less of in life. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. In the interests of continuity, the top five answers were:
- A number of responses seemed to suggest a similar feeling but expressed differently. Words such as ‘conflict’, ‘self-doubt’ and ‘fear’ appeared more than once and whilst there is no one phase to sum them up, I’d argue this indicates there are a number of people who would like less of their inner gremlin/mind chatter/self-talk whispering negative messages in their ear.
But the top three answers – stress, anxiety and weight – are all things I’ve personally struggled with since I was a teenager.
It’s only when I saw a similar pattern in this survey that it got me thinking that there are plenty of women out there just like me.
All experiencing the same challenges on a daily basis and many of them somewhat older than me.
I don’t want these things to hold me back into my forties, fifties, sixties, why should they when I’ve plenty of other things to be getting on with. It’s generally called living.
The Stress Survey Takeaway
Like the women in this survey, I’d like to improve my health, my mind chatter, my stress levels.
And the big takeaway from conducting this survey was the knowledge that I’m not alone. But it can’t – it shouldn’t – be ignored that many of us are in a ‘stresshead’ place and want less of it.
I’m hoping to get some answers as to how to do this through each of the challenges but I’m open to ideas.
Why are we so stressed? How do we change it? How do we cope with it better? What do you do to cope with stress?
Answers on a postcard… (or in the comments below 🙂 and let’s stress – less!