Like Lily Allen, I tried to ‘have it all’ – here’s how I learned to live my best ‘70% life’ instead

Lily Allen, GLAMOUR’s Theatre Actor of the Year, has spoken out about the pressure women feel to “have it all.” She says, “I get really annoyed when people say you can have it all because, quite frankly, you can’t.” It’s a sentiment that many women will identify with – not least GLAMOUR’s European Editorial Director, Deborah Joseph.

Back in 2019, Deborah realised that trying to be a superwoman was bad for her mental health, so she started consciously dropping balls and had a life revelation. And so the ‘70% life’ was born. Here, we revisit her essay about how she ditched the pressure to have it all…

It was on a wintry November evening – 7.08 pm, to be precise – that I reached my tipping point. I opened my front door after a particularly full-on week at work as Editor-In-Chief of GLAMOUR, ready to lie on my couch and crack open a bottle of rosé (yes, I drink it all year round).

Suddenly, I was hit with a wave of screeching. My two eldest children – then aged seven and five – were fighting hysterically over the TV remote, and my three-year-old was lying on the hallway floor, throwing an almighty tantrum. At that moment, my phone pinged. It was a text from my neighbour: ‘I can hear a lot of screaming. Have you locked one of your children in their bedroom?’ My husband, also harassed after an equally stressful week at work, then asked me, “What should we have for dinner?” Needless to say, I snapped.

Without even looking behind me, I walked right back out of the door, jumped into my car and spent two hours driving aimlessly around north London, Smooth Radio on, trying to calm my frazzled nerves. The truth? I was burned out. I hadn’t been sleeping well for months. I couldn’t concentrate. My eyesight had become fuzzy. To the outside world, my life looked like one to envy. Friends and colleagues told me: “You’re a superwoman.” Inside, I felt I was failing at everything. And with so much expectation – mine and other people’s – on my shoulders, I just couldn’t cope.

As I sat in my car, not even crying, just in shock, I tried to process everything. The life I was leading was the one I had been taught to aim for: to be successful at my job, a supportive wife, a present and loving mother, a good friend, a homemaker, a devoted sister and daughter, to stay fit so that I could wear the clothes that I loved, and, in recent years, to keep up an interesting social-media presence for work.

From my feminist-leaning school (Emmeline Pankhurst’s daughter went there) to my mother, who told me never to rely on a man and always earn my own money (incredible, I’m aware, to many young millennial women, that this was ever in question), these expectations and messages were subconsciously imprinted on my brain.

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