What Does “Having It All” Mean?

What Does “Having It All” Mean?

For years, women have been told that we can or cannot have it all. We’ve been told what having it all means and either how we can get it or that it’s an unattainable myth. On the one hand, having it all means we’re worthy and successful. On another, wanting it all means we’re selfish and unrealistic. There are books, articles, workshops, and classes devoted to demystifying this subject.

Recently, though, there has been a directional shift. We’re approaching a new domain in the conversation and have started to ask ourselves and each other questions about the “having it all” mentality. Who decided what “having it all” means? On what cultural values does this mentality depend and do they align with our values? What narratives do we tell ourselves about what “having it all” looks like and do they work for us?

Turns out, you can’t have it all. No one can. At least, not all at once.

What we can do is make choices. We can choose our values, how we organize our priorities and the narratives by which we live our lives. Recognizing our choices isn’t easy. I get that. (In fact, sometimes, it might not feel like we have much of a choice at all.) For generations, we have had our choices and our consent removed from our view. The human rights movement has begun to change this and continues to bring our choice and consent into sight.

So, what do you choose for your life? What would you like to prioritize? Are you looking to be partnered? Happily partnered? Having children working in a meaningful career? Are you choosing to be a stay-at-home parent? Does exercising your choice mean working in a career that allows you to travel around the world eight months out of the year? Does it mean devoting your time to your career and volunteering? There are as many possibilities as there are people.

We’ve spent years reading from and committing to memory the scripts handed down to us. I’m working on letting go of the one I’ve memorized and I invite you to do the same.

I’m moving from the goal of “having it all” to connecting to my sense of purpose and personal choice. My process is not always fixed. In fact, it changes from year to year and phase to phase. Sometimes it looks like a lot of intense work in my career. Sometimes it looks like more time spent with loved ones and volunteering and working a little less.

To let go of the weird and burdensome goal of “having it all” and start figuring out what a life of choice and purpose means to you, try asking yourself these questions:

  • What feelings, thoughts, and images are evoked by the phrase “having it all?”
  • In what ways do I connect to those feelings, thoughts, and images?
  • What are the values I was programmed to have and do they match my values now?
  • What makes me valuable? Does that work for me?
  • Do I believe that having it all makes me complete? Do I believe that not having it all makes me incomplete? How did I come to this conclusion?
  • What are my priorities and how did they make the list?
  • What are my capabilities? How do I know this?
  • What beliefs, opinions, and narratives might I need to let go of to build the life I want?
  • Can I see the choices available to me in how I think about things, how I respond to my feelings and situations, and how I identify and set my boundaries?


Life is full of struggle and things we want to change, but it’s also full of choices. It’s tough to recognize our choices when we’re feeling overwhelmed. If we haven’t been taught to identify and set our own boundaries, it’s even tougher. Self-awareness lends itself to the ability to identify our choices and boundaries. Identifying our choices and boundaries helps us connect to our sense of agency. When we are connected to our own agency, we can create our own meaning. We are free to define what it means to live a full life, have it all, and to do so wholeheartedly.

Love and Be Loved,