Do you ever wonder why it is that even when you do everything right – everything that you set your mind to – you still aren’t happy? Maybe it’s because you are setting priorities that fulfill someone else’s dream, rather than your own. If you have worked to become the “ideal” woman based on how others define it, it’s likely you are out of touch with your own dreams and probably even burnt out.

It’s understandable. From the time we’re very young, we’re taught to be the “good girl” – to follow the rules and live our lives in a certain way that keeps society safe and functioning nicely. Many of us have been recognized and rewarded for achieving, and don’t feel valid unless we’re constantly excelling. Our culture implies that we should be productive and high on energy all the time and work to satisfy our bosses, our families, and partners. In other words, we are asked to be what we are not, for the sake of others.

If you’ve given up the power to decide what makes you happy, and are feeling that tired, drained burnout that results from pushing your own dreams aside, here are ways to get back in touch with what you want and what you need.

Be the sovereign of your life

Your life is your own. Why not empower yourself to make your choices based on that – based on your desires, your values, your recognition that your first priority is to your own health and well-being? Think of yourself as the sovereign of your life. Here are some ways to be that queen, and escape the burden of burnout.

Honor who you are

Honor who you are – not who you’re told you “should” be. Are you an introvert who would rather curl up with a book than attend a party? Are you outspoken? Are you a deep thinker? If so, you’ve probably heard you should be more social, be less blunt, or stop thinking too much. But you weren’t put on this earth to please others. Your purpose is to be the best person that you can be, and you have every right to honor and express that. It isn’t selfish – it’s making the most of the gifts you bring to the world.

I mean everything. As Brigid Schulte says in her book Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play when No One Has the Time: “Busy has become a badge of honor. There’s a cultural imperative not just to have it all, but to fit it all in on the fast track, packing in a multitude of activities and obligations until life feels, as one researcher put it, like an exhausting ‘everydayathon.’ ” So what if there’s a cultural imperative to be busy, or successful, or the ideal woman? Question cultural imperatives – ask “who does my busyness benefit?” Once you see beyond the illusion, you’ll move one step closer to living your dream, instead of that of the society.

Step away from being a victim of “busyness”

Do you feel guilty when you aren’t busy? After all – shouldn’t you always be doing more, more, more? Some cultural norms would say so. But if you’re experiencing burnout, try setting some boundaries. Begin by saying “no” whenever you can. Instead of telling yourself you’re too busy with other things, say “yes” to things that renew and rejuvenate you – and that includes time for rest and goofing around.

Set your intention to change

Cultural norms can include busyness that slowly turns into habit, like remaining on the board of directors for years or spending time on social media. If serving on that board or spending hours on Facebook is draining you instead of energizing or nourishing you, look at your motivations behind these things. Do you feel guilty at the thought of leaving the board, or if you log off social media for a day? Challenge yourself to do things differently so your life holds more peace and ease.

Follow your inner compass

You’ve heard it before, possibly so often that it’s lost meaning, but live your dreams. It’s easy to follow the herd – they’ll make all your decisions for you, if you let them. But following your own desires is the surest way to find happiness and fulfillment. If you’re experiencing burnout, it’s likely because you’ve been following that herd. Why not step off the beaten path and create the life of your dreams?

Make changes step by step

A lot of suggested changes to consider! But you don’t need to make them all at once. You can take small, grounded steps forward. Just shift your purpose to begin making your own well-being and happiness your first priority. Notice when you’re getting lost in demand and feeling like your life is not your own. Make the commitment to yourself and your dreams – then decide how fast or how slow you want to go.

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