I hadn’t known Tiffany Han that well, until this past year. She birthed her babies several months before I had my daughter. Somewhere around the six-week mark with my daughter, I felt…nuts. Scary, broken-from-reality-sleep-deprived nuts. Major lifestyle change–husband had been offered a cushy job a week before I gave birth, and I was suddenly and unexpectedly home alone with a baby all day every day, recovering from a c-section, puffy, tired.
Also, happy, overjoyed beyond belief, gobsmacked by the love, and pulled in the two polarizations of those extremes.
Luckily, of course, there was Facebook. I was invited to be part of a private Facebook group that Tiffany and Laura Simms had started, and we’d all chat together and for the most part in those early months, we’d collectively obsess about sleep.
On really hard days, Tiffany would say this thing to all of us, and sometimes to me via a private text:
“You’re DOING GREAT!” she’d say.
Sometimes, “You’re doing SO FUCKING GREAT!”
This was not patronizing. She just honestly wanted us to know that whatever was happening, we were DOING SO FUCKING GREAT.
Words I needed to hear, to my surprise. Pre-baby, I think I would have assumed that someone saying such things to me was condescending. Post-baby, every time I saw them flash across my phone, I breathed a bit easier.
You’re Doing Great
The truth is–you and me? We’re all just doing so fucking great. Great with what we have, with what we offer. Great within our pettiness and imperfections. Great within our compassion and our love.
We are all doing just great because we are being human, and if you are willing to have a reverence for your life, that is greatness.
Collectively, we are living these lives that stretch us the way having a new baby stretches us. We love so fucking big and huge, and at the same time, sometimes we are so…tired.
The temptation is there to beat ourselves into a submission of “good behavior.”
“If I start telling myself that I’m doing just great,” you might think, “then I’ll probably let myself go even more than I already have.”
We fear that if we allow ourselves to receive the message, “You’re doing just great,” then we’ll blow money, blow diets, blow off the job we’ve hated for the past decade.
Truth? It’s only when we fully receive the message “You’re doing just great” that we find the capacity to get our financial house in order, eat great food without deprivation, and make tough decisions about our careers.
If you want to stop snapping at your husband, your kids, yourself.
If you want to shift your view of what’s possible.
If you want to feel “at home” in your body.
If you want to dance, uninhibited, every single day.
If you want to finish what you start.
If you want to quit every single item on the to-do list that doesn’t feed your soul.
If you want to stop playing small, hiding out.
If you want to focus.
If you want to be more playful.
It’s only when we internalize the messages of kindness, when we understand that through our foibles and fuck-ups we are really only doing the best we can in any given moment–only then will we give ourselves the compassion and care that truly, really, actually changes things.
Hon, you’re doing great–so fucking great.
You’re not lazy, you know.
You’re just afraid.
That’s why you buy up self-help programs and sign up for e-courses and then don’t actually implement the changes.
You’re afraid, hon. Just afraid. No biggie. We all are.
You think you’re missing something. You think that other people “get it” and you don’t.
Nope. There are only two things happening when other people seem to be having a smoother time.
One is that they are completely full of shit. Posturing. Paddling hard in a sinking canoe. Looking good on paper, but unable to look themselves in the eyes when they wash their face at night. Tired. Oh, so tired.
The other is that they are comfortable with their fear. It arises, but because they don’t resist it, hate it, or try to get rid of it, it doesn’t suck their energy dry. They’ve developed tools and strategies for walking through the fear–because it’s part of life, part of how things just go.
It’s not that you aren’t working hard enough.
It’s that until someone pairs a willingness to feel their fear with prioritizing their own accountability to themselves, it’s hard to get much of anywhere.
What? What did you just say? What does that even mean?
What I said is that you need two things:
1.) Willingness to feel your fear, and
2.) You need to prioritize your accountability to yourself.
Imagine Jane. Jane’s like you–intelligent, a good head on her shoulders, willing to make good decisions. She’s always longed for something–maybe to devote a month to yoga, to overhaul her whole wardrobe, to have a baby, to get her MBA. Naturally, she’s afraid (because anyone with a pulse who hasn’t totally shut themselves down will feel fear).
Jane feels her fear, and then she makes a decision: I’m doing this. I don’t know exactly how. I don’t have all the answers. I just know that somehow, some way, I’m doing this. This is what to do when you feel lazy.
Why you quit on stuff
You quit because you’re afraid, and you’re shutting down your fear in any number of ways, instead of dealing with it.
It seems like something of a paradox, but when you shut down your fear, you also shut down your passion. You can’t selectively shut down any emotion. Dr. Brene Brown says this about working with shame (hat tip: shame? Also falls under the umbrella of fear).
That’s the problem with shutting down fear–you also close yourself off from the good stuff that’s going to get you through every single hard time.
When you let passion rule your realm, you’ll move mountains to get shit done, and it will only feel like “work” in that good, “head hitting the pillow at the end of the day feeling satiated” kind of way.
You’re not lazy; you’re afraid
When you stall.
When you procrastinate.
When you make two steps of progress and then five steps back.
When you lie about your progress.
When you don’t tell anyone of your plans so that you’ll never need to lie about your progress.
When you tell everyone of your plans so that you’ll be accountable, and it totally backfires.
When you sit down with your lucky pencil and a perfectly quiet work environment and then suddenly it’s all too quiet and you just gotta get out of there and go to the coffee shop but then at the coffee shop you can’t fucking concentrate.
When all of those things happen, you’re not lazy. You’re afraid.
Hopefully, you’re not too afraid to decide that today’s the day you’re going to…deal with it. Even if it scares the bejeesus out of you to make even one step in the direction of your soul’s calling, that’s exactly what it looks like to work with and through your fear. That’s exactly what it looks like to be with it.
No superhero antics required. Ordinary courage is all it takes.
I was having a conversation with Andrea Owen about courage when I said, “I don’t think that I’m courageous because I do these big, grandiose things with my life. On paper, my life is pretty ordinary–husband, house, kid, career, and always plenty of laundry to do.”
Yet a lot of people end up here, at Your Courageous Life, thinking, “Courageous people do big stuff, and my life is so ordinary.”
There are plenty of people who are seeking to “become more courageous” so that they can quit their jobs and travel the world, or start a non-profit that saves lives, or write the Next Great American Novel, or they think that anyone who is courageous walks through life not giving any fucks what people think of them and always doing whatever they want.
While those things certainly require courage, that’s not the kind of courage that I’m particularly interested in. That’s not really what this website is about.
(I might be a little late in having publicly stated that, all these years in–forgive me).
The courage that myself and my clients, coaching trainees, and program readers have been most interested in is the courage that it takes to:
- Prioritize what matters most–to stop telling themselves every reason not to go after what they really desire, and start really making it happen.
- Know themselves–to start filling their lives with the activities that truly feel authentic.
- Speak up–to respectfully and powerfully speaking up when something doesn’t feel right.
- Totally trust themselves–to start making decisions without endless hesitation or back-and forth.
- To love all parts of themselves–to get totally honest with all parts of who you are, and give yourself the love, self-respect, and compassion you deserve. (Part of that love? Actually feeling like you deserve it).
Yes, These Things Take Courage
When people are afraid to prioritize what matters most, they spend lifetimes swearing they’ll start without actually starting; swearing they’ll finish without ever finishing.
When people don’t know themselves, their lives are run by perfectionism or trying to live according to a Pinterest board. This is particularly prevalent among high-achieving women who know how to do it all right and tick off all the right boxes, yet something remains elusive and unfulfilling.
When people don’t speak up, they’re constantly “taking it” from those around them. Nay-sayers, negativity, sarcasm, and wet-blanket comments create endless energetic drains.
When people don’t totally trust themselves, the doubt and second-guessing not only make things feel impossible–that pattern sucks the joy out of life.
When people don’t love all parts of themselves, they have trouble truly connecting with others. They struggle to feel like they can enter a room and show up just as they are. They judge others, which kills countless marriages and friendships.
Ordinary on Paper, Extraordinary in Life
If I’m totally transparent about how I practice courage, I’d add to that “ordinary on paper” statement that I made, earlier.
My “ordinary life” of husband, house, kid, career is actually pretty extraordinary. It’s extraordinary because lives that are infused with connection, truth-telling, or being totally real about what you really want are still not the norm.
What does a courageous life look like? For me, it’s:
Laughter, people. It means a shit-ton of laughter, most days.
Feeling like people “get” me.
Doing very little that’s about how it “should” look or to fulfill obligations. The things that do fall into that category (smiling instead of rolling my eyes at day care bureaucracy; coming through for a friend even if it’s an inconvenience for my schedule) are things that hold a larger purpose for me.
Seeing the wounds behind shitty behavior–and when a relationship has a toxic dynamic, I have the self-respect to let it go.
Crying with kindreds on those “this day really sucks” kinds of days, with zero self-consciousness.
Courage isn’t something you “have” or even what you “are.” It’s what you choose to practice.
Yes, you can practice courage in order to have a life that looks amazing on paper. Absolutely.
The bigger win is whether or not you’re practicing the kind of courage that has you laughing, crying, and connecting with the people you love the most (and putting yourself on that list of “people you love”).