So, then. Here’s what you want:
- Some kind of entrepreneurial business that’s thriving, running the gamut from Etsy shops to becoming a life coach–the type of thing you can run part-time, while making six figures, and still be home with the kids.
- “Eating well,” which really means a “clean” diet, which probably means going vegan and juicing.
- A regular yoga and meditation practice.
- A wardrobe full of flowy dresses, cowboy boots, scarves from Etsy.
- A pre-fab house with an infinity pool, decked out with a psuedo-Japanese minimalist style. Oh, and everything’s white.
Am I getting in the vicinity? It is possible that an elegant tattoo would also make this list. Possibly, dreadlocks or at least wild, flowy “beach hair.” That effortlessly tousled look.
If you look around the internet, at the blog posts and tinted Instagram pictures and Pinterest boards, there’s a ubiquity to what women seem to desire.
The ubiquitousness of the desires is actually not what worries me the most.
What worries me the most is the way I see women treating themselves to get “over there,” where the stuff is. What worries me is seeing how people beat up on themselves because they don’t measure up to an external standard. What worries me is that I see this as a new breed of perfectionism, one that looks “messier” but that ultimately ends up being the same thing.
What worries me is that we’ve traded in Stepford Wife perfectionism for what I term “boho perfectionism.”
The new standard to live up to involves proclaiming that you’re “messy” as you “live your dreams,” start a blog, and photograph your clean food. It’s not the quaint pressed aprons of the 1950′s housewife–that’s been traded in for the look that has a few “rough edges” to it.
It’s the “I’m trying really hard to not look like I’m trying hard” thing.
But I sense an undercurrent. Two, actually.
Undercurrent #1 is that the pink-tinted Instagram pics and the Anthropologie wardrobe and the green smoothies are just a new set of rules. Just because it’s a less rigid vision than the image of the perfect housewife who gets the perfect pot roast on the table by 5:00, doesn’t mean that anyone trying to fit the new, “messy” mold, is any happier.
Undercurrent #2 is that there is an epidemic of silent shame, largely fueled by the easy environment for comparisons that is the internet, that is felt by women everywhere who don’t have this life.
Women who actually have really good lives are looking right past what’s already there, thinking that the vision “out there” is what they want. They’re hustling to make it happen, and the fact that the vision is so ubiquitous is exactly what has me question whether or not it’s really what they all want, in the first place. It simply can’t be possible that everyone wants the same general thing, can it?
The Reality Check
Now, here’s a little piece that I’ll add in: I have some of these things. I’m not knocking having them. But I am going to pull back the curtain on them, to show the total truth of what “having them” looks like, for me. Here we go.
I have a thriving business. And guess what? It’s a full-time job. It is no four-hour workweek.
My home office is gorgeous and full of white-on-white design. A black and white photograph of Angelina Jolie’s back is on the wall.
But who cares how it looks, on nights when I’m burning the midnight oil, tired of sitting in that chair, tired of typing, tired of answering emails, tired of the low-grade guilt because I don’t have the mental bandwidth to promote the work of someone who has promoted mine?
I could show you an Instagram picture, tint the light, and you’d never know the entire picture: that running a business is the best and hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Another snapshot: I’m dairy and gluten-free. Such diets are touted these days as models of “great discipline” and health.
But let me also pull back the curtain on: the auto-immune condition that lead me to change my diet, the blood draws, the test results, the years of literal, physical exhaustion.
Let me pull back the curtain on being diagnosed with infertility and feeling like the dream of having a family is high stakes, riding on me and my “discipline” to eat in a way that will be conducive to my body not going into an inflammatory state, and killing off the few eggs I have remaining. * * See note at bottom
That’s the entire truth behind being gluten and dairy-free. Not so glamorous, is it?
I go to vinyasa yoga, two times a week. And I’ve been practicing yoga for years, but–I can’t do all the poses.
Even after several months of going to yoga, I don’t even have the arm strength to do a full chaturanga. When I tried going to yoga more often to build arm strength, my wrists swelled up.
Sexy, eh? So now I’m back to only twice a week.
Nope, Not Doom and Gloom
Let me be crystal clear: this is not “that post.” This is not the “I’m exposing how really, deep down, I’m miserable; woe is me; look at how I pay the price; yadda yadda yadda” post.
The examples I’ve given above are bringing transparency to the whole picture, rather than only showing the sides that look so great from an outsider’s perspective.
It’s not so dualistic as “good-bad.” Truth? I love running a business. I’d rather do that than anything else. Running a business, most days, feels like “home,” like the job I always wanted in my 20s and never knew it was possible to have.
I’m grateful that changing my diet has drastically improved my health. Such dietary changes don’t actually help everyone; some people with my same condition do everything they can, and their efforts make no difference in their health.
I love vinyasa flow and am pretty ecstatic about my small, simple studio. Going twice a week is actually enough, for me.
I’m just pointing out that since the entire picture of life is so rarely fully explained on the internet, perhaps it’s worth checking yourself, internally: are you pursuing things because you see what everyone else is doing, and think that’s where it’s at?
I’ve taken the time to cultivate that which is “uniquely Kate”: Obsessively watching videos from the Ironman Youtube channel and reading about heart-rate monitors and carbon-fiber bike frames. Or watching Animal Cops on my lunch hour, feeling the swell of “Justice was served!” when someone who abused an animal gets taken to court. Conjugating Italian verbs. Listening to Dr. Dre’s album, The Chronic, and wondering what he would say or do in a gestalt therapy session.
The other day, the completed works of Chopin arrived via Amazon; this summer I’ll be tickling the ivories again after a long hiatus. And did you know that I’m a classically-trained musician who got into college with music scholarships for playing…flute?
I know. My “cool factor” just went down several notches, I’m sure.
So What is it that YOU want?
So what is it that you uniquely want? Do you really and truly want the business? The yoga practice? Does drinking green smoothies and going gluten-free really lighten you up, really making you feel alive?
It’s important to decide before you use up the one thing that you’ll never get back (your time, your days weeks months years) whether or not the pursuit of those things is really going to be worth it.
It’s important to notice whether or not the pursuit of those things is grounded in what YOU actually want, or if it’s…what you’ve been sold. what you think you should want. what you imagine the happy people with the happy lives have.
If you’re hustling to get this life and it’s not pleasant, stop to ask yourself: Where am I trying to get, so very very fast?
If you’re envying this life, and noticing that those comparisons are crushing, stop to ask yourself: What’s available to me already, right here and now, that is uniquely mine?
Then, do me a solid: whenever you find whatever is uniquely yours, take a photograph of it, and Instagram the shit out of it.
** As loving as I’m sure someone’s intentions would be, I do not wish to receive email, suggestions, help, advice, etc., regarding infertility, parenthood, adoption, etc., etc.
“The participants who struggled the most with numbing…explained that reducing anxiety meant finding ways to numb it, not changing the thinking, behaviors, or emotions that created anxiety. I hated every minute of this part of the research. I’ve always looked for better ways to manage my exhaustion and anxiety. I wanted help ‘living like this,’ not suggestions on how to ‘stop living like this.’” –Dr. Brene Brown, Daring Greatly
Here’s what I know to be true: trying to find ever-more ways of managing the to-do list is the surest way to continue the cycle of equating your worthiness with your to-do list.
Do we need time management strategies that help our lives? Of course we do. This isn’t about saying “screw efficiency.” I’m not getting into dualities, here.
At the same time, what drives us the most are the “thinking, behaviors, and emotions” that create the anxiety, the overwhelm. That’s what we have to shift, first. Every other choice that we make will be in alignment with our highest and most purposeful selves if we shift from the inside, out.
Breathing Space registration ends on Friday, and I’ll be sending out the first lesson on April 30th. Let’s overhaul overwhelm, starting from within.
So…you’ve got to make a decision. And…you kind of notice that you really don’t want to.
All this talk of liberation, fighting for freedom, and on and on in our culture–and most of us don’t really (not really-really-really) want to make decisions. It shows up in a powerless choice of words, words that absolve someone of responsibility for their own actions and decisions:
“He made me so mad.” (No one can ‘make’ you mad; that’s your chosen reaction among a sea of possible reactions).
“I come from a dysfunctional family.” (You and me both, sister–but since you seem able to articulate that so well, it probably means that you have enough personal power to transcend it).
“But what do I DO?” (The question I ask most and with annoying repetition when I’m ruminating on a problem and the truth is, I know what my options are but just kinda-sorta-don’t-wanna settle on one. Guilty as charged).
We don’t want to make decisions for one tiny-big reason:
Decisions feel final.
Never mind if it’s not actually the truth, and most decisions have some degree of reversal to them. Never mind if “breaking up with him” might really mean that a year later y’all are hot n’ heavy, again, but better off for the wear and tear because you’ve integrated a few life lessons.
Never mind if quitting your day job to launch your life coaching practice might actually mean that you could get your old job back if things don’t go well.
Decisions feel final, and when something feels final, we fear dealing with its consequences.
This causes major overwhelm.
All that time and energy spent in a space of, “Well, I’d really like to do that,” followed by “Ugh, but I don’t want to deal with [some part of doing that],” creates a tug o’ war effect, the tension getting tighter.
Tug of War
Pretty soon, it’s easy to tell yourself, “Well, if X happens, then I’ll choose Y,” but then things get more complicated: X does happen, and suddenly…you still kinda sorta don’t want to choose Y. Perhaps then it’s, “Well, I know that X happened, but let me wait just another day to tell so-and-so that I’ve decided.”
Putting off telling someone? Another sign that you’re not really grounded in the decision (and deep down, you know it!).
It’s madness! And one of the places where this plays out the most is with factors that can’t be controlled, such as what someone else is going to say or how they’re going to react, fluctuations in the economy, and the like.
An example: I recently struggled with making a decision that had both economic ramifications AND “how will they react?” drama. The options kept playing in my head: how lucky I was to have the opportunity, how it could be a great platform, how it helped my career, how it could bring some cash flow my way…okay, then. I’d do it!
But–What about the dates and times that were tricky, given other things going on in my life? What about the feelings of constriction around the content I’d be working with? What about the resistance I kept feeling to the commute? and most importantly–What about the nagging sense I had that I was doing this because I wanted to be liked, more than to help my career?
My inner critic was having a field day. On one hand, I had Ego gratifications that–just like you–I’ve had several decades of conditioning to want. Cash. Being the center of attention. Pleasing others. So hard to resist.
Not doing it? No cash, no attention, and someone might be mad at me.
On the other hand, the voice that was yelling the loudest was, “You know that you’re largely doing this because you want to be liked, and that feels so fucking out of integrity, Kate.”
Ending Overwhelm, Practicing Courage
These moments? This is the heart of practicing courage. This, right here–this moment when it’s the hard choice between the easy route with all of the conditioned rewards, and the harder route that doesn’t make logical sense but that feels more right, in your heart.
How you learn to practice courage in such moments is a journey, and it’s layered, and it’s unique to you. Nab the Courageous Living Program if you’re ready to learn the tools. At the end of the day, I chose Door #2, and released the commitment to the project.
And that–that is where my overwhelm ended.
It didn’t end because I made the “right” choice. It ended because I made a choice.
The more you put off making decisions, the more overwhelmed you are. It’s less overwhelming to simply make a choice and deal with the consequences, than it is to continue to hang out in that place where you’re constantly debating for yourself, “What do I do?”
Had I chosen Door #1, I already know what I would have done. I would have looked for how I could make that choice one that was fully in integrity with me. I would have looked for how I could do what was being asked without caring what anyone else thought, thus removing the obstacle of “wanting to be liked.”
It’s not about which choice you make, if you know how to make the choice your own.
–Click here to tweet: It’s not about which choice you make, if you know how to make the choice your own. http://clicktotweet.com/ekJb4
That’s the bottom line. That’s personal power: knowing that whatever choice of action you decide upon, you can handle the consequences or challenges that arise. That, right there, is practicing courage in the face of fear.