The Recovery Myth, Part Four: “What Does Recovery Mean To You?” 7 Warrior Women on Living The New Normal

The Recovery Myth, Part Four: “What Does Recovery Mean To You?” 7 Warrior Women on Living The New Normal

Body Community Motivation + Inspiration The Recovery Myth

I am so proud to bring you THE RECOVERY MYTH: a four-part miniseries by WANT sharing real-life stories, smashing open misconceptions, and shining a light on what recovery from an eating/body-related disorder or addiction REALLY looks like.

I’m talking to experts, healers, and real-life recoverees answering some of the top recurring questions I’ve gotten from you over the last few years. Not just questions about recovery itself, but about the befores, the durings, the afters, and all the in-betweens that can sometimes seem like you imagined them.

To be clear: the point of The Recovery Myth is NOT to prescribe a roadmap or provide a neat-and-tidy picture of what recovery looks like. The point is to dispel myths surrounding recovery and gain multiple perspectives to provide a more inclusive, holistic, and ultimately helpful view of what it looks like to go from the darkness into the light.

In Part Onewe debunked the seven biggest myths and misunderstandings surrounding recovery (read listen here). In Part Two, I talked to actor, host, blogger, and activist Lynn Chen all about navigating recovery in the midst of social media pressures, food intolerances, and a #bodypos world that sends mixed messages (listen here). And in Part Three, I spoke with healer and founder of Breathwork For Recovery Nathaniel V. Dust all about processing trauma, rewiring behavioral patterns, toxic relationships, and alternative forms of therapy you might not ever have known existed (listen here).

Recovery is an opportunity to show up for yourself in a profound, permanent way - @pureleighliving Click To Tweet

For the final installment of The Recovery Myth, I polled a group of healers, experts, activists, and warrior women (all who have experienced an eating disorder) and asked them one simple question:

What does recovery mean to you?

The answers to this question were just as varied as the women who answered it, but every person touched on one common thing: it’s a lot more complex than just a before and after shot.

Here’s what they said:

Recovery isn’t so much about getting back to normal as it is about the process of creating a new normal. No one formula works for everyone, and no one path is linear.

Recovery isn’t always obvious – because the real healing happens in parts of your head and heart that no one can see. Learning to create a new normal in life also means creating a new normal when it comes to how you deal with discomfort. The hardest part of recovery isn’t necessarily when you’re first learning how to stay away from or replace the behaviors you once had: the hardest part of recovery can be when you think you’re on the right path and then get sneak-attacked by something you didn’t realize was a trigger. That’s why it’s called a trigger – you don’t see it coming and it hits. FAST.

The recovery dance can feel like a risky one. Triggers everywhere. And not a lot to trust. But then again, building trust often times feels like the riskiest feeling of all. And just like building trust in a friendship or romance, the biggest risks reap the biggest rewards.

To be “recovered,” by society’s standards, insinuates being saved by something or someone. And let me be clear: YOU NEED TO ASK FOR HELP. Call. Text. Reach out. Book the appointment. Have someone book it for you. Just involve others. Humans are community-driven creatures. We need each other, in our highest highs and lowest lows.

But no matter how much therapy you go to, treatment you have, or self-help books you read, the only person who can truly save you…is you. Recovery is a choice that comes about with a lot of support, but is spurred into action when you finally say no to your crutches and YES to your capabilities. Recovery is becoming the you YOU know you’re meant to be.

-Katie Horwitch, founder of WANT: Women Against Negative Talk

To me recovery is self-awareness. It’s having the courage to really examine my [body image & food]  thoughts, choices, behaviors and get honest about what the intention behind them is and trying to make the best choice in each moment. For the most part I know what is the most recovered thing to think or do or eat but making that choice again and again each day is where some challenge comes in. I think of  recovery as flexible – it ebbs and flows but more and more each day I lean more towards self-awareness and getting honest about the intentions behind my actions.

Katie Dalebout, host of The Let It Out Podcast

To answer the question of what recovery means to me, it means living my life by a set of principles that were outlined in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, from living with honesty to making amends to trusting in a higher power. I live by those prinicipals in all areas of my life (my food/body, relationships, work, etc) as though my life depended on it – because it does. What I learned when I attended OA was that I have a physical allergy to certain types of food/behaviors and that once I start eating that food or doing that behavior (purging) it is impossible for me to stop. My body and mind are different from other people who do not suffer with the same allergy. I learned that abstaining from those things will give me great freedom. And the only way to abstain and be free is to work a day at a time on what the true problem is: it’s not food, but rather an inability to cope with life.

Food was my solution to my problems and I have since found a new solution: I learned that my illness is never cured but can be arrested on a daily basis if I’m willing to do the work. I have developed a relationship with something outside of myself and I live my life (or try to on a daily basis) to be of service to others. I believe in being honest and looking within myself instead of outside myself at what is wrong with others. I owe my life and everything amazing I have today to the 12 steps. My husband, my family, my job, my changed outlook on life. Through this I have freedom from food obsession, body obsession and can enjoy the deep meaningful things in my life.

-S., WANT reader

Recovery means an internal healing. Recovery is an everyday commitment of introspection, acceptance and a willingness to be vulnerable with the unveiling of your true self.

Recovery is a choice. Recovery is your opportunity to show up for yourself in a profound and permanent way. How you accept yourself, present yourself, and care for yourself is a blessing and a much sweeter blessing when you are confronted with the negative self talk and comfort of falling back into self-sabotaging habits. Every moment you choose your health and your happiness over your past demons you are living your recovery. Take the wins.

-Angela Leigh, wellness + behavioral coach

Recovery is not just the absence of a thought or behavior. It’s putting together a toolbox that will help you get through each and every day without going absolutely bonkers.

-Lynn Chen, actress, blogger + activist

Recovery means freedom. I have the freedom to take chances and risks, experience complete bliss as well as struggle and sadness. The freedom to live life in every moment and in every emotion without the need nor the desire to numb out and resort back to the harmful behaviors my eating disorder once had me trapped in. I am free to bravely live my life in all its glorious beauty and strife  – no hiding in shame and no apologies for my authenticity.
 
`

 

To me, recovery means not having to think about recovery. I got to a point in my recovery when my life was all about recovery — being in it, staying in it, being accountable for it, performing it, etc. I was all about talking about food, posting about nutrition, thinking about my body, reaffirming my body image…it got to the point when I was “so recovered” that my entire identity was recovery.

And so I stopped “recovering” — because I was already recovered. And I went out and tried “discovery” instead. I found interests that brought me outside of the kitchen and the gym and off of social media. I continued to be recovered (not falling back into disordered habits, patterns, mindsets, or behaviors), but I just used all of the extra time I got by not thinking about food or my body to go out and do something fun with my life.

Everyone’s discovery will look different — because no two people have exactly the same interests — which makes it much harder to be prescriptive about than recovery. But you have to go out and try and not be afraid to fail. There’s no wasted time in discovery, even if the thing you try isn’t something you want to do again.

It’s a learning process in which you get to fully come into your own.

– Kaila Prins, body positive wellness coach and founder of Performing Woman

Discovery is a learning process in which you get to fully come into your own - @performingwoman Click To Tweet


WANT YOURSELF:

Now I’d love to hear from you: what does recovery mean to YOU?

Let me know by adding your answer to the mix in the comments – because each of us experience recovery differently, and each of us have a lesson to share. I’ll be featuring some of my favorite answers in the final WANTcast episode of The Recovery Myth.

Can’t wait to hear from you!


Know someone who might need this miniseries? Forward it along and let them know you care.

Know someone who might be able to contribute something unique to the conversation in the next round of this miniseries? I’d LOVE to meet them. IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW HAS GONE THROUGH AN ED/ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE (**AND HAVE SUCCESSFULLY RECOVERED), OR ARE AN EXPERT IN THE FIELD, shoot me an email at katie@womenagainstnegativetalk.com and we can get to talking.


Never miss a post. Ever. Sign up + join the WANT movement:


The Graceful Flail: An Ode To Adulthood.

The Graceful Flail: An Ode To Adulthood.

Community Motivation + Inspiration

Being an adult is hard work.

We wake up early, we go to bed late, we regulate early bedtimes to make those early mornings more manageable and push those late nights so the mornings start fresh. Half the time we’re autonomous and half the time we’re reporting to others. Our finances. Our whereabouts. Our missteps. Our intentions on how to make a life out of an existence.

I remember telling a friend once, in the midst of a trajectory shift, that I wanted to move forward in my career. But, secretly, I told her – my twenty-four year old self thinking she was revealing something unique – I loved the fact that I had no one to report to but myself once I was off the clock.

Yeah, she guffawed (ps, is there any better onomatopoea than “guffaw?”). Enjoy that while it lasts.

And I thought, is that what it is to be an adult?

To lose yourself to others?

~

While environment and company certainly come into play, we’re inherently born as who we are. And so the idea of adulthood is somewhat of a fallacy. Same being, different experience. And what I find fascinating is that the more people I talk to, the more people I find feel as if they’re just “faking” this adult thing. We’re all just trying to make sure we seem cool-calm-collected to everyone else. Accountable. Responsible. “Adult.”

But really, we’re all in the same boat.

My years have always been muddled in my mind. My age has always been permeable. I vividly remember thinking with a mind I did not feel my body was grown into, and specifically remember instances of holding back communication because I did not feel my peers would understand. Half the time I feel I am eternally seven and the other half I feel eternally seventy two. The latter is my soul. The former is my spirit. The reality is somewhere in between.

I still love fairies and mermaids, and my heart melts a little when I see a stuffed animal on the shelf. I talk to three year olds like they are thirty and seventy year olds like they are twenty seven. I refuse to judge anyone based on their age, a vow I made to myself when I was eight years old and felt the patronizing effects of those who talked to me as if I was a child.

To believe that “adulthood” comes with legal status is grasping for certainty. Because the fact is, a LACK of certainty is one of the hallmarks of adulthood.

 

Being an adult doesn’t mean you have all the answers. Being an adult means you’ve made peace with the fact that you don’t.

 

So where do we go from here, adults? If we know what we know and we know what we don’t know, and we’re fine with it all, does it mean we stop searching? Does making peace mean complacency? Is that why, ultimately, we are so resistant to reversing triggers and shifting trauma and changing our self-talk for the better? Is it to fabricate drama, because we’re so worried that without it, we’re left without something to chase?

Of course not. The search never stops. Quite the opposite, really. When we know we’ll never know, we can begin our quest for what else is out there. When we’re at peace with not being able to solve the puzzle, we can get to creating our own beautiful jigsaw. When we’ve accepted what isn’t, we can truly start looking for what IS. Complacency isn’t an acquiescence into adulthood, it’s the death of the human spirit.

When we know we’ll never know, we can begin our quest for what else is out there. Click To Tweet

Laying sprawled out on my couch the other evening after dinner, half watching Top Chef and half getting lost in my own head, I looked around the room and marveled out loud at life. I don’t think twenty-four year old me could have ever envisioned this. I don’t think she could have ever conceptualized life like it is right now.

Because twenty-four year old me thought that adulthood meant grasping to make things work. Twenty-four year old me thought adulthood was what happened when you turned yourself over to the world to be its caretaker. Twenty-four year old me thought adulthood was a time in which you knew exactly what you wanted and those things matched up perfectly to everyone else’s Wants. Twenty-four year old me though adulthood was losing yourself and calling it “finding yourself.”

But I know better now. Or should I say, I don’t know, and that makes me know a whole lot better. I’m confident in what I know and confident in what I don’t know. I have 70% of my shit together but the other 30% is flailing in the wind like one of those Wobble Men at the car wash (which I just Googled btw and are actually called “Air Dancers” which definitely seems like a much more adult name than Wobble Men).

And I think I like it best that way. Conscious knowing and unknowing. Constant grounded flailing. A sense of community, but also distinct uncertainty and loneliness that no longer shakes you like it once did. They’re all normal; the high highs and low lows and everything in between. And whereas I once thought adulthood was reporting to others and losing yourself, I now know that what I once thought of as reporting myself to others was really assimilating to fit a mold that didn’t even exist.

To be adult is to know you don’t know. To be an adult is to forego societal assimilation in favor of radical self-acceptance. And to be an adult – it’s to flail gracefully, and in the flailing notice how you’re catching air.

 

adulthood
gracefully flailing at my insane bridal shower, 9.23.17

Never miss a post. Ever. Sign up + join the WANT movement:


The Reality Of The Situation: A (Non-Exhaustive) List Of Things To Do When Life Feels Hard.

The Reality Of The Situation: A (Non-Exhaustive) List Of Things To Do When Life Feels Hard.

Body Community Motivation + Inspiration Tips + Tools

I’m not gonna lie: the last few weeks have felt really, really tough. The kind of tough that’s hard to explain to people. The kind of tough that makes it hard to motivate yourself to write. The kind of tough that puts off tasks and escews social plans because there’s a rager going on inside your head 24/7. The kind of tough that make you question…well, not everything, but a whole damn lot.

I don’t know if it’s because we’re nine months into the year and still dealing with SO much of the same BS (you know what I’m talking about.), or because it feels like I’ve been doing double duty looking after both others AND myself and the load has just felt really heavy lately, or because the seasons here in NYC are starting to shift a bit early and I’m caught off-guard by a change I wasn’t ready for, or because the brainspace that is usually reserved for “future growth” in both the personal and professional sense has been hijacked by wedding/marriage prep.

((Or maybe it’s just because I’ve been listening to the new Phantogram album on loop and it’s making me feel things that have probably been repressed for a really long time.))

In any case – I’m not a stranger to this feeling of heaviness and toughness, which is why I think I’m not too crazily overwhelmed by it. I know it well. I used to get really scared that it was my default state. That I was destined for a lifetime of being in conflict with the way I was inside vs the way I was perceived by others: glass-half-full to everyone else, is-that-glass-even-able-to-hold-that-much-water-without-tipping-over to myself inside my head. It wasn’t that I was overly optimistic and constantly disappointed, OR overly pessimistic and cynical about the world. I just felt feelings about everything. Hence the heaviness.

And then I dated someone who was like this way more often than I was. He was one of the most creative, intuitive, empathetic people I knew – and most emotional, besides myself. I saw his highest highs and lowest lows, and he always seemed to bounce back to neutral eventually.

How did he navigate his tough spots so gracefully?

With a catchphrase I soon adpoted as my own: The emotions of the situation are not the reality of the situation.

The emotions of the situation are not the reality of the situation. Click To Tweet

This doesn’t mean your emotions are wrong. It just means they’re not an accurate picture of what’s going on OUTSIDE your head. You are allowed to feel exactly how you feel, and feel it about exactly what you feel it about.

So while, say, these last few weeks have felt really heavy and really tough, I know now that this is my emotional response to a set of situations at hand. And emotions are ever in flux. This is just an ebb in my flow.

The solution, for me, is to just start do-ing.
To do one small, small thing that sets off a chain reaction in my head and heart that tells me I’m okay.
That I’m capable of moving forward even if I don’t feel like I am.

The one thing empowers me in an oh-so-small-but-oh-so-big way to do one other thing, and then another, and then another. It’s like picking loose change up off the ground…eventually you have enough coins to make a full dollar. And you have to pick up every single coin to get there. Sometimes you luck out and find a quarter. Sometimes you’re relegated to pennies. But both make you at least one cent richer than you were the second before.

~

Ever caught yourself saying, “Eh, it won’t matter anyway”…or, “It’s not enough”…or, “It’s too small to count”….??? Welp, one step is better than no step. And you can’t move anywhere if you don’t take one step after the other. Send the email. Return the call. Write the thing. Write a LINE in the thing. Get your shoes ON. Heck, make the bed!!! When the world seems the most overwhelming the best thing we can do is just take life choice to choice. No choice is too tiny. No change is too small. No decision is insignificant.

I’ve started to work through my feelings of heaviness by doing small acts at the very beginning (or middle, or end) of the day that make a HUGE difference. I’ve learned that when everything feels tough, nothing feels doable. I tend to procrastinate and tell myself I’ll get to things once I feel “better.”

But – and this is something I need to KEEP reminding myself over and over – once I start doing *A* thing, whether or not it’s *THE* thing, then I start to feel two percent accomplished and two percent more likely to do another thing, and another, and another, and then eventually everything feels a lot lighter and a lot more manageable. And eventually, I’m back to writing again. And it’s like the toughness never happened.

Except the body remembers.

And the body takes with it the good stuff if you let it.

So accomplishing one small thing after another in the midst of tough times helps develop resilience and PROOF that the toughness is not your default state. It’s one part of the amazing, multifaceted person you are.

And that’s the reality of the situation.

~

Need some ideas? Here are some things to do when literally just getting out the door seems like a feat in and of itself, your heart is feeling either understandibly or inexplicably heavy, and you don’t feel like doing anything:

    • Make your bed.
    • Exfoliate and/or put on a face mask.
    • Brew yourself coffee.
    • Send ONE email you’ve been meaning to send (this is my own personal go-to).
    • Text a friend and tell them how much you love them.
    • Clip your toenails.
    • Read three pages of a book.
    • Lace up whatever shoes you exercise in and tell yourself that if you still don’t want to work out after 10 minutes, you can stop.
    • Blow dry your hair.
    • Take 10 slow, long, loud breaths.
    • Update your resumé, press kit, LinkedIn, or social media accounts. 
    • Do your laundry, then – plot twist! – fold your clothes after (instead of leaving them on the ottoman what do you mean i never do this…).
    • Make or buy organizational tools for your drawers and closets so you know where things are when you need them – and then organize those things.
    • Make or buy yourself a healthy meal – or pack your lunch for the next day.
    • If you use a calendar app on your phone, set a reminder at a specific time (every day, if you’d like) to plan your next day or just to take a standing break.
    • Drink a full glass of water – it’s amazing how much simple hydration can do.
    • Hug someone. PS – a puppy is definitely “someone.”

WANT YOURSELF:
Now I’d love to hear from you! What is something you do to help yourself get back on track when you don’t feel like doing anything? Leave a comment and tell me your go-to.


Never miss a post. Ever. Sign up + join the WANT movement:



A Quick PSA on Diversity, Denial, and How Curiosity Will Save The World.

A Quick PSA on Diversity, Denial, and How Curiosity Will Save The World.

Community Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power

I live in a city where I am PUMMELED by diversity the second I walk out the door. Diversity in race, diversity in religion, diversity in gender identity, diversity in age, class, body type, occupation — you name it, New York City’s got it. Bougie brownstones next to dirty bodegas. A multi-zillionaire riding the 1 train next to someone without a penny to their name.

I have never ever ever once in my life been exposed to so much diversity in my daily life. It has made me a better person because my eyes are opened wider. It has made my voice louder and stronger because I know it’s the only one of its kind in a sea of unique songs. Diversity has made me deeply internalize that the lens through which I view the world is neither right or wrong – no one’s is – because it is merely a single lens amidst COUNTLESS different prescriptions.

But. BUT. Here is the thing about diversity. Living amongst such radical diversity has also made it abundantly clear that while we all have different backgrounds and opinions and deep-seated beliefs about the way the world is, everything boils down to one of two buckets: GOOD or NOT.

We can all have different lenses on, but there are only two choices when it comes to what we condone when it comes down to the very basics of humanity.

 

I have noticed that sometimes the people around me can be harsh. They can sometimes be bitter or mean or maybe have different political views than I do. But at the end of the day, they (for the most part, don’t wanna generalize a whole city) believe in the notion that no matter who you are or where you come from, you deserve equal rights and you deserve to be here. Exactly as you are. The beauty of living in NYC is that while it’s maybe the most diverse city in the entire country, and the diversity is APPARENT on every street block, we’re all in this together. The majority is GOOD.

The majority of AMERICA is GOOD. I know it. But when we don’t own our stories or speak up or simply get curious as to why our story has favored certain races, religions, genders etc for so long – when we can’t even be proactive with our CURIOSITY – the GOOD gets weaker. And the NOT gets stronger.

As Queen of All Things Brené Brown said so eloquently in her FB Live this week (seriously, go watch it HERE), we need to own our own story in order to write our own ending. If we don’t, the story owns us. The ending gets written for us.

If we don't own our story, the story owns us. - @brenebrown Click To Tweet

The shame is that too many people think that owning your story means making yourself feel like an asshole. Or that owning your story means aligning yourself with things you don’t believe in. And neither of those could be farther from the truth.

We’ve been talking a lot about recovery and eating disorders on WANT lately, so to go with an analogy: owning that you once had an eating disorder does not mean it defines who you are. Owning the fact that an eating disorder was a part of your story does not mean it is anywhere near your entire narrative.

Owning that our country was built on white supremacy, that anti-semitism and racism and homophobia are woven deep in our fabric, does 👏not 👏mean 👏 that WE ourselves are any of those things. But to stay silent – to not even let your curiosity question GOOD vs NOT out loud – is to stay in denial of a NOT that has gone on for far too long.

To stay silent when it comes to GOOD vs NOT is to deny a NOT that has gone on far too long. Click To Tweet

Speak up. It matters. Oh my god does it matter. I’m not saying you have to be posting all the time on social media. But words have immense power. We learn from each other. Just like bonding over negativity, if we make silence our MO, others will follow suit. However, if we start thoughtful conversations or make at the very least offhand comments boosting the GOOD and admonishing the NOT, others will start to follow. Your words let others know where you stand and how you think we should write the rest of our story.

And if you are struggling right now at speaking your mind – if you are feeling like you’re maybe at risk of losing your community or someone you love because they’re afraid of what owning their story might mean and will disown you if you’re the one who brings it into the light, because I do recognize that that is a VERY REAL THING for some people – I urge you to at the very least weave curiosity into your conversations.

It can go something like this: “It’s funny: we were raised to believe that XYZ” or “We learned 123 in our textbooks or in Bible study”…”But my current, more enlightened self WONDERS: _______?”

Create your own script. Wonder deeply and with intention. But do it out loud.

Wondering out loud opens doors that blame or shame cannot, and can lead to taking ownership of your past and therefore creating a new future.

 

On Sameness + Perfection.

On Sameness + Perfection.

Body Love Motivation + Inspiration

WHEN I WAS 12, I read the book The Giver by Lois Lowry. A sort of Brave New World for the tween set, it’s about a confined society in which everything is Just So all the time. It’s a society that’s been converted to “sameness” – a plan that has eradicated pain and strife. Everyone is identical. No one feels. No one judges. No one’s flawed. No experience, no emotion, no hunger for life. Just…predictability.

I think that most of my classmates empathized with the times the main character, Jonas, felt weird for being different (how much more tweeny can you get?). I, however, empathized with how angry Jonah felt when he started to see – really see – how phoney Sameness really was.

~

Perfection is a hoax. The allure of being perfect is the greatest con, the greatest scheme ever devised. Forget about the Photoshop, the glossy pages, the television even. Perfection is a stagnant ideal and a consummation of all we find unsatisfactory. It’s an artifice to fool ourselves into believing that there’s an excuse or that we’re failing. That is perfect, They are perfect is internalized and morphs into This is not perfect. I am not perfect.
Perfection is conditional love. It’s an invisible benchmark and a thick glass ceiling. It’s the expectation and the idealization of the absolutely monotonous. It’s a lonely, one-dimensional load of crap we think we need in order to feel special.

Perfection is a pile of you-know-what from both ends of the spectrum; doesn’t matter how you look at it. We live in a world where the sweetest apples are discarded for a touch of brown, where we inject plastic into the lines we’ve earned from reading novels late into the night, where we over-sterilize and under-appreciate.

And then there are the people who seem to be constantly extolled for their beauty, their wisdom, or their achievements. Their existence is idolized, their lives an exercise in perfection maintenance. And that…that is a huge burden to carry, too. It’s immense, unreasonable pressure to stay at a certain age, look, job and caliber indefinitely. Because what if – no, when – we don’t? What happens when we falter – or maybe just aren’t astonishingly mind-blowing every single second?


Will we still be loved?

 

The word “perfect” has haunted me my entire life. When I was in middle school, I would be called perfect as a taunt. I didn’t have braces. I liked to color-coordinate. I got good grades. My awkward stage was mild. Sounds great, huh? Yeah. Not really. I felt detached and alone. I felt I could not be myself; God forbid I spoke out of turn or mismatched a sock. Just like Jonas in The Giver, I saw how fabricated the idea of perfection was, but didn’t know how to convince people otherwise. There was an immense discomfort in knowing I was looked at as someone who had everything together, and that that was both desired AND detested. Trying to convince people I wasn’t always backfired, since perfection was so ingrained in my identity to others. It was weird for me to be perfect but wrong for me to be flawed.

But the most uncomfortable thing for me was that my biggest taunts were also my highest praise. I was told I was pretty, I was told I was smart, I was told I was sweet, and I was told I was talented. I wasn’t ever forced to be those things – no stage parents in my household – but it was obvious the value they had. Plus, the alternative was scary. When you grow up in a culture that puts people down for fun and thrives off of casual negativity to get through the day, how does anything but perfect seem like a viable option? There was currency in perfection…as well as immunity. I felt that.

Balance was virtually impossible.

 

How was it that the very thing I equated with love and worth from my family and mentors was the thing I equated with loneliness and weirdness when it came to my friends and peers?

 

Some would have rebelled. But no – I didn’t want to rebel. I just wanted to relate. So I downplayed my assets and kept them locked away. At the root of it, I feared loss. I wanted to guarantee love, but at the same time wanted to be the full range of myself – which included the dark and messy parts. Please let me be normal, I’d silently beg. Do not love me for my light, because it sometimes gets dark in here and I can’t bear the loss when you realize that.

What was the most interesting is when I started to focus on feeling special instead of focusing on the whether or not others THOUGHT I was special. I let my guard down in front of people. I took myself very seriously but took the world a whole lot less so. I cried over boys and told people who hurt me the way that I felt. I opened up about being melancholy for what seemed like no reason and realized there were way more people like me than there were not. My dark and messy wasn’t all so dark and messy after all. I was just, as Glennon Doyle says, “a feely person in a messy world.” I began to realize that only I could determine my value, and only I could know what was my rightest right. I stopped using the word “perfect” to describe people and things and started to call them “perfect-for-me.” I stopped feeding off “perfect” and living on purpose.

You are not a mess. You are a feely person in a messy world. - @glennondoyle Click To Tweet

I am wary of perfection. The ones who make it their life’s mission to be perfect, I’m onto them. There is something deeper there, there is something hiding and some voice inside that once told them that the only way to be is to be flawless. Because big voices and unique souls and feely people are risky to a messy world that likes to put things in cramped little boxes that are easy to define and file away. Nothing is intriguing when you fit into Sameness.

Whenever I see these people, I want to take them aside and hug them and tell them just to Be. Just BE. Be on purpose. Be a contradiction. Be extreme! Whatever you are and whoever you are, be extremely YOU. At the end of the day, what else is there left? The people who know how to live are absolutely flawless in their quirks and extremes. They’re certainly not afraid to mismatch their socks or disagree with the world.

The idea that perfection gets you a prize is a big fat lie, and the thing is that we ALL KNOW IT deep down. Because those beautiful on-purpose souls, who are extremely and unquestionably themselves, those are the people we’re all ultimately drawn to in the long run. Not the ones who homogenize their lives to be Just So. Because this is not sameness. This is life. In all its extremities and nuances.

What makes you special isn’t someone else’s declaration that you’re special. What makes you special are the exact things that end up making you feel as if you’re living with the entirety of yourself. Find those tiny details and idiosyncrasies that make you you, and use them to support and enhance the extreme You-ness of the way you Be. It isn’t about “perfection” or “flawed” or whatever’s the opposite. It’s about being unquestionably yourself.

Forget about the Sameness, forget about utopia. There is no better person to be, no better place to live, than Oh-So-On-Purpose.


 

Never miss a post. Ever. Sign up + join the WANT movement:


Success You Can’t See.

Success You Can’t See.

Community Motivation + Inspiration Work

Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting in his entire lifetime. As such an iconic artist, it’s natural to assume it was one of the “greats.” Starry Night? Irises? Sunflowers? One of his many, famed self portraits? Nope – it was a golden auburn-toned piece entitled “Red Vineyard.” A depiction of farmhands harvesting crop at a wine plantation. Not the one that I, at least, would expect. His life was tumultuous, his paintings underappreciated, his world not ready for what he had to offer.

And yet…he kept painting. He kept expressing himself in the unique way he knew how.

We are so lucky he did.

I’ve been contemplating success a lot lately. What it means to succeed, who it is that determines success.

So many of us desire to be lasting or expansive, or maybe simply useful. We long to make a difference that goes beyond us or lasts way past our own existence. Whether than means a change within the four-ish walls of our apartment uniut or on a big huge global level, our sense of mortality can sometimes scare us into a scramble for success that’s visible, success we can SEE.

Whether our definition of success involves the immediate future or posthumous celebration, we want to be sure it’s gonna happen. We want to know we’re being the change we wish to see in the world.

But how do we know what is actually lasting?

When it comes to success, what is more important:
success that lasts a lifetime, success you can scale and be sure of…or success that is not shown to you directly, but is impacting the world on a level that’s beyond your awareness?

Social media and technology provide us with amazing tools to connect with and impact each other. It’s now easier than it’s ever been to gain signs and signals of our success. Whether it’s likes, shares, or just a message from a friend saying how happy they are to know you, in some ways we’re able to be hyper-aware our influence. Seeing our impact, however small, can keep us fueled and connected.

But not everyone reaches out. Not everyone is connected. And as dialed in as our culture is, in many ways the true tell-tale signs of success are old-school. You don’t always know.

And then there is the work we do in the world that we’re not necessarily recognized for. Work that, centuries from now, our society might deem revolutionary. So what’s more indicative of success: that the success materializes, or that we see its impact?

I’ve come to the conclusion that seeing our impact can be a metric of success – a symptom of and supplement to the success itself. But if we’re truly successful, there might be a whole boatload of impact we don’t see. Lives we’re never aware we touch.

And we need to be okay with that. Because lasting impact is the one thing we cannot control.

Success you can’t see is scary (“Does what I do really matter?”), but it’s also kind of empowering. Success you can’t see is what drives us to be fully and completely self-expressed, for how will we know if we don’t even try? If you’re one of those people who believes we are all put on Earth for a reason – and I for sure am one of those people who believes we are all put on Earth for a reason – then we must let ourselves fully and completely live on purpose, and look for the little signs telling us we’re doing the thing that’s in our DNA to do (or at least on the right track).

We see only one star in the dark night and confuse it for a lack of sky, when instead we should be taking it as proof that there’s a huge universe out there filled with way more stars that we can imagine.

It might be a smile from a stranger. It might be a comment on your blog or a tweet from a stranger. It might be your best friend’s child expressing gratitude, or hearing a family member repeat a word of wisdom you offered up randomly one day. Maybe at first glance they don’t seem like much, but that’s the sneaky thing about success: it shows itself in the micro moments, but the macro effects often are so big  – so many collective moments upon moments – we can’t accurately gauge what a difference we’re making. 

If you keep your eyes open and live your life to its fullest, its fullness, you will start to see signs everywhere that you’re a lasting force in this world. It’s only those people who actively choose NOT to create change that don’t.

Whether you’re far along your path or just beginning to let it live, please know and trust that what’s right in front of you is just the tip of the iceberg. A star in the sky. One painting in the collection. Simply desiring to make a difference means you’ve probably already made one.

 


Simply desiring to make a difference means you’ve probably already made one. Click To Tweet


Never miss a post. Sign up for WANT in your inbox every Tuesday: