Yoga teacher, artist, and cancer survivor Sarah Girard is a pro at name-calling. Today, she shares with us how her name-calling began, the way her narrative evolved, and how we can each reexamine the most important names there are: the ones we call ourselves.
I’m Sarah G.
The biblical meaning of Sarah is “Princess.” The American meaning is “Happy.” I’ve got a lot of Sarah-competition out there in the world. Sara(h) been one of the Top 100 baby names for decades, and in my generation alone, my fellow Sara(h)s and I reached Top 10 status.
My friends have always coupled my last name’s initial onto my name. Always. They can’t call me by my first name alone – there are always a few of us around. Partly because of this, I have always had a strong urge to set myself apart, to be unique rather than grouped together with my name-twins.
But as it turns out, I didn’t need to work all that hard to be “different.”
When I was two years old, I was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer called Retinablastoma. My eye was surgically removed and now I wear a prosthetic. I was so young when this trauma occurred, that I have many memories of growing up in and out of the hospital. And I have even more memories and experiences of how others have responded over the years when I tell them what I have been going through.
There is a darkness to being “different.” We might think (or at least hope) that kids wouldn’t make fun of the sick kid with the prosthetic, and that adults wouldn’t look at her with pity and shame as if she’s a lost pet. But kids are the most brutal about the things that they don’t understand and adults pity the things they wish would never happen to themselves.
Oh what a tragedy!
You poor soul!
How miserable your childhood must’ve been!
Hearing it repetitively over and over for decades makes it really hard not to believe. So I started identifying with their reactions, naming myself with the same rejection and shame that was being reflected to me.
I was a sick, poor soul. A freak. A tragedy. I desperately wanted to fit in, so I tried to disappear in the sea of other girls with my name. If I could just be Another Sarah, I could escape being Me.
I ducked my head down into books to avoid stares and questions. I became committed to over-achieving at school. I got smarter. Way smarter. If I could outwit the bully, then I could overcome the bully.
But the thing about getting smarter is that I started learning who the bully actually was. The bully wasn’t other people, though they contributed to it. It was all the discomfort and rejection inside myself that I had been holding onto like a safety blanket. I wasn’t able to accept the kid inside me who desperately wanted to fit in, and at the same time, would always be different.
The more I learned and processed, the more my perspective shifted. I noticed that I wasn’t the only one hurting herself through negative talk. I started seeing that we were all doing it.
And we need to change it.
We are all hurting.
We have all made mistakes.
We have all hurt someone.
And we are all hopeful and desperate to be seen and accepted.
We are here, belonging to this group called “humanity,” that feels so deeply and craves true connection.
The great thing is that time moves us along: we graduate, relationships change and our lives evolve. We learn how to adapt, and have the opportunity to learn how to work with our past, not against it. Every now and then I’ll get a sinking feeling in my stomach when I meet someone new and have to tell them about my eye, fearing they’ll call me a freak. But I’ve got this. I can introduce myself with kindness and acceptance, knowing I’m not alone in this.
Let me take a moment to also say that I am extremely thankful to be here and for the expert doctors who saved my life. The cancer never spread to the rest of my body. And I am grateful to my family for always encouraging me to live fully empowered disregarding my handicap as a weakness.
I have stopped calling myself Freak and started taking on other names: Sister, Daughter, Artist, Yogi, Educator. And these are names I love so much. They connect me to my communities, but they also help me stand out on my own.
The names we call ourselves matter so much more than the names other people call us. That being said, I do love my given name. Call me by it. I’ll answer.
It’s simple but stands for so much.
Royalty. Happiness. And ALL my story encompasses.
So hello. It’s me. Sarah G.
Sarah Girard is a Venice Beach-born, NYC-based yoga and meditation teacher. Being a cancer survivor, artist, and food lover, she incorporates resiliency, courage and humor in her on-going group, corporate, and private classes. Over the past two decades, Sarah has studied with leaders such as Bryan Kest, Annie Carpenter, Maty Ezraty, Leslie Kaminoff, and Nikki Costello, and accumulated over 1000 RYT hours. As the Director of Meditation and Yoga Fundamentals for Culture of Fit, she created corporate wellness programs which are implemented in companies nation-wide. Her writings have been published for Yoga City NYC, Prevention Magazine, Self, and is an ongoing expert consultant for Furthermore. As an educator, she is always learning and celebrates the challenges we greet in our daily lives. Find her on Instagram.
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I know, it sounds so precious in the retelling. I’d hug my teachers, my friends, strangers, and of course, the characters at Disneyland.
I am in family photos around the world. I don’t have to see them to know they exist. I would see those characters, the constants in my life, those faces that were unable to change or be anything but Love Incarnate. And I would wrap my arms around them and bury my little three-year-old head in their synthetic fur coat, and in that moment I felt time was paused and I was loved.
Sweet, right? Yeah, until my parents had taken the picture and I still wouldn’t leave their side. I’d stand there next to them on watch, god forbid they hugged another kid, god forbid someone else became their new favorite person – god forbid they forgot about me when I went away.
I am a recovering Stage-Four Clinger. And it’s not just the death-grip hugs I’m talking about. I cling to people, I cling to places. And most of all, I cling to ideas. Attachment, for me at least, is less about the actual thing and more about my relationship to it. Becoming attached to something (or someone) is almost always at least in part becoming attached to the story you’ve written about it in your head.
My clinging isn’t physical, and it’s probably not the kind of clinging anyone else would notice but me. My mind goes into overdrive, like a frantic puppy who senses its owner is about to leave for the day. When I cling, I submit to the feeling of scarcity. When I cling, I set the stage for Imposter Syndrome to waltz in and snag the spotlight. And Imposter Syndrome isn’t just about career goals and success. It shows up everywhere.
Am I a good enough friend?
Am I too selfish? A pushover?
Am I really good enough, wise enough, strong enough to weather this life I’ve constructed, or have I just made everyone believe I am? Will they find me out?
And so I cling tighter.
I used to think that when you became more self-assured and successful, your Imposter Syndrome just melted away. Or at least melted away quicker than it would if you weren’t so self-assured and successful. Nuh-uh. What I’m starting to learn is that as you become more and more You, you open way more doors and windows for Imposter Syndrome to enter through. Your Imposter Syndrome doesn’t melt away – it amplifies and attacks. The irony is that you’ve got waaay more introspective ammo to battle it than you ever did. It just becomes more of a constantbattle than a sometimes-tiff. It’s wildly empowering and scary as hell.
I feel myself clinging when the story I’ve told myself starts to develop holes in it. And I cling to no-one and nothing tighter than I cling to MYSELF. I worry that I’ve created a mess. That I’ll never be able to live up to the expectations I’ve built up for myself. I’ll never forget when a co-worker once called me “enigmatic.” Who ARE you even, Katie Horwitch? he teased. It was the first time I realized I might not be the person I’d always told myself in my internally self-narrated tale. I’m too introverted and too solitary to be the kind of companion I feel I should be. I’m too much of a team player to be the kind of leader I know I can be. I’m too interested in day-to-day life to seek out the adventures I know are open to me. I’m too private to be public. Too soft to be tough.
Loosening your grip on an idea you’ve built up about a person or a place is tough. Loosening your grip on an idea you’ve built up about YOURSELF, though – well, that’s next-level. You’re YOU, after all. You can’t escape You.
But then again, why would you want to? The more you know about how your story is “supposed” to unfold, the less chance you have at surprise and delight and all those other emotions in-between. Clinging isn’t an act of love. It’s an escape. A redirect. When we cling, we bring in the ships and shut down the lighthouses. We call off the search party and refocus our energy onto taking ourselves captive.
When exciting opportunities come my way – a chance to lead a big event! a friendly-friendship gains soul-status! a YES to that YES I’ve been pursuing for months or even years! – I feel my Stage-Four Clinger coming out and I have to tell her NO. I have to tell her that…as much as it pains me to admit it…that she was not always right. She rarely was, actually. Because she was coming from the wrong place. The place that made me feel like the Always-Second-Best, the Always-Runner-Up, and The Always-In-Search of how I can be BETTER. My inner Stage-Four Clinger wants so desperately for me to Find Myself – but she wants me to do it by following an outdated set of rules I made before I actually started to LIVE.
I still count hugs as one of my love languages, and I still make choices that feel more in service of an imaginary version of Me than the Me I am right now. But I am learning to loosen my grip. I’m learning that my embrace will linger way after I let go, and that I don’t need to be hyper-present to be deeply felt.
Finding yourself isn’t about abiding by a past vision, and finding yourself isn’t about searching for a new you. It’s about coming home to the you that was always there. To cling to a vision of who you should be or could be will never, ever reap the kinds of rewards you’ll get when you honor who you are right now and go from there.
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Life is always going to keep handing you (or your friend) full schedules. Geography and time zones – or sleep schedules – won’t always be on your side. Here’s how to stay connected when life gets in the way.
It can feel like the companionship cards are stacked against us – but we actually have more in our favor than not. We’ve grown into ourselves. We know what we love and what we don’t. And as we get older, we become less into appeasing others and more into honoring ourselves. We can be “friendly acquaintances” or “work buddies” with people in our various social spheres with zero pressure to develop a deep and lasting bond, like when we’re younger and in school or living in dormitories.
But life changes a lot as an adult, and friendships morph. You don’t need to live far away to feel like you have a long-distance friendship. People move across town, across the country, or across the world. They start new jobs, or grow new families, or take up new hobbies that fill up their soul. Work gets tough and obligations pile up.
Building a life for yourself as an adult is a complicated, ever-evolving process. And sometimes, it gets lonely. That doesn’t mean you’re alone, though: lonely’s just love with nowhere to go.
I gave myself a “friend-tervention” about a year ago when I realized that after planning and executing an amazing wedding, taking on a job that took up the majority of my time and energy, and hunting for a new apartment in the city, I’d been a pretty crappy friend for…well, for too long for me to be comfortable with. Plus, hello, I moved across the country almost three years ago! Time zones weren’t helping at all. I was super lonely, and felt disconnected to my nearest and dearest. And so I recommitted to upping my friendship game, to the people who lived far, but who lived close too.
Part of this meant making decisions to recommit to my sense of community in general – in business AND in life. When I joined Aaptiv, I became able to workout with anyone, anywhere. I could cheer up the people I loved when we were far away – and uplift people I didn’t even know yet. I let go of the classes that made me feel stretched thin and like I wasn’t able to give my all. And I increased the frequency of WANTcast episodes I released per month, and increased the amount of solo episodes I recorded so I could talk directly “to” listeners more and have a conversation “one-on-one.”
I ALSO started looking for ways to meet up with local friends that fit for both of us. Scheduling work dates with our laptops, figuring out when our schedules overlapped, grabbing a coffee with them on their lunch break. And I started to devise strategies around showing up, literally or emotionally, for the people I cared about most WITHOUT sacrificing myself in the meantime. Because to show up for your people, you really do need to show up for yourself first.
Life is always going to keep handing you (or your friend) full schedules. Geography and time zones – or sleep schedules – won’t always be on your side. Here’s how to stay connected when life gets in the way:
1 – Schedule calls into your cal.
My calendar is my lifeline. If something’s in my calendar, you bet it’s gonna happen. If it’s not, good luck to me remembering it. That goes for work, social plans – and sometimes, if the week is really nuts, even phone calls.
Texts to your nearest and dearest are great, but there’s something that can’t be beat about voice-to-voice connection, whether it’s a phone call or Skype sesh. Scheduling out time to “just say hi” or catch up might feel forced or contrived, but if the alternative is that “just saying hi” keeps getting put off…then this might be a strategy that helps you stick to your shared-words.
There are two ways you can do this: Schedule your calls along WITH your friend. If you use a digital calendar, like Google Cal, make a calendar event, and invite your pal so they’ve got it down, too. But if that feels too forced, then just schedule time in your OWN calendar to call someone, anyone, each week. I have three different reminders in my calendar spread throughout the week – when I KNOW I’ll have time to talk – that say Phone Call To Someone I Love. That way, even if I end up leaving a voicemail, I know I’ve taken the first step in connecting.
Of course you can call as many people you want to call, whenever you want to call them. But having it in the calendar is a reminder to take the time to do it, even when life feels overwhelming.
2 – Send them something they want, need, will make their life easier, or will make them smile.
Care packages aren’t just for sick days or sleep-away camp. They’re also for saying I Miss You, Good Luck, or, well, I Care. They can be emotional – like a copy of “Braving The Wilderness,” a book all about finding your place in the world, that I recently Amazon Prime’d to a friend struggling to identify their place in the world – or practical – like the fancy umbrella an anonymous person recently sent my way to help brave this wacky NYC weather (ps….who are you? I love it!).
Yes, this post is sponsored by Small Packages. Because it’s a company I’d champion and celebrate anyway. I LOVE their mission of making connection easier, and I love that they just want women to connect with those they love most. If you’re like me and you’re a bit, uh, over-achiever-y in the gift department, they knock it out of the park: you can select a box that’s themed around a life event like celebrating a birthday or buying a home, or around a sentiment like “I miss you” or “I screwed up.” And unlike some other boxes that might seem sterile or run of the mill, they go for quality over quantity – the products they choose are DOPE (literally have never seen a box this good – check out the picture above!) and they’ll even handwrite a card for your friend, from you to her (with zero character limit for people like me who prefer to write novels over notes).
Last week, I surprised my dear friend Jen with the “Missing You” box because a) The box reminded me of our favorite activities together, and b) Duh, I missed her.
I’m not sure how Jen and I became as close as we are, but the “Us”-ness of us just sort of appeared one day. She was only a few months into living in Los Angeles, and I was just a few months into teaching at Equinox. She arrived in my class and I had an automatic girl crush on the second-row powerhouse who looked like Wonder Woman and joked like Tina Fey. Multiple times a month, we’d meet up at a tiny strip mall in between our apartments for what we called Hooves And Paws: a manicure-pedicure date preceded or proceeded by fancy coffee beverages and the realest of real talks. When I saw the “Missing You” box, including a book of deep-dive conversations, a sleep mask that gave me H+P relaxation vibes, AND some really really good coffee…I knew it was the one.
Jen’s had a pretty wild year-plus, from business highs and lows to a death in the family to almost being on fire, literally. I am so proud of how she’s moved forward fearlessly through it all with grit, grace, and a crapton of humor. She’s got some big things going on right now that I can’t support in-person – so sending her something that reminded me (and her) of spending quality time together made her day, and it made mine too.
(Btw…if you want to send a Small Packages box to a friend, use code WANT at checkout for 10% off your order. Boom. Done.)
3 – Set boundaries, make priorities, and honor them.
Even when I worked in an office 9-6pm, I still was running SOMETHING in addition. Whether it was a freelance writing gig, acting auditions, or eventually WANT, I used to feel really guilt putting my work aside for social time…so guilty, that I almost always did it.
I ended staying up way past the wee-hours, cramming in the work I didn’t get to that evening, or scrambling on Monday when I didn’t use a little of my weekend to prep and get centered. I was way too exhausted and spread way too thin. I was so afraid of saying NO – for my work, for my health, for my sanity – that I started to realize my yesses didn’t mean much. Because I was always sacrificing something. I was exhausted, and wasn’t fully present. I wasn’t placing value on my time, or my friend’s time. Nothing was the priority. And that wasn’t fair to anyone. My friends deserved to really GET ME when they got me.
I now know how to say NO, and it’s saved me AND my friendships. I no longer dance around my priorities, and no longer feel guilty if I turn down an invite. The flip of that? When I say YES, I am ALL. IN. No work, no half-of-me….all of me, right here, right now. My friends respect my work, my health, and my sanity – and I respect theirs. I’ve even had friends tell me that because I’ve said I need to take a mental health day to myself, they feel comfortable saying that to other people now, too.
4 – Meet them where they’re at.
I saved my favorite for last. So often we expect each other to be exactly the same person we were when we first met. But as our lives change, WE change too.
Jacki Carr put it so succinctly in Episode 063: it’s important to reintroduce yourself to your friends as you grow and evolve – and get to know them in their evolution, too. Your friend who is a new mom probably is going to have some new priorities in her life now, and your friend who moved across the country is probably learning things about themselves they would’ve never predicted five years ago. Your friend might be in a period of self-discovery, or in a period of career expansion, or they might just be a different person now than when you first met them. And every single one of those scenarios is something to be celebrated and get curious about. What’s incredible is that when you commit to meeting your friends, whether near or far, where they’re at – you sidestep feelings like jealousy, resentment, and __. You get to stay curious, stay surprised, and keep “friend-dating” them even after you’ve reached soul-mate status. Meet your friends where they’re at in life – and they’ll meet you where you’re at, too.
WANT Yourself: How do you stay close to friends when life gets in the way? What are some ways you keep your relationships strong, even when distance or circumstances might not be on your side?
Leave a comment below telling us – you might be helping out a friend in need who’s reading.
This post is sponsored by Small Packages, next-level care packages for the people you love the most.
Use code WANT for 10% off your order.
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The guilt hit me before bed, as most guilty moments do.
Oh my god. I forgot WANT’s four-year anniversary.
My heart sank as I counted back since WANT’s big day had arrived and departed like nothing. One, two, three, four…ten days. TEN. DAYS.
I felt like a parent who had forgotten to put presents under the Christmas tree and it was way past December 25th. How could I have forgotten? Was I a bad business mom? How could I have been so negligent?
These, of course, were just rhetorical questions to fill space and buy time while I digested the gritty truth:
I’d been so caught up in what I WASN’T doing “right” over the last few months of running a business that I had completely ignored what I WAS.
I’d been pushing-pushing-pushing so hard, in hot pursuit, that I’d ignored the rock-solid foundation I’d already built.
I was telling my friend Angela the other day how I felt like I was struggling, and that nothing was coming to fruition “like it should.” She reminded me that in the span of a year, I’d gotten married, moved neighborhoods, transferred locations at my full-time job, QUIT my full-time job, began my first new job in fitness in eight years…and that was only in a year.
Moving across the country was harder on me than I’d like to admit, and I think moving uptown brought a lot of those unexplored feelings up to the front again. Changing neighborhoods in L.A. was no big deal for me – I did it almost every year! – because it was all so familiar. I knew the basics of Los Angeles by heart, and the newness of a neighborhood was simply thrilling to me.
Here, it’s different. The thrill is there, but there’s also a feeling of starting over I never experienced in Los Angeles. A feeling of starting fresh. New network, new connections, new places to meet up and places to be inspired. I didn’t realize it, but the lack of familiarity had been messing with my ability to move forward.
So, when I sat down to write a post commemorating the four-year WANTiversarry, something felt…off. Something I was doing before just hasn’t been present in the last few months. Something that was there for the first three years.
I always talk about how I believe curiosity will save the world. But I also believe it will save your business.
The biggest, boldest lesson I’ve learned in the last four years is to stay curious. When things aren’t going your way, in work and life, what do you do? Do you vent to your friends, over and over? Do you look and see what other people are doing, and try to keep up? Do you go over everything you could be doing BETTER in your mind, let it spiral, and just grind harder? I usually don’t, but for the last few months – maybe even the last whole year – I’ve been doing all those things and more.
Staying curious is the secret to anything worth doing, and worth doing well. Because venting won’t solve anything, keeping up with others won’t be true to your vision, and grinding harder will just burn you out. Curiosity is like a real-life Where’s Waldo book: you devise a strategy around what to look for (red and white stripes – got it! glasses – yes!), get in your zone, and zoom in on that mothereffer.
And that feeling of accomplishment and discovery is what makes you want to turn another page.
Almost TWELVE years ago, I came up with the idea for WANT based on what I needed most in my own life. And FOUR years ago, I (re-)launched WANT based on what I knew others needed, too. I saw that there needed, NEEDED, to be a space where we could go for tips and tools – along with motivation and inspiration – to shift our self-talk patterns in a real, lasting way. I knew, KNEW, that the business of affirmations and mantras worked for some people, but didn’t work for enough of them in the long run. And I got curious as to why that was.
What I found, through talking to others and scouring every popular self-help site and book I could find, was that people weren’t talking about the darkness as useful. If they were, they’d mention it then skirt the issue. I saw that there was nowhere that not only allowed people to feel their feelings fully, but encouraged them to think their thinks and feel their feels, and UNEARTH feelings they didn’t even know they had, and THINK thinks that they’d been avoiding for so long – and THEN, only THEN, gave them ways to move forward fearlessly through it all. Not around it all or past it all. THROUGH it.
Curiosity was the foundation of WANT. And I know it needs to be the foundation of me, too. Curiosity has led me to realize that I am a writer, speaker, and community builder before anything. I come alive in front of an audience, and I LOVE bringing people together to make shift in tandem. Working solo and working online are amazing, and allow for a lot of freedom…but maybe it’s too much freedom.
That freedom can make you go down a rabbit hole that never was meant to serve you. You’ve got to pay the bills, so you think about monetization and you think about partnerships. You see what’s being done, and how it’s being done, and you decode the game you believe you’ve got to play. And let me clarify: monetization and partnerships are not wrong. I think it’s so cool that we’re able to be in control of who we work with and where our revenue comes from! But it’s worth looking at the kind of work YOU’RE doing and the kind of business YOU aim to build.
Curiosity has helped me realize that lately, I’m not doing a lot of the things that fill me up. Things I used to do super-frequently because I knew they were the right things to do. Think live events/panels, creating and executing on an editorial calendar, partnering with smaller brand with the biggest souls, and feeling the joy I’ve felt the last few years instead of searching for it.
And why haven’t I been doing these things? Simple. Imposter syndrome. The more you don’t do things – and the longer the amount of time that passes in between – the more you start to doubt your ability to do them.
Sure, I have some good excuses. A wedding. Multiple job changes. Moving. All the other regular life stuff that’s par for the course when you’re a Highly Sensitive Person and internalize everything. It would be ridiculously easy to place blame and offload onto those excuses. But I know the only thing that’d been getting in my way…is ME.
So going into Year Five (omg), I hereby promise you – and myself – the following.
I, Katie Horwitch….
…Will create workshops and panels for you that help you live fearlessly in your own life – and in turn, help me live fearlessly in mine too. We’re in this together. When I’m fearless – when my fear is less than my faith in myself – it empowers you to be fearless, too. And oh-so-vice-versa.
…Will structure my editorial calendar based on what I KNOW is needed, not what I THINK is popular. Not that I’ve been doing this, but it’s a trap I want to avoid at all costs. When you write about subjective things like emotions – vs objective things, like face masks – the formula is harder to decode. SEO is only going to go so far. You’ve got to trust your gut, big-time, and keep your eyes wide open for the solutions people are craving in their lives. And trust me, I love a good face mask write-up.
…Will – THAT BEING SAID – get back to writing some more content that has stuff in it like face masks. Round-ups are fun to read and fun to write! And I know it’s a strength of mine that I’m able to do them well, and from the heart. I love turning this kind of product-heavy content upside down onto its head and crafting a piece that speaks to how you want to feel, not how you think you should look. Or what you should do. Or ANY should, really.
…Will still pursue what’s not yet materialized, but will shift my focus to encompass the pursuit of enhancing what already HAS materialized. Always reaching for the next-best thing is no way to live. Once you get the thing, once you achieve the stuff, where do you go from there? Pursuit can be an addiction, and goal achievement can be a hit. It’s not a *bad* hit to go after…but make sure your livelihood isn’t attached to whether you achieve the goal or not.
You wanna start a business? Get ready for the wildest ride of your life. Starting, and then building a business that’s purpose and passion based is tough work, but it’s the rightest work you’ll do. Curiosity must be your foundation. Here’s what else I’ve learned.
1 – START SMALL, AND START OFTEN. Marie Forleo likes to say that clarity comes from engagement, not thought. I’d like to add that clarity also comes from starting with what you have, not scrounging for what you don’t. Want to start a podcast but overwhelmed by all the equipment you “need”? Guess what: you don’t need it. I began the WANTcast with a Blue Yeti microphone and GarageBand. I knew how to use GarageBand, but if you don’t, you can attend a 101 course at ANY Apple store, for free. You can also use websites like Zencastr that make production super intuitive. I started WANT by building a website off of what I knew how to do and what kind of content supported my greater vision. I did Marie’s B-Schoolbecause I knew I needed some extra support – and opted for the payment plan because I wasn’t about to go broke for my idea. I sent the site to my entire list of family and friends, and then focused on doing the best writing I could, week after week. It was a schedule I could keep up and it was quality over quantity. Work with what’s available to you, and with what WON’T overwhelm you. Again and again and again.
2 – IT’S OKAY TO HAVE A PASSION. IT’S OKAY TO HAVE A BUSINESS. KNOW WHAT SEPARATES THE TWO (AND WHERE THEY INTERSECT). Someone once told me that if you don’t care about making money, it’s not a business. I didn’t want to believe it at first, but it’s 100% true. Just because you don’t intend to have any sort of financial transaction, though, doesn’t mean you can’t still create impact from it. What separates my passions from my business: the things that don’t fall into the “business” category are things I identify with that I am ALL IN on…except when it comes to the strategy and the industry. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop pursuing my passions. It just means I’m not going to use up all my “strategy energy” for things I don’t want to scale. In the same vein, I don’t believe in the terms Day Job and Side Hustle if you really want to make your passion project into your purpose project. Also read: Down With The Side Hustle, Down With The Day Job,
3 – SUCCESS IS MORE THAN A NUMBERS GAME (AKA: NUMBERS ARE DUMB). We all crave guarantees, clarity, and definition (a reason why extremes are so alluring). Staring at newsletter subscribers, Google Analytics, and Instagram insights can be a welcome validation or a panic-button push, depending on the stats of the day.
In my past life as an editor, part of my job was to be increasingly aware of site and social analytics: how many people showed up to read what you had to say, what kind of “following” competitors had, how much engagement a post got when it went live…stuff like that. It taught me how to look and what to look for. It also taught me to look beyond the numbers: where people were coming from, where they were going to, how they were interacting with one another.
When I launched WANT, it became uber-tempting to define its “success” numerically, because I knew what that game looked like. In order to do X, you must have Y amount of subscribers. If your post/podcast/email gets Z amount of views, that means that A-B-C.
But I started to realize that WANT’s success didn’t work like that. WANT was resonating on a deep level because of the two-way street that was happening:the WANT community was opening their hearts and engaging with not just me, but each other on a personal and vulnerable level. Because of this, podcast guests felt comfortable shining a light into their darkest corners, weekly “posts” morphed into nuanced essays, and together we turned this platform into a movement on a roll.
Some days there are thousands of readers and listeners. Sometimes there are 30. But I’ve realized that while it might matter to people like sponsors or advertisers, those numbers don’t matter to US. They don’t matter to ME. Success is not about calculations, it’s about connection. Also read: Success You Can’t See.
4 – FLIRT WITH YOUR WHATS, GET MARRIED TO YOUR WHYS. There will always be a way to be better at something. But the quest for “better” can eat us alive if that “better”-ness is empty. As an HSP, I get overwhelmed easily – everything from piled-up emails to angry crowds. I also need to watch where and to whom/what I give my energy, because I’m like an empath on ‘roids: I’ll give and give and give until my well is dry, and even then I’ll find some way to empathize and give even when I’m not asked to do so. And the combo of the two? It leaves me with lots of things I tell myself I can be better at.
What’s helped me in these last four years has been committing to a purpose rather than just an action. For example: I receive lots of emails from readers and listeners, sometimes just saying hi, and sometimes asking me very specific questions. The hyper-empath in me wants to answer them all. But not just answer them, give the most groundbreaking answer ever! in my response. What ends up happening? The emails pile up, I get overwhelmed, and inherently feel horrible for what I interpret as letting everyone down. I now know that if I answered everyone’s questions personally and specifically, I would never get anything else done. So I use these questions to inform my writing, my podcast episodes, and the guests I ask to be on. WANT thrives off of your questions – so keep asking. What I’ve learned is that you are far from the only one searching for answers.
In Year Two, I flirted with videos. I ended up producing one and never touching video again. Because it wasn’t something that lit me up. And moreover – it didn’t have a strong WHY attached. Everyone told me how great I am on camera, and how good it would be for WANT’s growth. But it didn’t feel right, and because it didn’t feel right, I couldn’t keep it up. Maybe I will in the future – who knows! If there is a specific service I can offer…if there is a specific problem I can help solve…and video turns out to be a useful way to do it (and it begins to bring me joy), great. Yes, I quoted earlier that “clarity comes from engagement, not thought.” But that engagement has to have at least an inkling of a WHY behind it.
So, WANT, my darling, thank you so much for your patience while I work out some of my own stuff that’s tied to your growth and brilliance. It’s not you, it’s me. I know that sounds like such a line, but it’s true. I’m here for you.
Thank you for being here for me. I vow to reinvest in the JOY of the work, right here, right now.
To curiosity. To whys. To fearlessness. To being the you you know you’re meant to be.
Let’s crush the year ahead.
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“Fail,” in all its incarnations, wasn’t a word used often in my house growing up. I’d love to attribute 100% of this to my parents and their excellent leadership skills, but I think a big reason we didn’t use the word because we didn’t use it in school. While kids on tv shows would stress about Straight As and moan if they “flunked” a class, my elementary school worked with an entirely different system:
E = Excellent G = Good S = Satisfactory N = Not Satisfactory
My first real introduction to Failure was in middle school, in seventh grade I remember thinking of how mean that was, to use such a harsh word to describe someone’s work and worth.
But this is usually our first exposure to the concept of failure, right? Not doing well in a class, with a final hard-stop grade at the end telling you so. No second chances, no helpful notes...just a big, red F.
I’m obsessed with words, so I did us the favor of looking up “fail” in the dictionary. What I found was not one, not two, but THIRTEEN definitions of the word. I was going to be all clever in this post and string together some prose turning the definition on its head, but honestly…thirteen????????????
When I switched from the E-N system to an A-F one in seventh grade, I was beyond frustrated. As a star student obsessed with learning, this was just WRONG. A bad grade just means there are things I need to work on! A bad grade just means my work isn’t satisfactory YET!
But that’s not the system I was in anymore. I made up words to coincide with the letters, since that’s what I’d been used to, and it made the transition easier. But the only ones I could think of for D and F were “Dunce” (remember the cone cap kids would wear in Saturday morning cartoons when they acted up in class?) and “Fail.” They became dirty words meant to shame and scare me.
Fear of failure is what stops most of us in our tracks while we’re on our personal quest towards self-actualization. We get hung up on the idea of failure and what we’ve been taught it represents: being less-than, being “the loser,” being robbed of something and left empty-handed. Failure, we’re taught, is a hard stop. And those outdated definitions are what get us stuck, what keep us from being fulfilled, and what make us put limits our own possibilities and potential.
But if I’m reading them right, almost HALF of those thirteen definitions involve something other than a locked door or closed chapter. Definitions like “losing strength,” “falling short,” and, my favorite, “to disappoint the expectations or trust of someone or something.” These aren’t hard stops – these are all fixable. These aren’t red lights – they’re yellow.
Think about the last time you “failed” at something. How did it feel? Try to take out the shame or anger…what are you left with?
A lot of times, failing can feel like flailing. I’vetalked about this before: how being an adult is a graceful flailof grasping for certainty and being at peace with not knowing all the answers.
And so I’d like to propose that most of the things you call FAILURES aren’t really FAILURES at all: They’re FLAILURES.
Because failing can feel like flailing, and flailing means you’re being blown by the wind into your next adventure.
Are there still things that are failures? Of course. But the blanket term “failure,” with all its thirteen-plus definitions, doesn’t apply to every single thing that doesn’t work out. A meme of Jackass-proportions (remember that show??) paired with a big bold Sans Serif EPIC FAIL is not the same as being rejected by a book agent (hello and welcome to my home, so glad you could make it). Red light, yellow light. A fail is a hard stop. A flail keeps going.
Sure, I still get scared of failing – or, rather, the Ghost Worry that I’ll do something to feel ashamed of later. But in the thick of that fear, I remind myself that I’ve got this. I remind myself that I’ve never felt right about something that’s wrong, or wrong about something that’s right. I listen to my gut and I act. I might be too much for some, but I am always just right for me…whatever that looks and feels like, whether I’m aware of it or not. I’m on a very specific path that’s all my own, and those little sparks of fear are signals that I’m about to hit another benchmark.
I just need to let the wind take me there.
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Let this serve as your reminder that #wellness and #weightloss have nothing to do with each other. You can want (or in some doctor-advised cases, need) to lose weight, but weight is not an indication of overall WELLNESS.
Good news! Talking about diets is going out of style.
Not-good news!Dieting is being repackaged in empowering words and being called “wellness.”
It’s a classic wolf-in-sheeps’-clothing situation. Up until the early 2000s, being “on a diet” was a status symbol and a sign of virtuosity. Look at the willpower I have! Look how serious I am about losing weight! Dieting was the road to a healthier You, and a healthier You was a smaller You. A diet wasn’t just a way of eating – it was a specific thing you did, for a specific amount of time, to lose a specific amount of weight. Which, of course, became less and less specific the more you did it. If I could just lose 10 lbs, I’d be happier. If I’d just lose 5 lbs, I’d be happier. I’m not happier, I must need to lose more weight.
But now, talking about all-caps “A DIET” and all-caps “WEIGHT LOSS” like that isn’t cool anymore. It’s not a status symbol like it once was – it’s a sign of not being with-the-times or awake to cultural shifts.
So what words are being used instead?
Lifestyle. Wellness. Self-care.
Beware of diet culture in self-care clothing. Beware of weight loss in wellness language. If you’ve been told by a product, a person, or a brand you NEED said product, a person, or a brand in order to “be your best self,” it’s worth questioning. And while you’re at it, take a look at how that person or brand talks about weight loss, or if they even do at all. Do they glorify a thin ideal (which usually also includes privileged and white, which is a WHOLE other thing to unpack and I encourage all of us to mull over why this is)? Even if they try and convince you otherwise…does their language and their actions speak otherwise, over and over?
No, not every brand that talks about lifestyle, wellness, or “your best self” is just word-swapping for “diet” and “weight loss.” But enough are that it’s making a difference in the way diet culture functions.
Best Body Ever language isn’t dead. Heck, why do you think I titled this post the way I did? SEO analysis is real. People are searching. And so I wanted to sneak attack them. If you’re reading this because you were searching for the secrets to your Best Body…well, I am so glad you’re here.
What if each trick to achieving your most awesome self was simple, accessible, and realistic for the life you’re living at this very moment? What if the decisions you made, the ones that had nothing to do with calories or reps, were the decisions that actually helped you get that figure you covet? What if – just go with me on this one – your best body ever was actually the one you’re in now?
You’ve read about all the fitness trends and diet tricks. Here are seven other ways to get your best body ever:
GO ON AN UNFOLLOWING SPREE.
A wise anonymous person once said “Unfollow any account on Instagram that makes you feel like you need to be someone else.” Take a browse through your “Follow” list. Go to each individual account. Sit with it, and, Kondo-style, ask yourself: does this account spark JOY for me? Or is it so aspirational that it’s making me feel like who and where and how and what I am isn’t enough? When this account comes across my feed, is my first instinct to celebrate it, or criticize it? And then – yep – unfollow.
If it’s someone you can’t bear to Unfollow for whatever reason – say, they’re a friend of yours IRL or a family member – Mute their account (they won’t know, and you can always un-Mute them later). It’s okay. It’s an unhealthy relationship. Maybe even a toxic one. And just because it exists behind a screen doesn’t mean it’s less so.
How does this relate to anything physical? Our bodies carry the load of all our doubts and insecurities. And because those feelings are so heavy, we’ll look for a scapegoat to displace some of the weight. Our body is an easy target: We’re walking around with it, it’s tangible, it’s something concrete we can bash. But after unfollowing the accounts that make you question yourself – your beauty, your talents, your success, your worth – you might just realize your body is “Best” just the way it is.
And yes, that anonymous person said it on Instagram.
What is just as unhealthy as an unrelenting drive-thru habit? A person who is so consumed with nutritional perfection that it affects every single aspect of her life – personal, professional, spiritual. This is disorder territory, and it’s dangerous.
Even if you don’t go down the path of anorexia, orthorexia, exercise compulsion or the like, we tend to freak out if we make a “bad” food choice and use it as a way to berate ourselves. Un-perfecting yourself makes it a whole lot easier to get right back to your usual routine when you slip up and to avoid binging on what you’ve deemed “bad” when you’re stressed out, lonely – because it was never about perfection in the first place. You are not living in extreme black-and-whites, therefore the bigger picture is clear. And it’s positive. When you’re nice to your body, it relaxes and realizes it doesn’t need to be on the defense, armed for your next attack. And a relaxed body is a happy, healthy body.
DO IT FOR YOUR SKIN. OR NAILS. OR HAIR.
Fun fact: What helps one part of you helps all of you. Skin acting up? It might be time to cut back on processed sugar (my personal skin saboteur). Nails spotty? Ask your doctor if it could be a mineral deficiency or allergy. Turns out, damaged dermis, brittle nails, or less-than-luscious locks are usually the outward, obvious manifestations of an internal imbalance. Maybe you’re not taking in enough calcium, or maybe your excessive soy habit has gotten your hormones out of whack. Whatever it is, once you make a change, you’re likely to see results once you make changes. This can be a welcome confidence boost and help you stick with whatever healthy habit you’ve adopted – whether it’s a supplement routine or using more natural, hypoallergenic products. You get the picture.
SLEEP ON IT.
It’s a common health tip, getting your eight nightly hours. It keeps your metabolism in check, aids digestion, etc. But what’s more important is that eight (or seven, or nine, or whatever you personally need) hours keeps you sane, confident, and ready to conquer the world. When you feel good about the energy you’re putting forth daily, that confidence starts to radiate from the inside out.
GET PUMPED. Think about your workplace: If you have cool projects to work on, an inspiring culture and the role of your dreams, are you more likely to stick with your job or look elsewhere? No matter how hot the newest craze is, no matter how many friends you have at Pure Barre, no matter how many free passes or Groupons you’ve racked up, if you don’t like the type of workout you’re doing, you won’t see lasting results physically, mentally, or emotionally.
Why? Two things: stress and investment. Exercise gets your heart rate up, triggers your fight-or-flight reflexes, and is physically stressful enough as is. When you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, your mind actually adds to and sustains the stress by equating it with a chore. With no positivity to combat this pressure, your cortisol levels stay high and your body resists change. Moreover, when you’re not invested in what you’re doing, it’s a sure-fire recipe for burnout and you’re way less likely to stick with it, much less make it a part of your lifestyle.
THE RUB DOWN.
So often we don’t bat a lash at being mean to ourselves – not because we’re inadequate, but because we’re removed. Just like we’ve forgotten what food tastes like, we’ve forgotten what our bodies actually feel like. Take the time to practice self-massage (Massagetherapy.com offers some wonderful starting tips), or simply develop a habit of applying lotion or body oil to your skin before bed each night. When we can notice the way our skin feels, relieve a tight muscle, feel the way each part of our body miraculously fits together, we become creatures to admire instead of objects to critique.
When it comes to self-talk, have you ever heard the advice, “If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself”? Turns out, this advice works in the positive direction as well. When we compliment others, whether it be on a new dress or on their killer smile, we are training our brains to speak kindly. And as with anything else, practice makes permanence.
When your mind practices the art of reassurance and positive reinforcement, its wires get untangled and positivity starts to become your own vernacular. Your “best body” becomes the one you are in now, because you realize that even on the gloomiest days there is something wonderful about it that keeps you shining. Maybe it’s your strong legs that can take a brisk walk down the block, or your skin that no matter how stressed you get always seems to bounce back to its radiant self after a little extra TLC. Maybe you’re feeling run-down today, but how about that time yesterday you felt like you could conquer the world (and then Mars to boot)? When you’re nice to others, you’re nice to yourself, and you will start making decisions from a place of self love instead of loathing.
Let these words serve as your reminder that #wellness and #weightloss have nothing to do with each other. You can want (or in some doctor-advised cases, need) to lose weight, but weight is not an indication of overall WELLNESS.
Your mindset. Your energy. Your stress levels. How you respond to challenges. Your self-image. Your community. Your relationship with adversity. Whether you’re proactive or reactive.
Your blood tests and BMI (an archaic + flawed way to determine health) can check out perfectly, but if your mind ain’t right, your wellness levels are on a downward spiral. Your weight could be your “ideal” weight (whatever that is) but if you’re treating yourself like crap to get there and chalking it up to “self-care” you’ve been sold, you’re not set up for long-term success.
To live well, REALLY live well, we need to look at all the wonderful information that’s at our fingertips right now, and take this opportunity to educate ourselves. Never before have we had this kind of information at our fingertips.. Let’s use it to our advantage. And then we need to listen to our bodies, open up our eyes, and take what works for us to fit our lifestyle.
Just because your meal is not food blogger material or the nutritional value of your one snack isn’t as “clean” as the trends say it “should” be or you missed a workout today or whatever it is that’s making you wonder if you’re “doing it right”…I promise, as long as you are making an informed decision based on who YOU are, not who the world is trying to convince you to be, you are doing more than okay.