Ever felt like you’re being creative for everyone BUT yourself? Wondered if something is a sign, or just a sheer coincidence? Just wanted someone to tell you to take the leap, even though you don’t know for SURE what you’re leaping into?
In this episode we talk about getting out from behind the shadows as a creative, how to know when you’re on the right track, how to distinguish between signs from the universe and stories youre fabricating, how to know when fear is leading the way, making a living through creativity and the many ways that can manifest, what it means and looks like to live out your truth, and so much more.
If you’ve been waiting for a sign – then maybe this episode is it.
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I had an odd experience this morning. It’s the first Sunday in a while I’ve not only been by myself (Jeremy is in San Diego), but I’ve had a few hours TO myself. No meetings till later, no appointments to rush to, no classes to teach. I take my time making myself a coffee carafe for one. I turn on Destiny’s Child radio on our Pandora because I’m here alone and J isn’t about that Beyoncé life and who doesn’t love a little Bug-A-Boo to start their day.
I open Instagram (when will I learn??).
I glimpse a statistic about eating disorders in women.
And I think:
What the FUCK have I been doing the last two months to help the epidemic of negative self-talk that leads to these kinds of numbers??
Empaths like me – like US – have this problem. We’re told to take time for ourselves because we spend so much in the shoes of others – but when we see a statistic or snapshot, we go down that constricting rabbit hole of guilt, thinking of all the time we “wasted focusing on ourselves” with regret and guilt. And so we don’t. We don’t take time for ourselves, because we know where THAT leads. Guilt. Remorse. Regret. Stuff we stuff down boils back up, and then there we are, once again caught in the negative self-talk loop we’re so trying to avoid. Because it’s way easier to focus on tearing ourselves down than addressing the real problem.
I sat with this guilt for a second. Sat with the feeling of “WTF Have I Been Doing To Help The World.”
And what freaked me out more (whoops) after I did is this: I’ve spent so much time in the last two months making sure life around me stays firmly attached at the seams, that I’m unraveling in the places that matter most. I think I’m keeping it together because I’m showing everyone else I can juggle and not drop the ball. But underneath, where only I can see, I’m scrambling to hold on.
In my mind, no one needed to see those parts. So somehow, at some point, I convinced myself that they weren’t important.
Longer post for another day, but big life-stage-transitions feel like a table flip. You know in movies when a character gets angry or overwhelmed and oh look there’s a nice and neat table so OH SHIT they take their anger out on it and FLIP the mothereffer onto its side? Instead of resolving the conflict, they take all the chaos around them and channel it into wrecking something that was perfectly fine and organized in the first place.
My table flip moments have manifested themselves not in chaos, but in the illusion of control. The amount of change in my life right now is overwhelming to me – a GOOD overwhelm, but overwhelm nonetheless – so instead of letting IT overwhelm ME, I have been narrowly focusing in on the stuff others can see and neglecting the stuff that keeps ME feeling grounded and in control.
Surprise surprise, that plan is backfiring. And instead of the THINGS overwhelming me, I’ve now ended up overwhelming myself.
I’m now six days out from my wedding and I find myself regretting the way I’ve handled the last month, which brings up all kinds of pangs of guilt. I should have journaled every day to document this moment. I should have taken more time off work to fly to LA and help plan. I should have been firmer delegating tasks to others instead of assuming they’d know what to do and avoiding any glimmer of seeming “controlling.” We’re taught in our society that this is (supposed to be) a once-in-a-lifetime kind of day – should I have amped it up more like I see other couples do leading up to THEIR wedding?
If I dig deeper, however, I realize that I THOUGHT things would look different in my life as I approached this transition. I thought I’d be (and feel) super successful, which (to me) means not just making a difference in ways I can see, but that those visible markers of success flow through my days naturally and with ease. I hate to admit it, but up until now a part of what success has always looked like to me has been: you’re on SUCH a roll that logistics take care of themselves.
I am nowhere near that. Moreover, this time in my life requires all. the. logistics. In the last month or so, I havent felt like I can soften my gaze on the Whats and focus on the Whys, because the Whats feel like I’m starting from scratch. New life stage, new career stage, new new new newnew. It’s an exciting feeling when you’re in it. And also terrifying. Really terrifying.
Good news, or so it seems, is that when the exciting-terrifying-ness gets to be too much, you can just tune them out, and do the work. I’ve been tuning them out and doing the work.
But guess what?
Strong feelings like excitement and fear don’t disappear – they just hide and grow. And grow. And grow. Until one day you wake up with a Sunday to yourself, turn on some 1998 Beyoncé, look down at the table you’ve flipped over, and realize the mess you’ve made.
When I was 16, I found a quote somewhere that seemed revolutionary to me: If you love something, don’t hide and suffocate it for the sake of holding on. Set it free. Anything meant to be always comes back.
This obviously isn’t original or unique – hello, every self-help book ever written – but at the time it blew my mind. You mean I don’t need to worry about the stuff that’s MEANT to happen? You mean I don’t need to pour myself into every single person, place, and thing 24/7 to ensure it sticks around? You mean I don’t need to worry?
The things I’m worried about in this moment – they’re things I know aren’t going away. My sweet friends. My beloved routine. Our WANT community. The change I AM meant to make in the world. NONE OF THIS IS GOING AWAY. But, but.. I can feel myself holding on and suffocating it all because I’m so scared that if I loosen my grip it’ll all fall away.
Is that fear of loss rational? No. It’s a concrete thought conjured by a vague emotion that’s trying to make sense of transition and life recalibration.
So here I am. Practicing what I preach – but not in the pretty and zen way we read about. Doing the hard fucking work of sitting with my thoughts and asking WHY. Why I feel the way I feel – why I REALLY feel the way I feel – and then asking: so what are you going to do about it?
What’s the answer, then? If I am feeling overwhelmed, if I’m feeling angry with myself…but REALLY I am feeling a lack of a softer focus and wider lens, and REALLY I am feeling the confusion and slight panic of life feeling like it’s going faster than I can keep up with…then what am I really going to do about it??
I will be for the most part completely offline for the next two weeks enjoying every bit of our wedding’s before-during-after – and, moreover, every single moment of the first step in our new chapter. It’s a first we’ll never get back, and I want to be fully present.
I am stepping back and taking a break and not pretending otherwise.
I am pressing pause on the subjective deadlines I’m in control of (created by my mind) so I can make the objective ones I’m not in control of (created by LIFE) worth every single second.
I’m putting aside the pressure to make a difference in someone else’s life…and turning back inward to make a difference in my own.
I’m trusting that I am EXACTLY where I need to be to feel the way I want to feel.
And I hope that, when life hands you a table-flip moment, you will step back and do the same.
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Recent Question: “Katie, as someone who writes as a profession…do you ever sit down some days and feel like you don’t have anything to say?”
Recent Answer: “LOL. Try almost EVERY WEEK.”
The comparison trap – ie comparing yourself to others – is one I know well. When I’m feeling good, I can look at comparison and self-doubt and see how pointless and counter-productive it is.
But when I’m in it? On my best days, it takes a lot of work to talk myself out of that place of “what do I even have to say.”
On all the other days, I completely check out.
There’s not really a middle ground: I’m either aggressively talking myself out of self-doubt or I’m voting myself off the island by not doing ANYTHING whatsoever. I think maybe it’s because I know how exhausting the pep-talk can be.
Doubt-induced inaction is a frightening place to be. You stop creating, stop participating, stop BE-ing who you are because you look out and don’t know if you really add value to what you see. And that fear isn’t fun, so a lot of times we’ll just decide we don’t want to deal.
The thing with checking out, however, is that our feelings of doubt, envy, and fear are still lighting up a big ol neon NO VACANCY sign in our minds. We might be dissociating mentally…but those doubts and fears are growing like weeds in the meantime. No wonder we feel anxious when we’re triggered and lash out at other or push the blame on something else – those overflowing feelings have to go SOMEWHERE.
For me, this happens when I sit down and think of the MASSIVE PROBLEMS I care about and how the hell I’m going to help fix them…and then for some reason I think it’s a really good idea to just go down a big long rabbit hole and see what everyone else is doing.
I’ll save you some frustration and let you know that comparing yourself to others and looking to them to inform what you “should” be doing pretty much never works. You either end up feeling like everything has already been done OR start comparing what you do/who you are to everyone else OR maybe on the off-chance you actually get inspired you make like me and tell yourself you’re not allowed to be inspired by someone else’s work because that’s being something that’s way too close to a copycat. Yeah. You read that right. I look at others for inspiration and then talk myself out of it when I actually get inspired.
The thing is, I KNOW I’m not a brain-box of empty thoughts. I KNOW I have something to say…it’s just that my intentions don’t always line up so nicely in sentences. Sometimes I have just the right words…and sometimes, the above box of vintage Scrabble letters is my spirit animal. Somewhere between my brain and my lips (or fingers, if we’re going the writing route), the lines get all crossed and I end up with a bunch of gibberish. Worse than gibberish. What’s worse than gibberish, you ask? Fake wisdom. Fake fake fake. I can feel it in my bones. Nothing sounds right; nothing is what I really mean.
And that…that can SCARE THE F outta me if I let it. Because then I start to doubt I have anything new or interesting to say, and then I start looking at what everyone else is doing, and then I wonder if what we REALLY need is just another essay, just another tip or trick, just another podcast episode.
And that’s when I check out. Except you can’t check out when it’s your job, your calling, your through line to stay in it. So all that happens is that my anxiety mounts and my points of comparison multiply.
What helps me is to identify when I am most likely to get into this shithole of a headspace.
It’s usually when I’m home sick, when I need to take it easy, when I’m bored with the status-quo I’m stuck in…basically, whenever I am NOT acting on my desire, either by choice (laziness) or necessity (circumstance), to do one of three things: move, learn, or create. And when I am not acting on my desire to move, explore, or create, I get out of integrity* with what I say I value or what I know I care about.
(*Integrity, for the record, is different than character or values. Character or values are your ethical/moral code. Integrity is adhering to that code. So if I’m out of integrity with my values, I’m thinking a lot about things like gender equality, reprogramming self talk – i know, ironic – race relations, teaching empathy, etc etc etc, but not DOING anything about them. Doing things like exercising, reading, or journaling help me get back in alignment with who I am and what I stand for.)
That’s not to say a run or watching a documentary or painting a picture (or a table, as I did last weekend) can or will fix everything. But little by little, it can be the start. One walk around the block might not seem like much, but after a few days of walks you might find your mind drifting off into places it hasn’t been in a while. Reading one night a week instead of scrolling through Instagram might not stop the comparison (and oh, does that Insta-comparison sting), but once you get in the groove, it just seems way more interesting to feed your mind than it does to feed your fears.
But also…and here’s where it gets really real…it’s not just when I’m home sick or I’m stuck in a loop of sameness that I doubt my value.
It’s when I find myself trying so hard to explain myself over…and over…and over to those I love most.
That’s when I really want to check out.
And that’s a harder one to admit. Because it can’t be solved by the habit a run every morning or a doodle-in-your-notebook break. Because it doesn’t just make you feel like you have nothing important to say, it makes you feel like the things you DO have to say are wildly inefficient. If I can’t get through to them, then who CAN I reach?
But here’s the thing.
And I want you to read this a few times over and let it sit.
Those are not the people who need to learn the lessons you have to give.
They are here to learn those lessons on their OWN time, from someone ELSE and some OTHER experience. And just because your words aren’t the ones they need DOESN’T MEAN THEY’RE NOT IMPORTANT.
Someone once told me that public speaking is 10% what you say and 90% how you say it. Just because it’s been said doesn’t mean it’s been said by YOU. That’s how people actually hear things – when they’re being said by someone who makes it “click” for them. You can’t get mad at it, because it was never your lesson to teach those people to begin with. That’s why comparing yourself to others never works – they’re here to teach and learn in ways that are entirely different than your own. We’re all here to learn the exact same lessons, just not at the exact same times. So wouldn’t it make sense that we all have a different way of giving and receiving these universal truths?
Of course you have something to offer. Of course you have something to say. We ALL do. That’s what we’re here for, right? To teach each other and help each other grow. Just the fact that your ideas exist means they’re just as valid as what that best-selling author has to say – just the FACT that your loved ones learn from others MEANS that YOU are here to teach someone ELSE. The comparison traps and the deaf ears – they’re all just distractions that, when flipped on their head, can help you see how strong your voice really is.
So do I ever sit down and feel like I have nothing to say? The answer is: all of the time.
But my logical brain knows I DO have something to say – a lot of somethings, in fact. And if I can just *be* with myself long enough to listen, I’ll eventually start to find the words.
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