Breaking Out of Self-Doubt

Breaking Out of Self-Doubt

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SELF-DOUBT IS A HEAD TRIP – doubting ourselves, doubting what we deserve and doubting what is real. When we feel a lack of control, when the outcome is uncertain, or even when we latch onto a vague remark, that’s when self-doubt rears its ugly head. It’s a fluttering in the chest and an unsettled stomach; it’s a pounding headache and a gust of wind sending us into a dust-filled spiral.

Self-doubt is a form of armor, I’ve deduced. When I start to doubt myself – my capabilities, my relationships, my character – I formulate questions or negative statements in my mind to protect myself from hurt or disappointment. Because if I’ve thought of it first, I am prepared. Disappointment won’t come as a surprise, I tell myself, because I have made the doubt a part of my truth.

I am sick of it.

~

I am sick of doubt, and how utterly exhausting the process is. I’ll feel the fluttering in my chest and start to devise little tests…tiny ways to see if what I am receiving is deserved, or if I’m actually properly suited for the task at hand.

I do it all the time. And I know I’m not alone in this.

It’s like essay writing in a high school English course: a thesis statement can’t just stand alone, so we create supporting evidence to prove our point. We fall in love too fast for our own liking, so we place our partner on a tightrope and look for signs that it’s “just not right.” We’re offered a new job or responsibility that’s a tad bit scary and outside our comfort zone, so we jump to the What-Ifs and Screw-Ups at the opposite end of success. If we’re looked at in *That Way* or talked to in *That Tone* or described as merely “Nice” instead of “Amazing,” the same unanswered question always arises: Am I good enough?

It’s so simple to say things like “Just get over it,” “Don’t worry, be happy!” or my personal (and least-effective) fave, “Haters gonna hate!”

But the truth is…I will never advocate to “just get over it,” because I know that feeling exists for a reason.

With doubt comes a drought of self-worth. But every drought is accompanied by a fantastical rain.

So why should it be any different when it comes to our souls?

As uncomfortable as it can be, we need to let doubt run its course – yet simultaneously and consciously work through it. By learning how to deal with those pangs of self-doubt, their duration and impact will naturally become less and less. Yes, we DO need to experience it all – but if we allow doubt to fill our minds with every possible outcome as a means of protection, we miss out on growth and experience. We shield ourselves from hurt, yes – but then what? The would-be thrill of joyful success is replaced by mere relief of a changeless plan.

I don’t know about you, but I refuse to live my life simply “relieved” that there were no bumps in the road.

~

Doubt is a matrix in which lies the root of our purpose. We doubt what we’re best at and what makes us unique. 

And so when we start to doubt, it’s simply a sign we’re not grounded. We’re losing our footing in who we are.

Doubt is a matrix in which lies the root of our purpose. Click To Tweet

When you feel yourself jumping ahead and creating supporting examples for your thesis statement of “I Am Not Enough,” dissociate from the situation at hand. Feel the doubt and the instability, then act on the polar opposite: What makes you feel most grounded and at your best? Is it talking to (or texting with) friends or family? Watching movies? Singing to yourself, baking a pie, simply strolling and soaking in the eclectic architecture around you? Whatever it is, do it. Do it now, for at least ten minutes straight. And I promise you, by the end of those ten minutes you will feel that there is no one better to be than who you are in this very moment.

Is it a distraction? Kind of. A quick fix? Maybe. But sometimes we need something other than big-time soul questions, because sometimes those are questions we’re not in a headspace to answer.

I get asked questions all the time about how to shift your self talk “for good,” like there’s one definitive answer and a simple solution that works for all. But it’s way more complicated than that. Some of us respond better to asking deep, strategic questions right off the bat (see this list for my go-tos). Some of us need a physical reminder of our worth before the questions can even come. Doing something that makes you feel your MOST grounded and at your best – feelings that doubts tries its hardest to hijack – is the simplest way I know to make a positive, proactive shift in the moment to remind you of who you really are (and that person is pretty awesome). The big thoughts and soul questions come easier when we can look at our reactions through a proactive lens.

The big thoughts and soul questions come easier when we can look at our reactions through a proactive lens. Click To Tweet

I am slowly learning to shed my armor, and realizing that the only protection I need is a good sunscreen and a wide umbrella. I’m planting my feet and realizing that the more certain I am about what makes me feel good from the inside out, the less I allow doubt to deplete my self-worth. Because it’s been tapping into my reserves and sucking me dry for way too long.

My spirit is about to be awakened once again, and I can’t wait. Grab your umbrella and join me.



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Reframing regret.

Reframing regret.

Body Community Love Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power Work

Up until about a week ago, I used to say that I didn’t believe in Regret. Regret is a useless emotion, I’d scoff when people would ask me What’s my One Biggest Regret or the One Thing I Wish I Could Do Over. You can’t do anything about the past, I’d say, feeling all enlightened and shit. But you do something about the future.

But all along, here was my secret: Regret was the tagalong I couldn’t quite shake. The third wheel on all my friend dates, all my work meetings, all my nights alone scrolling on my phone. Regret liked to follow me whenever I did an interview, or went on a date (yes, with my husband, who I’m certain will love me no-matter-what-within-reason, no Regret necessary), or walked out of a subway station and noticed the people around me walking slower or faster or asking for spare change and I realized I had none. Regret was always popping by, “just to say hi.” And I am an introvert. I don’t DO casual drop-ins where people pop by “just to say hi.” I’m allergic to them.

Regret and I know each other so well, I laugh and bury my head in my hands when I think about all the times I’ve denied her existence. (See? Head-in-hands. Regret’s even there when I speak about regret. Meta.) NO REGRETS! We’re told to shout it from the rooftops. Regret means weakness. Regret means failure.

About a week ago, I got hit on the head with a major paradigm shift. I wish I could remember where I read it, or who wrote it, but as I was sitting in silence and reading through whatever my nighttime reading was, I came across this:

Regret is one of the most useful and human emotions we have, because it helps us course-correct and do better next time.

Woah. So wait a second. You mean all this time, when I was cringing at that lame thing I said or ignorant thing I did or that time when I felt so awkward that I think I might have changed the climate zone with my beet-red cheeks….you mean all those times, my Regret was there to HELP me??

Regret is one of the most useful and human emotions we have, because it helps us course-correct and do better next time. Click To Tweet

Just like any form of negative self-talk, Regret isn’t good or bad – it’s information. What usually happens is we sense a pang of remorse or embarrassment and since it FEELS uncomfortable and maybe even aches a bit, we give it a name. We use our self-talk muscles to warp and translate FEELS BAD to IS BAD.

But is Regret really all that horrible? Well, maybe, if we push it down. We can’t blame her for acting out, though, if we keep shoving her into the back of our emotional refrigerator and letting her grow mold. Eventually, she’s gonna stink up the whole damn fridge. Like, obviously.

If you subscribe to the scientific theory that energy is neither created nor destroyed, then where does all that intense energy from Regret go when we push it down? It doesn’t go away, that’s for sure. Rather, it starts to morph. Into anger. Rage. Hate. Narcissism. Regret is an expert shape shifter under duress; she’ll come back out and sneak-attack using something else as her cover-up.

What if we used all that intense energy that’s brought up when we Regret, to fuel enlightenment or understanding instead? Regret would shape-shift into a Lesson, which then morphs into hindsight, which then translates into a deeper, more meaningful understanding as we experience things over for the first time. That insensitive comment you made to an acquaintance then becomes a deeper sensitivity to experiences that are unlike your own. That huge blow-out you had with a family member that’s now beyond the point of repair becomes a more thoughtful way you interact with the loved ones you’re still lucky enough to have by your side.

Regret can actually be the most useful tool you have in your belt to help you grow and evolve into the you you know you’re meant to be.

This shifted perspective has, as an HSP, completely changed me. Instead of rehashing certain conversations or interactions out over and over again in my brain (and this is a daily occurrence for me if not hourly; I’ve started to tell Jeremy that my vocation is actually Professional Noticer) and CRINGING to near-mental-paralysis over what I SHOULDNT have said or SHOULDNT have done, I now halt the Regret track and ask myself:

What can I take from this?

It takes a LOT of determination to do this. Bravery? Ladyballs? I dunno. Doesn’t feel so brave to me. What it does feel is uncomfortable, and I have to muster up all the determination and follow-through I have within myself to NOT slink away and push that Regret to the back of the refrigerator shelf to gather up mold somewhere. That’s would be what’s fast and easy, not what’s necessary and right. I’ve got to stick with it and see if there are lessons and hindsight and greater understanding at the end of the tunnel. And every time I do this, I realize those things are always there.

~

There are certain questions you get asked a lot in questionnaire-y, quickfire-y type interviews. They’re open ended questions that attach themselves to universal experiences, like wishes or secrets or pet peeves. And one of the most common ones is – you guessed it – What’s Your Biggest Regret?

So here’s my new thing. If I get asked that question again, I’m going to answer this way. I don’t have a Biggest Regret because most all my Regrets have morphed into lessons and hindsight and understanding. And because of those Regrets, I’m able to be a more present, more empathetic, more inclusive and more aware woman that I was before. Sure, I might still have some Regrets, but they just haven’t revealed their true nature to me yet. They’re both inconsequential and paramount at the same time; both everything and nothing.

The biggest lessons I’ve learned are to NEVER underestimate my own power, and that the only person who is the expert on me, is me. My instrincts are never wrong, and if I can differentiate the objective guidance from the emotionally loaded suggestions, I’ll get to where I need to go. The biggest lessons I’ve learned have to do with timing – with truth – with living in a world as someone who is unquestionably herself and questionably questioning everything – with being proactive, not reactive.

The Regrets that got me there? I don’t even remember them.

 


WANT Yourself:
When do you find Regret pops up most in your life? Is it triggered by certain actions or interactions, or is it random? What’s one thing that a recent mini-Regret could teach you?

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Relearning How To Run.

Relearning How To Run.

Body Community Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power Work

My steps always feel heaviest in the winter. Confined to a treadmill and no wind or road variation to keep my gait a-guessing, I make do with what I have and fall into a sense of comfort doing three miles on a glorified conveyor belt…just enough work to make it work for me. It’s fine. I’m fine. My body is satisfied but my heart works hard to suppress its longing for open air and a pace that’s not made of buttons.

Running has been the only “sport” I ever really excelled in. Too independent for team sports and too scared for risky business, running was what it felt like my body was built to do. Unbridled enthusiasm harnessed, unending determination streamlined. Running long distances as a kid was NOT my jam, but the 100-yard dash? Start the timer and I’m zipping ahead of the crowd.

Each year the running opportunities got harder to find. First I moved to a school that mostly ran as punishment, then I got scared of the treadmill when my cousin was horsing around on my uncle’s NordicTrac and crashed through the wall. Then P.E. became a time you talked to friends instead of letting out your inner competitive streak, then I went to high school and opted for Dance instead of P.E. because that’s what you did if you were a theatre kid. I’ll never forget playing a cast-bonding game of Not It / It (ok, so it was Duck Duck Goose) and chasing one of the senior boys around the circle and him gasping for breath, “Katie Horwitch, you are FAST!!!” Yes, I am. I just don’t have a chance to use it.

And then I went to college and I discovered the escape that was The Gym. How liberating it was, so many people with so many shapes using their bodies in so many ways! The perfect respite from the image-obsessed world of Being Eighteen juxtaposed with the image-obsessed world of taking ballet and jazz every day and having to scrutinize your form in the mirror at 8AM. There was an indoor track and I quickly became enamoured. But dancers can’t run, I was told. Bad for the knees. I learned to use the elliptical and not only stay stationary, but never lift my feet. It’s fine. I’m fine.

Winter reminds me of those years that running felt all but forbidden. I technically have the freedom to move as I choose, but the oppressive gloom and dipping temps cajole me like an assertive mother figure to turn away; you don’t want that, it’s just better that way.

And so I finally come back to it months later, on a day where the weather feels…well, less like inviting, more like permissive. My legs feel heavy under my body as I force them forward beyond the comfort of the treadmills and taxi cabs that December through March make more readily available.

I get where I want to go in the winter…but do I get there the WAY I want to?

Seasonal depression is a thing, for sure, but I also think much of the rut we find ourselves in during the winter has to do with the lifestyle we succomb to regardless of the Earth’s placement on its axis. It’s not that we outright choose to live differently, it’s just that it feels…easier. We bother ourselves with the wrong types of stimuli, we stay on high alert for the stuff that feels trite. It’s not until we step outside the box we’ve built for ourselves, thinking we can so easily bounce from one lifestyle to the next, that we’re repulsed by the way we’ve adapted to our space.

Shit.

It never felt this hard before.

I’ve been wasting time.

I’m so far behind.

It’s not just during the seasonal shifts when I need to relearn how to run. It’s when I’ve been giving so much of myself to everyone else that I forget what it’s like to have QT with my musings on a daily basis. It’s when over and over I say Yes when I’d prefer No, No when I’d prefer Yes, and one or the other when I convince myself that “Let me think about this and get back to you” isn’t a valid response. It’s when I tell myself too many times, it’s when I tell everyone else too many times: I’m fine. It’s fine. I’m fine.

Each time a little more learning, each time a smidgebit new. First the walk, then the jog, then the run. Click To Tweet

As I ran along the river this morning, way slower than I would have preferred, way shorter a distance than I would have liked, frustrated by the struggle but committed to the act, I passed by a small girl kneeling down to tie her shoes by her scooter. Her tiny pink helmet punctured the grey of the sidewalk-horizon meeting the grey of the water-horizon meeting the grey of the cloudy-horizon, like a little flower-bud-blip of brightness poking out from the ground promising sweeter weather right around the corner. I noticed she was watching me.

Who would I have been if I had not had women to watch as they relearned how to run? Maybe I couldn’t see their struggle out loud but I could feel it, because feely people always know. I don’t know that I ever thought I was the only one with dark days and hard times, I just sensed that some of us felt it darker and harder than others. Even if they weren’t talking about it, I knew. They said It’s fine; I’m fine. I knew. Their secrets were safe with me. And they kept putting one foot in front of the other.

And now I know, a rough patch or tough spot or even a drawn-out season of stagnation is not my fault. It’s not a failure, and it’s def not a sign I’m falling behind. It happens to everyone, because life happens to everyone. What matters is the relearning, the way I not only get reacquainted with my abilities but I expand on them. Each time a little more learning, each time a tiny smidgebit fresh and new. First the walk, then the jog, then the run. My steps feel heavy and uncomfortable now, but I know they won’t soon. And I know that if I can get out of my own way and accept that it’s NOT fine and I’m NOT fine, that itself means I’m about to bloom and grow. Because little flower buds either wither in their pod or expand so uncomfortably hard that they burst into the epitome of springtime.


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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 Most Popular Posts 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.


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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

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Success You Can’t See.

Success You Can’t See.

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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.

 


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