post every Monday and Thursday.
This is a repost of a blog I wrote in 2013 about an incident that happened two years before that – so we’re talking about something that occurred five years ago. Of all the posts I’ve written, however, this is the one that has garnered the biggest reaction – and it’s one I still can’t seem to share in speaking engagements without emotion. And yet, for as difficult as this time was, it brought me to a place of deep gratitude that I carry to this day. Thus, for anyone struggling with feeling left behind or not enough, I hope this serves you. Xo
If you work hard you should expect success, right?
But what if success doesn’t come fast enough?
What if you’re burning the candle at both ends and still feel lapped by others?
This describes the first thirteen years of my career – and let me tell you – it was brutal.
The problem was I had a v-e-r-y bad case of “if onlys.”
If only I lived in New York, I would have more opportunities.
If only I had a better network, I would have more support.
If only I had a bestseller, I could stop worrying about money.
My list went on and on – not only crowding my head and causing me to judge others who had “more”, but robbing me of the ability to see the abundance in my life already. After all, I had a wonderful husband, two incredible little boys, family nearby, a comfortable lifestyle, freedom to do work I love, and everyone is healthy.
That’s success, right?
And yet…the anxiety was crippling.
Specifically, I remember waking up each morning and – before I’d even gotten out of bed – I was already spinning in lack.
Why have I been working so hard and have so little to show for it?
Why does it look so easy for her?
To be clear, I wasn’t depressed.
I wasn’t medicated.
And I wasn’t unhappy all the time.
Still, something had to give.
The turning point happened one morning when – as usual – I was hurrying my kids out the door for school.
We were running late that day and I remember yelling at my five-year-old to put on his shoes.
Then, I yelled at my six-year-old to find his backpack.
Then, I yelled at both of them to get in the car.
And as I slammed the door, jerked the gear into reverse, and turned around to pull out of the driveway, I noticed my oldest son silently crying. His face was red and his body was clenched tight as he stared at the ground, tears streaming down his cheeks.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Mommy,” he said. “You make me sad.”
That was it.
No screaming. No tantrum. Just a child who felt defeated and was clearly hurting.
The tantrums I was prepared for but this – this – was something else entirely. I looked over at his brother who met my eyes briefly – and then also stared coldly at the ground.
Without a word I put the car in park, grabbed the steering wheel with both hands, and sat there in shocked silence.
Good Lord, what am I doing?
In that moment a wave of guilt and shame crashed over me and….I lost it.
I buried my face in my hands and had a good old-fashioned, red-eyed, runny nose, can’t-catch-your-breath, ugly cry.
Eventually I took a couple of deep breaths, turned completely around in the seat and reached out to both of them.
“Take my hands,” I said.
They grabbed the tips of my fingers.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have yelled at you. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I promise I’m going to figure it out and get better, okay?”
They nodded, but it was still an awkwardly silent ride to school.
That was a few years ago – the tipping point of my journey into mindfulness – but I’d been studying enough to know the first step was to get honest about what was really going on.
And it had nothing to do with missing backpacks.
It had to do with the fact that I had faaaar too much self-worth wrapped in my career and – when that didn’t measure up – I allowed my disappointment to bleed into every area of my life.
There it is. Total honesty.
Of course, the benefit of being honest is that it puts you in a position to make informed decisions. In my case, waking up to emails from amazing leaders doing cool stuff was triggering me into a dark place that affected how I treated own family.
More honesty – but that’s the beauty of this practice.
It doesn’t let you hide.
And so the next step was to figure out what, specifically, I was jealous of.
What exactly do these people have that I want?
I sat with that question for months.
I carved out a lot of thinking time.
I made lists.
And through the process of staying honest, digging deep, and being mindful, I had a tremendous number of breakthroughs.
I also learned our greatest problems are often our greatest teachers.
In my case, I thought I was jealous of marquee speaking engagements, bestselling status, and national media coverage. Upon closer inspection, the only quality everyone I analyzed had in common is that they had each created a community around their message.
Turns out, I wasn’t seeking status – I was seeking connection.
This is what happens when we stop turning away from our problems and turn towards them. We find the truth – and in that truth we find choice.
Once I woke up to the fact that it was my perception – not my circumstances – holding me back, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started focusing on how to better serve others.
Today, I’m still not a mega-bestselling author.
I’m still not rich and I still don’t headline conferences.
But as I pulled out of the driveway this morning to take my boys to school, I looked at their smiling faces and realized I didn’t care anymore where I “should” be.
I’m here now.
And now is what matters most.