There have been days when I envisioned myself hopping into my car and not looking back.
Days when it seemed as if there was too much expected of me.
Days when it felt too hard to breathe–let alone think.
And it was in those days when I felt those emotions, that I listened to myself, gauged where I was and took positive steps to address them in a way that lead to my centering, regaining calm and achieving balance.
I grew up in two loving homes–I split my time between my mom’s house and my dad’s house. And while I can say that both homes were warm and loving–my parents loved me to pieces–because of the way that I was conceived, there was talk around town about me and my legitimacy. And believe it or not, those whispered conversations, when overheard by a child, can have a devastating impact on the life of that child. So, I grew up being loved by both parents, but feeling like I was not enough. Not good enough. Not smart enough. Not pretty enough. Not efficient enough. And so to make up for my perceived inadequacies, I became Little Miss Pleaser. I would aim to please and wow all of my teachers and adult mentors. I was the child in class who all the classmates loathed because I had all of the answers to every question the teacher asked, I always did extra work and constantly volunteered to be Teacher’s Pet. This behavior continued into adulthood and I became Big Miss Overachiever.
Now mind you, I would receive accolades for my straight A’s in school and college. I was honored for making the National Dean’s List for receiving full scholarships to college. But for every task that I achieved, there was an ever expanding emptiness inside. What to do about that? FIND ANOTHER THING TO ACHIEVE! And that is how I lived my life. I began to put unnecessary and unrealistic expectations on myself. I am talking things that no one else asked me to do…I simply thought this stuff up myself and then forced myself into a box by doing it. For example: I was a police officer working rotating 10 hour shifts, working additional part time, completing a Master’s Degree, mother of a 6 year old and a 1 year old and I had this crazy notion that my children MUST have a home cooked meal–from scratch, no less–EVERY evening! Oh! And my kitchen MUST be entirely clean every night before I go to bed. Noble goals, but goals that damned near sent me to Psychotic City! Meanwhile, my friends looked at me like I was crazy and would make comments like “you are such a good mom” or “girl, you are better than me cuz I wouldn’t be doing all of that!”
Year after year, I put unrealistic expectations on myself…always involved in new projects…always volunteering with others. And I would become upset with myself if I felt tired or overwhelmed because to me, that meant that I was slacking and that I was not doing enough. After all, the world would stop spinning if I stopped doing…Right? But see, here is the thing: Year after year of always doing for others and forgetting to do for self, always seeking approval from others, always looking to please others, always looking to fill that void of not being enough–it all began to eat at me. It began to wear me down. And I began to resent the things that I was doing. I began to despise the projects. People began to annoy me. And then I recognized something even more frightening: Because I had been such an overachiever for so many years, people had become accustomed to my ways and felt entitled to my actions–they treated the things that I did as rights and not privileges–to they point where they EXPECTED me to over perform on their behalf without having to be reciprocal. And you know what? It was my fault because I had created this over achieving universe.
Now I wish that I could say that this huge, amazing life event occurred that caused me to wake up. But actually, my awakening was relatively boring–dull even. Here it is: One morning, I woke up and said “F*ck It…I’m tired.” I felt it in my bones…in my soul. I simply was tired of being tired. Something HAD to change. I had to change. And laying right there in bed, I decided to change starting in that moment. No more cooking from scratch every damned day. Matter of fact, no more cooking every day! If the kitchen is dirty but I need to get some rest, then dishes be damned, I am going to bed! Stepping over loads of laundry is not going to doom me to hell. So what my floors have not been mopped this week…I just won’t walk on them while wearing white socks.
I began to strip off all of the rules and regulations that I had willingly placed on my life. I began to operate outside of self imposed restrictions. I must admit that it was very hard at first. I would feel guilty for laying in bed ALL day on a Saturday AND Sunday. I would feel like horrible mom for giving my boys cereal for dinner. But see, here is the thing about implementing change: the more you do it, the easier it becomes. And guess what! I found that as I released myself from self-imposed bondage, I was free to enjoy more of my life. Free to laugh with my children. Free to eat breakfast for dinner. Free read a book on the sofa while the laundry sat untouched. Free to invest much needed time into myself. And guess what else! I felt free to say the word “No!” to those who wanted me to continue to overachieve for their benefit. I not only released myself from unnecessary projects and behavior that was breaking me down, I released myself from people who wanted me to stay in the posture of constantly doing, moving and shaking. The other thing is that in finding my freedom and releasing myself from my chains, I placed myself in a position to be open to receive help from others so that I was not so drained, tired and burned out.
It is so very easy to get so caught up in what we feel needs to be done to the point where we blur the line between wants and needs. These days, when I have tasks that lie ahead, I ask myself if those things that are to be done are “needs to be done” or “wants to be done”. I have also learned to delegate tasks to my sons and ask my husband for help. No more superwoman…because that superhero stuff is bullshyt…and even superheroes get tired. I have also learned to receive help from friends and family. And when they are not aware that I need help, I step out of my pride and simply ask for help. I have rid myself of people who are draining and looking to put me back in a position of “what can you do for me since you like to do.” And I have taken on projects that truly speak to my heart–those things that nurture me as I work them. But most important, I have learned that I am enough and that there is no need to damn near kill myself trying to prove it.