It started as a simple Christmas present this year from my bestie. A beautiful stoneware Magnolia-brand mug from Target (she really does know me too well) with the words “Actually, I can” etched on its surface.
I remember how I felt when I read that phrase for the first time.
The emotions. The flashes of moments that raced through my overly-tired-new-mom brain. I literally could not stop thinking about the phrase “actually, I can”, and all the twists and turns in both my personal and professional journey where I have embodied this mantra.
My entire life had been filled with this mantra.
Graduating from a 4-year university in 3 years (mantra, “I’ll prove it.”) Taking a marketing internship with an under grade degree in accounting (mantra, “I’ll figure it out”). Graduating with my MBA while working full time and having our first baby (mantra, “I can do it all.”) Leaving a steady job to co-found a Google-funded tech startup, in another country, without any experience running a business (mantra, “I can do really HARD, BIG things”). And dozens of other “actually, I can” moments in between.
But what was I chasing, and more importantly, why?
If I am being honest, most of my professional life I thrived on proving to others that this small town, Midwest girl could have a place on the global stage. I could travel while living where some call, the middle of nowhere. I could start a company. I could… Yada, yada (Seinfeld fans, you get me).
And then I realized that somewhere along the way, I got lost.
So. Very. Lost. I became a slave to seeking validation from others. I had no clue what my “why” was, but as long as I was hustling and grinding what did it matter? Being super honest, I had also became a slave to chasing an ever-increasing paycheck. (Again, small town girls CAN make a lot of money). So many times I told myself, “you are fine, just keep going and you’ll figure it out.”
And then 2018 happened.
Turns out I wasn’t fine. In the midst of being a co-founder, the never ending travel, trying to build a side business, volunteering my time on the weekends, and raising two small children… my husband and I decided we would try for baby #3. (If you didn’t already know this, startups aren’t for the faint of heart, side hustles are a grind, and raising children is harder than either of the former two things combined.) I was so focused on proving to everyone around me that I could do it all.
And then I miscarried.
Not once, but twice. And it was the second miscarriage in late November when it finally hit me. Something was wrong. Mentally, physically, and emotionally. Any form of well-being that I thought I had been embracing was long gone, and it was as if everything around me was crumbling. I had become impossible to work with, those closest to me were fed up with my frequent hormonally-high-jacked outbursts, and honestly I don’t even know how I kept a friend let alone a job.
It was in this dark, ugly point of my journey where I began to find the best version of myself.
I remember thinking to myself, “what the f*ck am I doing?” It was time to hit the breaks, and hit them hard. To figure out this mess of a mental rollercoaster I had been willingly riding. Yes, you read that right.
I created this mess.
Not my parents, not my coworkers, not my children, not my husband. Not anyone. It was me. I was the one who convinced myself that if I just did a little more, I would finally prove myself to [fill in the blank]. I didn’t realize how exhaustive it had all become. So, I did what any business professional in this situation would do…
I enrolled in a 6-week personal development course.
And boy, did it rocked me to my core. And not in the “rainbows and sunshine” kind of way. You see, no one wants to be told you are your problem. Trust me, it hurts worse than ripping off any band-aid. But it’s the good kind of pain. Because once you realize YOU are your own center of support, that quest for validation, for approval, for seeking the opinions of others. It all disappears. And all that is left,
For the first time in my life, I realized that I was my point of support. My own raison d’être. And my success depended on no one else, but me. My mindset (which had been all sorts of wrong up until this point). My choices. All along I had been shifting the blame, letting others take the ‘heat’ when in fact, it was me who had given up control of who I was and what I wanted for my journey. Hands down, it was the most freeing feeling I had ever felt in my entire life.
And that’s how it started.
My journey to finding the best version of myself. Well-being first, everything else second. And I stress the word journey, because I am not done. Not even close, but I am… well on my way.
So why share such a personal story?
Sympathy? No thank you. Publicity? Let’s be real. How could anyone contend with U.S. politics these days. Support? Absolutely not. After all, I am my own center of support these days.
I shared my story for you.
For that person reading this who might be in the same place I was not too long ago. Fighting to prove yourself. Letting your environment dictate your sense of purpose. Burying your heart so deep in hopes that it doesn’t get in the way of today’s proverbial professional progress. Give yourself some grace, some space, and start doing you. It’s your choice.
And actually, you can.
P.S. Your mind is so incredibly powerful. My son (baby #3) is my daily reminder of that. <3