On Sunday I was really really proud of myself. That’s harder to say than it should be. I am a consistent over-achieving self-critic nothing-is-ever-enough perfectionist. I work hard and I work often. I have big dreams and goals that keep me up at night and haunt me all day. I work at them endlessly, yet, sometimes I feel like I am just spinning my wheels to keep any hint of momentum going.
That day I led my second workshop felt so monumental. The first was a trial run. This one I poured my energy into finding the right women to fill the seats in the room. I spent days and nights looking for local women committed to self-improvement, and some days I felt defeated. My muscles were tense, my heart felt shattered. I put so much effort out and at first no one was signing up. I felt like I was wasting my time, and I hit a breaking point for two days full of tears and frustration. But, I listened to a podcast one morning that changed my perspective on everything. And I kept working. And I kept reading inspiring books. And I did acupuncture. And I continued to go to the gym. And I vented to (cried to) my coach (and into my pillow). And I hired a second coach. And I refused to give up on myself.
Yes, sitting up at the front of the room felt like magic. It felt like all the wheels I’ve spun to get to this point paid off in some way, and I could finally see how far I have really come. I’ll never forget when I started with the idea of creating my own coaching business. I started as a health coach taking pictures of my food in the most ghetto yet perfect food photo-booth made with walmart supplies by the sweetest boyfriend. He made me a DIY Photo Booth in our living room specifically for pictures of the food we’d cook. He’d hold the lights up at different angles, I’d snap the pictures until we got it just right, and he never complained, even as our dinner was getting cold. That’s where my coaching journey truly all started.
It was a rocky start. And now, I get to coach women. Now I host workshops. Now I’m writing a book. I’m still at the beginning stages of my business, if you really want to know how I feel. But I chose to share this “darker” side of my mind today because I want to be authentic with what I put out into the world. I struggle to recognize or admire my own progress and I have known way too many people who think positivity or persistence are “easy” for me. It’s not easy, it is consistent work to stay happy and hardworking during disheartening seasons of life. I have worked on it a ton. I have worked through most of it, but, it is still my “shadow” side, and I have accepted that I may always have to learn to tame it.
Most of what you see of me is happy Aly. Inspiring, confident, positive, hard-working Aly. That is me. But, there is also the conflicting perfectionist Aly who has to be pushed down and shut up a million times throughout the day so I can thrive in my personal and professional life. And rather than just tell you how amazing it is to accomplish your big dreams… I want to share a glimpse into what that side of me looks like, too. Because, I am not perfect, and like everyone I struggle with my own internal demon… we all have our own flavor of those. This is what mine looks like on those days:
I cry. I feel overwhelmed. I feel burnt out. I feel like giving up and doing anything but the work I know is necessary. It feels very lonely sometimes.
It looks like looking in the gym mirror too much and comparing myself to where I think I’m “supposed to be”. It’s thinking I only have value if I’m helping others. It looks like struggling to sit still or take a break. It looks like my muscles in my neck and shoulders so tight I can’t relax them without a deep tissue massage, blazing hot shower, or a couple glasses of wine. It looks like only focusing on results rather than my consistent effort and progress forward. It’s not knowing when to rest or push harder. It’s my voice going a million miles an hour begging to slow down but questioning if I’m even “allowed to”. It’s putting 10 things on my to do list when I know I only have the time and energy for 5 of them. It’s putting 10 things on my to do list, doing them all, and still feeling like I haven’t hit the mark or done enough. It’s never being able to catch up. No accomplishment being big enough. Only a moment of pride and celebration for each win.. no matter how big. Always asking “what’s next?” Or saying “I could’ve done more. I could’ve pushed harder. I could have done so much more. But what?” It’s not giving myself grace when it didn’t know better before I learned the lessons. It’s always feeling 10 steps behind. It’s taking 1 or 30 steps forward and only feeling like I haven’t moved an inch. It’s the hardest part of a workout being the rest period between each set. It’s barely accepting my own humanness (my emotions), because I’ve convinced myself “I don’t have time for this”. It’s living with the driving force of fear in regretting not living to my full potential, but then realizing the only thing scarier is regretting not living with complete love for myself along my journey.
But then, I come back to earth, I come back to myself. And I am me again. I attend a middle school honor roll ceremony (where I don’t know a single student) but tear up with ridiculous overwhelming emotions of happiness watching them get their awards. It’s singing “A Whole New World” from Aladdin with the biggest smile on my face and tearing up with overwhelming emotions of joy that I can’t shake if I try. It’s chasing baby Charlotte through a grass field while she giggles her heart out and feeling like this is the most important moment in the world. It’s dancing in between sets at the gym, it’s dancing around in my room before I go to sleep, having two hour phone calls with my best friend, and running around the beach just because it’s fun.
It’s realizing life isn’t so serious after all.
And then doing it all over again.
Because I am human as fuck.
And although I can objectively see how far I have come, I still struggle to embrace the messy journey in between it all. But, I am learning to accept that too. That I don’t have to think or feel in perfect ways all the time. Being human is accepting all of myself, even the not so badass parts.
And I really hope this lands for those of you who also struggle with the shadow of a perfectionist. This is for you if you struggle with feeling like you have never done enough, if you always feel short of your true potential. You’re not meant to be perfect, and either are your thoughts or moods all of the time. Embrace being human because it by nature is a messy experience.