Ever since I was a kid, there was one main thing I thought to be true about life: Work hard so that you can get “there.” In fact, if I were to be honest, I would say that drudgery, determination, and deprivation were core values to what I thought was the meaning of life. I believed - and was told through coaches and teachers and every grown up around me - that if I put my nose to the ground for as long as I could, that it would pay off.
There was no one around me saying, slow down, sweet girl. Take a deep breath and take a load off. And I don’t remember that being modeled in front of me in any real way, and if it were it was immediately deemed as lazy or entitled. By middle school, I was doing competitive kayaking at 4:30am, followed by a full day of school in which "straight As" was the only goal, followed by at least 3 hours of ballet class, followed by a quick dinner, followed by homework, followed by falling asleep in my textbooks each night in bed. And, to be brutally honest, this felt like exactly the right way to be.
This is something I have been reflecting on of late, as I piece my life together at age 38 and learn that above all else, I have no idea how to take good quality care of myself while also speaking up for my own true needs. So, the question is: Did that work? Did slamming myself into effort and focus really lead to the happy success I was promised? The answer is 100% no way. Sure, I learned how to work hard, but if I lift the veil on what “working hard” looked like it was nothing short of self-destructive. And as I got older that only intensified to the point where it was delusional. The drudgery, determination, and deprivation had become an addiction that actually blocked me from doing any good work at all. Instead, I was an obedient soldier, putting my head down and continuing to chase that golden carrot that would someday put the wind behind my sails.
It never happened. What did happen was I broke my body and my endocrine system. I also broke my spirit. I lived in a constant state of angst, finding myself perusing the self-help section at the book store for hours, just knowing that I’d find the one book that would release me from the phantom struggle I felt inside. It was miserable and my only out became other destructive things like drinking, isolation, and workaholism.
Obviously, there is one way this story ends and, fortunately, I found my bottom in this rather early-on. And as I started to get healthy, the major discovery was that I was expressing my own pain and my own distress through beating myself up. And I experienced a pay-off from that, 1) because of what the competitive world around me had agreed was valuable in terms of work ethic and “drive;” and 2) because it allowed me to both secretly destroy myself while appearing to be just a hard working hustler.
This is why today, in the wake of that bottom and on the other side of all that wreckage, I have come to radically shift my core belief about life. Now I believe that we aren’t going to get “there” ever. There’s no magic mantra or magic pill or magic book or magic hustle that is going to get us “there.” And even if there were, hard work in the form of angst, self-deprecation, and pummeling isn’t going to be the ticket. Now I believe that life wants us to celebrate where we are, even if that reality feels absolutely low and absolutely not glamorous. Life wants us to give ourselves a pat on the back and to go to bed early so that we can face the unpredictable, often harrowing, and frequently unbearable reality of reality. And what I have learned from this is when I do that - when I celebrate rather than deprecate - I have a shit ton more reserves to give and to actually do the sort of work that will yield results eventually, on their own time and in their own uncontrollable way.
I’ll admit that I still struggle with this new belief. I’ll admit that there are many mornings and many nights that I want to run back to pummeling myself. It feels safer in that zone in many ways, as odd as that many seem. And, so I have chosen to practice celebration, no matter how crappy things are in my life and in this weird world, and I have chosen to take this practice as a way to help make things better in my life and in this weird world.
So, I double dog dare you to join me this February for a month challenge that defies other fitness challenges. I won’t ask you to shred or burn anything. Instead, I’ll ask you to show up everyday in your true self, to work with what you have, to claim “enoughness” by doing exactly enough exercise, and to take a deep breath and sink into a celebration of where you are right now and how far you have come.
What will happen when you let go of the hustle?
I don’t know.
But, heck, the other way didn’t seem to be working, huh? I’ll see you soon for an experiment of showing up that contains the ease, pleasure, and cushion that you deserve.
CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE CHALLENGE. This link works for both current members and folks who want to become a member (that’s you, yes you!). Challenge starts Mon, February 4th. We take care of all the details, so just roll on in as you are right now and leave the rest to us.