I’m coming off of a rough patch.
I successfully directed a 60 student sketch show, written by the kids, that the school and parents loved. I turned in a draft manuscript of my first book to a publisher, made some significant changes in my business structure that leave me with a bit more desired control and financial freedom and started setting and accomplishing monthly goals.
I was also slowly moving towards a bit of a breakdown that I finally gave into a few weeks ago. I felt like every bit of work was an effort, I was near tears 95% of the time, I wasn’t sleeping, eating well or taking care of myself. Everything seemed like a chore, including just getting up in the morning, and I was doing just enough to get by in life and business.
People would ask me, ‘How are you?’ and without hesitation, I’d reply ‘Busy and good!’ or ‘Busy! <wry smile> You know how it is!’ All while thinking ‘Hold it together Jen!’
Why are we so obsessed with the image we put out there on being successful and ‘fine’? Social media is one of those things that we tend to hide behind, and with the push towards authenticity in millennial marketing, personal brands should also sway towards the authentic. I see clips of it here and there, yet they are few and far between. #TheImperfectBoss campaign was a recent great example of this: if you aren’t familiar, women celebrate imperfections as well as things we don’t often claim like our amazing attributes. I’ll see a lot of encouragement to ‘be yourself’ and ‘own it’ – yes, let’s celebrate our imperfections and our ‘shortcomings’ and let’s be ourselves. What about those days we are just not ourselves?
Self-awareness is something I talk a lot about – heck, while writing I’m always reflecting and thinking about how much my emotions connect with my writing. It’s constantly on my mind, and even when I know I’m not in the best place, I sometimes let those emotions get in the way of making sensible decisions.
And I bet you do too.
When’s the last time you answered that question ‘How are you’ in an honest and real manner? We go into the automatic response of ‘good’ or ‘fine’ or ‘bland and socially acceptable answer here’ – do we think about how we feel and respond in a real and truthful way? How about the last time you probably should have taken a timeout, walked away from a decision or situation, or asked for more time to think about something because you weren’t in the best place at the time?
It is ok not to be ok sometimes. It’s ok for everyone to think ‘Oh wow, your life looks so great!’ To feel like you are going nowhere fast, or hitting a brick wall, or stuck in a hamster wheel. And there is NOTHING wrong with admitting that. I’m not suggesting that you go around and vague-book or vague-tweet some emo response, or vent all of your problems to your boss or coworkers. I am saying it’s ok to own ALL of your emotions, not just the happy and shiny ones. As women, we get encouraged to be ‘tough’ and ‘strong’ and ‘fierce’; yep, you can do that and also have a day that you need to stay in PJs and cry it out over Netflix. And you shouldn’t have to pretend that everything is wonderful and great, just because that’s the image you ‘need’ to project.
I hate self-help things that just offer affirmation and no solutions – so here are a few tips to think about your self-awareness and comfort with being you, ok or not ok:
1) Check in on the regular: Ask yourself, ‘Self, how are you?’ and answer honestly. You aren’t trying to impress anyone or convince anyone that you’re more pulled together than you’re feeling right now. Do this a few times away to start developing that regular check-in.
2) It’s ok to say no: Woo boy, I get into it with people on this one. One of the biggest improv rules is the idea of ‘Yes, And’ and it’s a LOT more nuanced than just saying YES to everything. All that aside – you can say no to things. Too many people push the ‘SAY YES TO ALL OPPORTUNITIES BECAUSE THAT’S HOW YOU WIN!’ Nope, that’s how you burn out and lose focus. Say yes at times, push yourself to take a risk, sure – know your current situation! I had to turn down a recent opportunity because I had way too many things piling up that had to be taken care of, and an important audition/interview/adventure around the same time that needed my attention. I was greeted with a (possibly) snarky, ‘We know you are all Yes, And so it must be good to be able to say no!’ Bish, please – save the snark for another day and someone who cares.
3) Take time and screw it: Sometimes, you have to take time for yourself. Might I suggest things like Girls Night In? Netflix and yoga pants? Seamless feast? Whatever it might be that lets you recharge, do that and don’t care what other people think. That above snark for me taking some time to get ok again? Ignored and used as motivation to write this post. ;)
You taking time won’t cause you to miss that one opportunity that will make or break you. You taking time WILL allow you to see the opportunities as they are, and give energy to the ones that you really, really want AND really, really fit you.
It is ok not to be ok sometimes – be honest with yourself and take the time you need, and you’ll be your amazing self in no time.