What is your story of strength?
I’ll use a specific example. It started at the end of last year when I made some critical decisions in my life that before I was too afraid to face head-on. Leading up to that point I was in a job that was fulfilling in a lot of ways, but even still I found myself in a position where I was feeling extremely unhealthy. I was neglecting myself and my own well-being, despite a ton of encouragement from others — much of it from my coworkers and bosses at the time. I was feeling a lot of pressure, a lot of which was self-inflicted, to be a certain way. To achieve certain goals. To hit certain milestones in my life and my career. I wasn’t really questioning why I wanted those things or why I needed to achieve those goals let alone how I really wanted my life to unfold.
I decided to explore that and let myself be vulnerable to the process. I had to really question my motivations and be honest with myself and with other people. I left the agency I had been with since the start of my professional career, and took a leap of faith for myself to figure out my “why”. It was important that I stop enabling other people to decide that for me. I had to ask myself, “What the heck do I want? What impact do I want to make on this world?” I decided to invest in myself unapologetically and prioritize my fulfillment, almost to the point of selfishness. But I’ve learned that being “selfish” isn’t always a bad thing when applied in the right context.
I started investing in my own mental health in a variety of ways. There were things from my past that I hadn’t dealt with, probably the biggest thing being my mom’s death. It was something that I hadn’t made peace with or worked through even though it’s coming up on the tenth anniversary of her passing. And last year I was realizing how much that manifested in all aspects in my life, whether it was professional or personal. I started by letting myself decompress and unplug from everyday stresses that I honestly felt were eating me alive. I allowed myself to go on a trip without looking at my phone, without checking my email, without thinking about the next checkmark on my to-do list – things that I had perceived as mission critical but truly aren’t all that important. Reconnecting with my family, nuclear and non-nuclear. I’m incredibly fortunate to have the family that I do and we are very close, but even so, I found myself neglecting those relationships because of paralyzing anxiety, always being “on” with my work, and not taking care of myself to the point that I didn’t want to talk about or be honest about those things with the people most important to me.
This year, I’ve been focused a lot more on investing in those relationships. And the common thread through all of these things was making the decision to go see a therapist. My current therapist also specializes in acupuncture and she is truly my angel in every sense of the word. She has changed my life in so many ways. She has helped me look inward and be honest with myself and has asked me really hard questions that I was too scared to ask myself. With my mom’s death, I had kind of been looking for excuses to push it to the back burner because I just felt too scared to address a lot of the pain of it. I’m working through the process of forgiveness and also reconnecting with the wonderful relationship my mom and I had for most of her life, and it’s a really hard thing to grapple with but I’m doing it both for me and for her because there are so many positive things that I want to remember and bring to the forefront. Through therapy I’ve had to answer some of the hard questions and revisit some of the tough moments in my past, and it has helped me get to a place where I’ve reached a sense of peace. She’s a big part of my life now. I’ve had some amazing spiritual experiences these past couple of months where I feel closer and more connected to my mom than ever.
This time has been a catalyst for a lot of other positive, healthy changes, too. I’m treating my body and my mind with the love that I think I give a lot of other people but hadn’t really been giving myself. So I’ve found strength through an awareness that I didn’t before have, and an inward honesty that’s manifested itself in a number of different ways.
Can you tell me about a time you disappointed yourself?
Looking back, I should have done what I did last year sooner. I didn’t make a move. I didn’t push myself in the right ways. I wasn’t honest with myself or others for a long time. I just wanted to make other people proud. I convinced myself that leaving a stable job would have been letting someone down. That investing more time in myself to figure out what I actually wanted out of life was selfish. I had to get over that. I’ve always been such a people pleaser and I was not only letting but encouraging other people’s opinions to guide major life decisions I was making.
I have also felt a sense of guilt or disappointment with holding onto an unhealthy lifestyle. I feel like I could have made changes sooner, but as I reflect back on those times now I think it all happened how and when it was supposed to. Even though I disappointed myself in not making those decisions earlier on, I learned so much in that process, all of which has informed my journey to now. I needed to continue to go through the motions a bit.
My therapist tells me to be kinder to myself and that has been extraordinarily important to me. Something I saw as a disappointment then, I am now proud of, because even though it took me a long time, I got where I needed to be. Something I’ve learned through therapy is not to focus too much on the past. Although it’s important to reflect, the most important thing is the moment you have now.
How can women better support each other?
I’m much more in tune to the women-run business community here in Austin and it’s an incredibly inclusive and supportive network. Now that I’ve co-founded a consultancy with another female friend, I’m seeing how powerful it is when women show up for each other. For instance I had a meeting this morning with a woman starting up her own business and she shared her fears, successes, hopes and goals with me so honestly and in such a vulnerable way. I really appreciate it when women are just totally, straight up honest with each other. I think we live in a culture where it’s hard to be honest with people because there’s social media and everything seems so beautiful and life has to be wonderful all the time, but in reality everyone’s going through some type of struggle. The second you start to be honest about those struggles and when you can worry less about what other people think about what it is you’re putting out there, you grow so much as a person. That goes for our personal and professional lives. Transparency and raw dialogue with other women is so needed, as opposed to perpetuating this myth of perfection which we all know isn’t authentic.
What does being a woman mean to you?
What I love about being a woman is creating a warm support system and really showing up for those we love, while also attacking our own forms of adversity and kicking major ass. I’m coming into my own as a woman in this time of my life, right now. For me, it means being raw and vulnerable and putting myself out there in a real way. It feels so right and so empowering to me. We all have a unique perspective as women, collectively and individually, and I’m at a point where I’ve never felt more empowered and ready to share mine.