I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about the idea of self-actualization, manifesting the life we want, and how all we really are is our thoughts. If we think we are shit, we are – and if we think we are pretty friggin’ awesome, then we are that, too. I’ve spent a lifetime battling the voices in my own head, constantly believing that better things didn’t come my way because I didn’t deserve them…which is more than a little ludicrous, I know. The trick for me has been overcoming those voices, making it clear that I myself am more than enough as I am, and just getting on with the business of enjoying all of the great things in life. I do this most of the time these days – which is awesome. I’m not perfect every day by any means, but…I’m making progress, and I’ve found ways to accept and marvel at the person that I am. It certainly makes life a whole lot easier, not to mention more fun! You’d be bloody amazed by the opportunities that land in your lap when you conduct yourself like the super-amazing badass that you are!
One thing that has been a huge struggle for me was putting aside my pursuit of my doctorate degree – I haven’t cancelled it all together, I’ve just hit the pause button. For now. I wasn’t able to devote myself to it 100%, and I didn’t want to keep half-assing it any longer. I wanted to take a break from the pressure that it was putting on me (and I was putting on myself), and I wanted to reclaim a good piece of my free time – and spend that on developing a real personal life for myself. All work and no play makes someone dull…and I wasn’t interested in that, let me tell you!! I accepted a different degree to recognize the work that I did, which is something to be proud of…yet I was sitting around feeling shame, like some sort of loser jackass. It was just stupid. I went through the motions – framed the diploma, hung it up in my office, bought myself a lovely present to celebrate (which helped a fair bit), but…I was still feeling weird, as if I was a failure. And then I read this little gem, about Blake Lively closing down her lifestyle website Preserve, of all things:
Entrepreneurs and A-list celebrities have one major thing in common: They are fodder for unbelievable scrutiny. From a product’s success to what they wear on the red carpet, it’s all fair game for criticism.
So when actress Blake Lively launched lifestyle site Preserve last year, she was hit with a double whammy of hateration. Fans slammed her about issues with site design, product descriptions, and sky-high prices. Plus, all of the outside critiques were heaped on top of her own dissatisfaction with the site, which she revealed to Time.
Today, Lively announced that she is shutting the site down completely on October 9.
“It never caught up to its original mission,” she told Vogue. “It’s not making a difference in people’s lives, whether superficially or in a meaningful way. And that’s the whole reason I started this company, not just to fluff myself, like, ‘I’m a celebrity! People will care what I have to say!’ It was so never meant to be that.
As any entrepreneur can relate, pulling the plug on a startup is a huge ego blow. It can feel like a failure, like everything you’ve worked so hard to create has crumbled and you’ll be pegged as a quitter. With the shuttering of Preserve, Lively knows exactly how that feels.
Ending it is “very exciting and it’s also incredibly scary,” she continued. “I never thought I would have the bravery to actually do that, to take the site dark and to say, ‘You know what? I haven’t created something that is as true and impactful as I know it can and will be.’”
While walking away can be scary, not only is it completely understandable, it is a decision that true leaders sometimes have to make. Lively added, “I know what it’ll look like, what I’m facing publicly, that people are just going to have a heyday with this. But it’s so much worse to continue to put something out there—to ask my team to put something out there—that isn’t the best we can do. I’m going to take this hit, and the only way I can prove all the negative reactions wrong is to come back with a plan that will rock people.”
So the next time you’re beating yourself up for walking away from a job or a project, remember the power of making tough decisions and following your gut. As Lively proves, quitting and walking away aren’t the same thing, and they sure as hell don’t make you less of a boss. In fact, as Lively said, it will make you stronger “because without great risks it’s impossible to have huge success.”
Hmmm. I like this a whole lot. Makes sense, and certainly makes me feel like less of a failure than I have been feeling lately. This new degree of mine is an amazing accomplishment that few people have – I have so much to be proud of. As well, it’s not the end of the road for me/my life/my career…and I’m not a loser for this one, either. Damn those voices in my head!
The more I think about the idea of manifesting the life I want, the more it makes sense to me…but how? There is a Buddhist proverb that has been inspiring me lately: “If you have a problem that can be fixed, then there is no use in worrying. If you have a problem that cannot be fixed, then there is no use in worrying.” If you know me in real life, you know what a struggle this is, as I am a world class fretter – or, I used to be. I was a person that needed to classify things and put a label on them, when frequently the situation I was trying to figure out was just so beautiful that no definition was needed. I worried about every possible thing that could go wrong at any time, instead of wiggling in and getting comfortable with the beauty that was all around me. Thankfully, I don’t do that much anymore – and I’ve zero intention of returning to Torment Town again anytime soon. I spent so much time catastrophizing (that’s a word, right?) all the things that could go wrong, that it’s no wonder they so often did – it was me who was bringing on the rains. Ridiculous! All of the energy that I’ve spent on the negative things has been slowly migrating towards the positive, and I’ve been working on applying Maslow’s theory of self-actualization to my everyday living:
1. Experience life fully and vividly
I am enjoying myself so much more these days, I’m finding heaps of pleasure in the tiniest of moments, and I feel like the colors around me are brighter. Here’s an illustration of this – this past Friday was my Dad’s birthday, traditionally a sad day for me. I spent the latter part of the evening watching a movie that I KNOW he’d have loved – A Million Ways to Die in the West – and laughed my fool head off at just how foul, silly, and colorful it all was. I toasted my dad with a fine Molson Canadian, and felt happy instead of blue. The work day on Friday had been chaotic, but I spent that evening doing my favorite things, was happy as could be, and enjoyed every single second of it. I need more evenings like that.
2. Be honest in my choices
Think of life as a series of choices, one after another, and be as truthful with myself as I make my choices. This has been hard – actually, being honest in my choices isn’t the hard part, it’s having to tell others why I’ve done what I’ve done that’s the rub. I stand by the decisions I’ve made in life, good bad or indifferent (I don’t do much that I feel indifferent about, actually) – but I hate hurting other people, so sometimes I just keep my honesty to myself. It seems kinder that way, don’t you think?
3. Be aware of the uniqueness of myself
I’ve never stumbled when it comes to realizing that I am one unique kitten – I’ve known forever that I was born to stand out. Accepting that this is okay has been where the challenge is for me – but what choice do I have?
4. Act with integrity
I am trying to act with integrity, and I always take responsibility for my actions. There are things that I am avoiding dealing with at the moment, but… I will get there one of these days, I promise. I’m trying.
5. Be courageous
I think that I have done an okay job at learning to become courageous. I don’t back down from anything, I live as bravely as I can – and, I’m learning to express the things I like and don’t like, without fear of hurting someone’s feelings. This is progress, friends!
I am constantly working on myself, and I hope that continues until I take my final breath. I read a lot of things designed to help me become a better me, I engage in the act of self-care on a regular basis, and I am being so much kinder to myself. Yaa me!
7. Peak experiences
I have had the odd peak experience (which Maslow described as ‘transient moments of self-actualization’). These experiences are times that you feel truly at peace and in harmony with your environment and the universe and are marked by a feeling of euphoria and deep joy. My goal? To have as many of those as possible in a week. Sometimes, when things are really tough at work, I crawl under my desk and have a quiet moment – it’s a bit of a running joke in the office, but for me it is essential. I need to have that quiet, safe space where I can just take a moment, shut off everything that is happening outside my door, and just be. It’s awesome.
8. Lack of ego defences
This is a tough one for me, for I can be a defensive mo’fo when push comes to shove. I am learning to let go of the troublesome defense mechanisms that I keep around me (they keep me safe inside, and everyone else on the outside of that wall….and most of them don’t even realize that that is where they are), and becoming more accepting of people, and of letting those around me get close. It turns out that having people close to you isn’t so bad at all…provided that they are the right people.
It’s all a journey, isn’t it? I’ve just finished reading Jewel’s autobiography “Never Broken” – I will write a review soon – and I can’t stop thinking about that book. In it, she talks about a soul being something that is never broken…a sentiment that I absolutely love. By all accounts, the path of my life should have broken me a million times over – it’s like I saw the fork in the road, the easy way in life and the hard way, and I said, “F- it” to both of them and took off through the woods, to the truly tough terrain…choosing to make my life out of the most difficult of circumstances. The thing is, though, that I’m still here, still hiking (metaphorically speaking, of course – I’m not much of a hiker, especially here in Texas…too many damn critters out in the wild). That has to count for something.