Since becoming a freelancer five years ago, I have met so many people who share my same story.
Same horrible boss, same demotivating environment, same floods of regret, and questions of “How did I get here?”
When I finally escaped, I was pretty sure that once I started working for myself, life would be different. I was going to be one of “those” girls who posts pictures of herself on Instagram, fully made-up, glowing with health, sipping a cappuccino. I had visions of morning routines consisting of yoga, meditation, and some high-intensity exercise for good measure.
Being my own boss was the perfect opportunity to design my “happy life.”
Turns out, I’m a horrible boss. Every day my inner critic (I named him Trevor) would wake me up and immediately launch into all the things I wasn’t doing well enough. I quickly learned that I didn’t want to meditate before the sun came up and I definitely didn’t want to exercise. I wanted to drink six shots of espresso and check my email in case an exciting job offer happened to be waiting for me.
As my own boss, I regularly set myself impossible deadlines then got angry at myself for not meeting them. I checked all my work with a critical eye and complained constantly.
I thought I could find the magic solution. I thought that my change in circumstances would change my life. But I woke up with the same body, the same personality, and the same worries (with the added effect of a freelancer’s income).
We all have a core. A “me” who makes us unique. When we’re young, we know who we are, what we like. We dive into life with all the inherent stickiness, happiness, and misery it entails and although we grow and change, our core remains the same.
Piece by piece though, the world picks at our uniqueness and in an effort to “be good,” we let it. We try to fit in, we chase external rewards, we give in to the tribe. It feels like a matter of survival.
Now, without my horrible boss to blame, I was left alone without my core. My entire personality consisted of years of trying to “fit in” to the external world.
Both meditation and yoga reconnect us to our core. These practices teach us that thoughts come and go, that they aren’t our identities, and are only as important as we make them. They also remind us that our bodies are a part of our essence and not just a product we present to the world for judgment.
When you learn to drive, at first you look directly in front of the car out of the fear of hitting anything. You soon learn that in order to steer straight, you need to look a good distance ahead and keep your eyes moving. After a few months, you feel proud of your driving abilities and able to venture farther.
This works with life too. Just as in driving we need to build our core competence, strength, ability to experience joy, we need to feel that we can keep ourselves safe. Then, we need to look ahead of us at the possibilities in the near distance. The trick is in developing enough faith in ourselves to loosen our “death grip” on the steering wheel.
I’ve found that when I feel anxiety and worry if I check in with myself, I see that I’ve been looking directly in front of me in fear of what might happen. When that happens now, I remind myself of who I am, of my 10-year-old self. I tell myself that my immediate thoughts are only as urgent or as important as I make them. I remind myself to loosen my grip and look a little further in the distance at possibilities.
When I do this, I remember that the Universe has my back and that the spaces in between things, when I feel the most uncomfortable, are often where the most healing and growth is taking place. They call it growing pains for a reason. I find myself more and more often waking up remembering my 10-year-old self rather than (Trevor) the inner critic.
Allowing myself to play and breathe and find the joy that was there the whole time.
We are not broken. We are more than enough. We already have everything we need inside of ourselves. All it takes is for us to remind ourselves to loosen our grip and look ahead.