What keeps you awake at night? For me, it’s a million things but most prevalently what haunts me during the nighttime hours are conversations – replayed over and over and over – word for word – did I say that right? I wonder if that made any sense. I didn’t communicate that very well. I think I may have hurt his feelings. I think she’s convinced that I’ve lost it. I never should have said that. Over and over and over. I acknowledge that this ruminating is mostly due to my perfectionism. I like to do things “the right way.” I like to say things well and in a manner that allows people to hear. I want to do things perfectly, perhaps even magically so as to meet and exceed everyone’s expectations. I work hard during conversations, then I work doubly hard after conversations worrying about how they really went.
Let me just go ahead and tell you, my life is exhausting. Not because I have small children who stand at my bedside at 3:00 a.m. staring me down until I manage to open an eye. Not because I live by a train track that rattles the bones of my home at all hours. Not because I work the graveyard shift then come home to rowdy neighbors. My life is exhausting because I’m constantly doing the hustle. (No, not the 1970s Van McCoy version.) Brené Brown calls it the hustle for worthiness. I honestly didn’t think of my personal exhaustion as being related to my sense of worthiness until very recently. Even being thoroughly indoctrinated by Brené’s work, I’ve never been willing to put it together. I have thoughts and ideas and dreams and challenges and hopes and worries and… And, I want people to love me through those things and to accept those pieces of me without needing to agree or convince otherwise or fix; but clearly, there is some voice inside that tells me it isn’t possible. I want to belong, and so I hustle to make sure all the plates keep spinning, people keep liking and sharing and following, and I feel safe and accepted. I want to believe that even when people really know who I am and the ways I struggle (or the ways I have it easy) that they will love me anyway. I want to believe that I can disagree and hold separate opinions with the benefit of still belonging. And, yet, there’s something deep inside that questions the reality of being loved in spite of my imperfections and messes and different opinions.
You see, my nighttime ruminating is directly linked to my desire to belong, and somewhere along the way I picked up the idea that to belong I have to say the right things and do the right things and be the right person – in everybody’s eyes – which, by the way IS IMPOSSIBLE. *Exhaustion*
Here’s the thing. Now I’m clued in to the hustle. It hit me like a ton of bricks, really, this weekend. I’ve declared being brave as an intention for my life. I’ve named courage as a north star value, a value by which I find my way when I’m flat on my face or feeling my way through the dark. I’ve been practicing courage in a number of ways recently, and I’m building a business on being brave and inspiring others to do the same. But, I was reminded the other day that courage and comfort don’t coexist. “You can choose courage or you can choose comfort, but you cannot have both,” Brené writes. It’s so true. I’ve shared this quote so many times but rarely thought about how it applied to my perfectionism and hustling (and subsequent exhaustion). Being brave means stepping out and letting my imperfect ideas and thoughts and messy dreams be seen. It means letting myself be seen, and that’s NOT comfortable. Being misunderstood is uncomfortable. Being judged is uncomfortable. Disappointing people I care about is uncomfortable. Not having the right answers is uncomfortable. Disapproval is uncomfortable. But, it’s really hard to be brave and avoid being misunderstood sometimes, judged sometimes, disappointing people and being disapproved of sometimes, and for sure being wrong sometimes…
It finally clicked for me that when I am most exhausted is when I am hustling – big time. I also realized that when I’m hustling and feeling insecure, my tendency is to retreat, to withdraw into my safe space and hide the holy mess that is my life. But, that’s not very courageous. It temporarily gives me a break from the hustle, but before long I’m isolated and right back where I started with a deep, deep desire to belong.
It’s a vicious cycle, and it usually leads me right back into the hustle. I really want it to be different this time. I’d like to live into my courage in new and healthier ways. Instead of trying to keep this person happy and that person safe and the other person justified, I’d like to stand my sacred ground and trust that it’ll be ok, that the people I’m hustling to please or avoid offending or disappointing will ultimately allow space for my imperfect yet authentic self. A girl can hope, right?!?
One of my favorite quotes from Brené’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, is this:
I define wholehearted living as engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.” It’s going to bed at night thinking, “Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am brave and worthy of love and belonging.”
Oh, that we might all find that space and live into it. I am imperfect (I say the wrong things and have mixed up ideas and confused beliefs) and vulnerable (I have tender spots and very sensitive feelings) and sometimes afraid (I am often afraid and anxious and overwhelmed), but, BUT, that doesn’t change the truth that I am brave and worthy of love and belonging.
Life is hard. Being brave is hard. Standing our sacred ground is hard, but hustling is exhausting and it robs us of our authenticity. Perhaps it’s time to find a new dance…