I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I’ve always wanted to be successful. Ok, so most people probably do. But a secret part of me always imagined that success to look like it does in the movies. The busy important career woman with her kickass heels striding into the elevator of an NYC skyscraper while giving instructions to an assortment of assistants and co-workers. I would work long hours, eat lots of takeout, and make a big impact on some cool company. I would be a part of an organization. A small but mighty cog in a giant machine pumping out success, ideas and corporate magic.
Today as I stood with my boss, yet again discussing whether or not to reduce my hours so that I can actually be there for the ones I’ve committed to, I watched that dream float away. The Louboutins, the long hours, the being part of some important corporate entity—they all drifted off like little bits of smoke. Remnants of a dream I’d never achieve.
Now I’m not completely ignorant of reality. I knew that dream was quite unlikely and that there was a good chance I wouldn’t even like it if I did get there. But it still felt like maybe it was possible. Of all the things I’ve had to say goodbye to since being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, this is a relatively unimportant one. But right now it feels big.
It’s been years since my last surgery, but I still somehow can’t make the 9 – 5 work. I mean sometimes I can, but a lot of times I can’t. I’ve tried to push through; to tell myself it was laziness or unwillingness or some other lack inside of me (and maybe sometimes it is). But there’s also a larger reality there—my physical and mental health isn’t equipped for the standard 40 hour work week. At least not right now. I have days where the afternoons are bad, but the evenings are great. Times when every morning is a struggle, but every evening I have to push myself to put the computer away and go to bed. There are weeks where I get a ton of work done, but there are also weeks where there’s just a lot of sleeping and recovering.
When I recounted a bit of this story to a friend she told me something that stuck. When she saw how easy it would be to fall into a specific thought pattern for herself, she decided to just take the words fat and ugly out of the equation. She doesn’t speak those words to herself, her kids aren’t allowed to say them, and guests that visit her home are told not to use them.
This made me think: what are my words? What words or phrases do I repeat to myself that are never helpful or upbuilding or encouraging? For me, it’s lazy and the phrase get over it. When I can’t seem to keep up with some standard, I internally reprimand myself for being lazy. When I still struggle with the effects of having my life turned upside down by illness (even though it’s been years since my last surgery), I tell myself to get over it. Are these statements ever helpful? Would I say something like that to a loved one who was struggling? No. So now I’m going to work at not saying it to myself either.
This doesn’t mean that I won’t push myself to work a little harder or to learn to deal with things that are tough. It just means that I’ll try to avoid the negative self talk that comes with it.
So while I may mourn the loss of those metaphorical Louboutins for a while, by letting go of lazy I’ll have room to start envisioning a new kind of success. I’ll allow a little grace to learn and grow—maybe even to dream of a different pair of kickass heels.
What about you? Lazy might not be your word, but I’m guessing it wouldn’t take you long to think of that unhelpful thing you tell yourself. Let’s follow the advice of my wise friend and start cutting words out of our vocabulary!*
*I hope you understand that was slight hyperbole. Obviously I am a fan of many words and large vocabularies. But you get where I’m going with this.
Find more tips for a creative life on Pinterest!