Thinking back ten years, I could have never imagined I would be starting a blog. Never mind a blog about self-development and happiness, requiring me to share my deepest fears and flaws. No, ten years ago I probably would have had some epic anxiety attack just thinking about putting myself out there like this. And truth be told, a part of me is still very terrified to do this, but here I am anyway!
Ten years ago, I was in the midst of a depression that consumed me for most of my late teens and early twenties. I would cry almost daily. I was highly insecure. And I obtained the totality of my self-worth from what others thought of me. I had a toxic mindset, an internal obsession and fear to be perfect, to fit in, and to be cool. What others and society thought was cool, I did, without regard to the impact to my life.
This obsession started far before my teens, though. As a child I was not cool. I was shy, awkward looking most times, I was into things that most other kids weren’t, and basically I was seen as weird. I was bullied so much that when I recently saw an old homework assignment from my elementary school days, I had written that recess was my most disliked “subject”. Kids even created a hate club about me.
Tough times for a kid.
So, I began to pray to God every night to make me cool. And little by little I began to trade all my unique traits for conformity, in search of being accepted. Eventually, it worked. I was no longer bullied for the most part and I felt that I fit in to a certain extent, but at what expense?
Looking back, I now know that each decision I made to become like others I was unknowingly relinquishing my unique value and simultaneously creating the deep state of insecurity and unhappiness that I suffered from later on. So it’s really not surprising that this mentality coupled with a serious ass-kicking from life, resulted in depression.
Fast forward to 2014. My thirtieth birthday. I had managed to find my way out of depression by working extremely hard on my mindset. Letting go of the past. No more blaming others and playing the victim card. Finally taking ownership of my mistakes and learning from them. Making a conscious choice to be happy and positive each day and realizing I had the power to make that choice. Life was good. But, something was still missing.
I was about to embark on an epic 18-day trip to Europe with my husband, and all I could think about was how much it was going to suck to go back to work afterwards. Definitely not the normal thoughts of someone about to go on vacation.
When I returned, I began to search. I knew I needed to pursue something else to further my journey of happiness and fulfillment that had been set in motion by all my past. I had always thought about this, but now, I felt there was no other choice. I could no longer live and work each year for two weeks of vacation.
I started reading a lot of books and listening to podcasts on business, health, finding your passion, self-development and living your best life. And what I began to notice is that nearly all of the successful, happy, innovative and influential people in this world that I learned about, across all kinds of disciplines, did not reach where they are by surrendering to the pressure to conform to what society at large said they should be doing. No, in fact their journey often required that they do the exact opposite of what popular consensus said was cool, to be unafraid to do their own thing and follow their own hearts, despite what others thought.
When you think about it, our entire economy is set up to teach us that scarce resources are the most valuable ones and in some cases, so valuable that we are willing to fight over them. Indeed, it would appear that our economic model does in fact reward those who do things differently, take action on their dreams, and persevere. So, wouldn’t that mean that our unique talents are a scarce resource, to be highly valued, fought for, encouraged and grown? Isn’t it precisely these talents that allow us to innovate, to create, to solve problems and see to things differently? For there is only one person in the world like you, with your unique set of strengths and weaknesses, with your unique set of experiences, and we are only here for a limited amount of time.
Doesn’t get much scarcer than that.
It seems like there are extremely compelling reasons to embrace our differences. And yet, ironically, I know that I wasn’t the only kid in the world that felt such overwhelming pressure to be cool, unknowingly trading my uniqueness for the comfort of conformity. And I know I can’t be the only one searching for more in this life. Searching for a deeper sense of fulfillment and happiness. So, I’m here to do something about that.
I’m here to tell my story and share what I’ve learned in hopes that it helps someone.
I’m here to say that my depression was a gift that motivated me to seek out knowledge, growth and happiness that I could never have imagined.
I’m here to say that your struggles and your pain are gifts too, with a purpose, if you are open to learning. Struggle and pain is what gives joy and happiness its meaning, and we all experience it.
I’m here to say that confidence, happiness and anything else your heart desires are skills that you can learn.
I’m here to say that perfection doesn’t exist and there is no such thing as mistakes, only lessons. I am constantly learning! Learning and growing are lifelong endeavors.
I’m here to say embrace what’s unique about you. Your health, your soul and the world are depending on it.
I’m here to say that cool is whatever you want it to mean, because what’s real about you is cool.
"You Have To Be Brave With Your Life So That Others Can Be Brave With Theirs"
A big thank you to my husband, Bobby Sheets. He has been there for me through everything and loves me for me. He will never know how much this means.
Editing kudos to my new pal, Emily McCaffrey. Check out her blog at youralmostfavorite.com