You should know that I’ve been here before. Years ago in my 20s I waged a small war with myself between who I was and who I could be. Fresh off a heartbreaking breakup, I weighed whether I could change to fit a mold that someone else wanted me to fit. I couldn’t fit that mold. Who I was won out over Who I could be. The right Who won. But this time this adversary feels different, like it’s planning on staying around longer, fighting harder. Fighting dirtier.
See this time, the fight isn’t clear cut. Neither is the winner. Neither is my opponent. He’s multiplied into many doubts and I’m spread thin.
Now in my 30s I’m in a totally different place. Actually, very different places. Plural. I’m so many more things than I was in my 20s. Mom. Wife. Writer. Older. Non-employed. Expat. Best friendless. These are foreign places for me. Uncharted territories. This time around I have people that depend on me. I don’t have time to let my hair down and soak my proverbial wild oats and figure out who I am becoming. As opposed to my 20s, I’m responsible for others now. So this time, when I saw the battle approaching my doorstep, I knew it would be a bigger opponent than last time, but now, I’d have far more people to let down, far more to lose. That thought in itself is suffocating.
This seedy little demon has been bubbling and stirring inside of me for some time now, trying to slither its head through my belly like something out of Sigourney Weaver’s nightmares. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was… I’m still not sure I completely understand it.
It feels like a tidal wave of self doubt. And just when I think I’ve managed to stand up another wave topples me over. Like I’m trying to keep it together, keep the pace, keep my head above water, and keep up the juggle, the struggle and everything in between. And while I’m doing all of this, that little stink demon comes and whispers to me You’re not doing this right. You’re doing it all wrong.
And because I am a person that battles head on, because I am a person with no quit button in my soul, I swim hard. I fight him hard. But as these tidal waves of self doubt pound, I’m beat down and tired out and I know that he can’t be stopped. Not all at once. This fight will take time to be won.
… but it can be won.
My first step was to recognize that I am not alone, that women everywhere struggle to find their purpose and their gifts. So I sought out advice from others who have been on this battlefield and I found it in the form of books. The first is an art journal e-course offered by the General of Purpose herself, Oprah. Run by Brené Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection, this is a 6 week course to help you be vulnerable and open to courage, compassion, and connection by journaling and creating.
Maybe if I could start by letting go of perfection I can let go of some doubt too. In our first week of my e-course we were asked to write this simple message on our hand, take a picture, and tape it into our art journal to remind ourselves, when we needed reminding, that we are not perfect, we are IMperfect and that is enough.
I asked Husband to come along for the ride and being the supportive, fabulous and up for my crazy ideas man he is, he agreed. In the midst of taking our “imperfect” pictures, our daughter called us.
“Mami, papi… *Ma-Pi. Photo.” (*her combined name for us)
I looked over to take her photo and there she was, hand raised in united IMperfection. I realized in a simple, innocent, child gesture why it is so important for me to fight this fight, to banish these self doubting ideas that paralyze all of from all the things we want in life. Because everything I do matters. It matters to her. She watches what I do and internalizes it. What I do, who I am, is what she becomes.